Friday food links – 23 Jan 2015

January 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

I hope she's hungry! #lifewithbaby

Winter is really here now. I think it took its time arriving, but there’s no real doubt now. Even in our sheltered corner, there’s thick frost on the ground each morning. I’m thankful there’s no snow though – we’re not equipped for it!

Recipes from this week:

Cooking without a recipe:

  • Chicken curry (Spice Tailor sauce) and dal
  • Pasta and sauce

And this week’s reading (which includes tidying up some old articles too):

Friday food links – 16 Jan 2014

January 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

First go with my @BakeryBits proving baskets, using @bakingjames Pain de Campagne recipe.
A bit of a bleak week – rain battering on the skylights at night, cold winds whistling around the pushchair in the day. Highlights included a first run with my proving baskets from Bakery Bits (above), and some nice veg-centred cooking, including soup, roast vegetable salad, and tacos.


This week’s reading:

Friday food links – 9 Dec 2015

January 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

Lunch prep

This week means back to normality – Other Half back to work, and baby and I return to our classes and what passes for a routine around here. This weeks’s cooking has necessarily been a bit less ambitious than last week, when there was more help around. I’m starting to perfect the art of a dinner that I can get started while her Dad settles her, and that will coast to a finish without me when I tag in.
Some of the things we’ve been eating in the last two weeks include:

Great Grandma Turano’s Meatballs from Dinner: A Love Story
Diana Henry, A Change of Appetite – Tarka Dal
Sabrina Ghayour, Persiana- Spice-perfumed shoulder of lamb
Niamh Shields – pork & prawn patties
Nigella Lawson, How to Eat – roast topside of beef, eaten in sourdough sandwiches
David Tanis, One Good Dish – Very green fish stew
New York Times – Cabbage & potato gratin

Without a recipe:
Risotto with grilled chicken & roasted veg
Burrito bowl with rice, black beans, sweetcorn, avocado and leftover beef.
Onion pilaf
Mushroom & pancetta pasta
Endive, orange & walnut salad

Batch of Green Kitchen Stories Banana granola
Using up the last of the mincemeat with Poires au Chocolat Mincemeat Squares

In other reading:

How to add crunch with crumbs and crumbles

January 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

A delicious meal has a balance of flavours, some element of contrast between the sweet, salty, sour and bitter; a sharp sauce to cut a rich meat, or a little sugar to enhance the savoury flavour of a tomato sauce. In the same way, contrasts in texture make a meal more interesting, and gives the mouth something more interesting to encounter. Texture is our sense of touch applied to food – the pressure on our teeth and tongue, the heat generated by spices, the silky feel of fat or the sparkle of bubbles.

A simple way to add another texture dimension to a dish is to add a layer of crunchy topping to it. Crumbles, granola, streusel, and breadcrumbs are all ways to provide a contrasting texture to an otherwise smooth dish. The crunch can come from toasting and drying bread, from the crisping of fat mixed with flour, from caramelising sugar, and from the built-in crunch of nuts.

Here are a few different ways to add crunch that can be prepared well in advance and stored for when you need a bit of extra texture for your dish.


Leftover and staling bread can be turned easily into breadcrumbs with a food processor or a blender(if you have quite dry bread). Stashing these in the freezer is helpful for making meatballs, gratin toppings or crumbing meat or fish for frying, but you can amplify their uses by doing a bit of additional work first.

You could simply toast the crumbs in oil or butter, getting them brown & crunchy before going into a freezer bag. This makes for extra-crunchy pasta bakes or gratins, or can be used as a pasta topping in its own right. Ruth Reichl (former editor of Gourmet magazine) thinks they are so useful they could be considered a Christmas gift.

Another option is to mix in some flavourings as you grind the bread to crumbs. Parsley, garlic and parmesan make for a green-tinged, intensely flavourful batch of breadcrumbs. Use them to top pieces of chicken or fish before baking in the oven, or add to minced meat with an egg for deeply flavoured meatballs.



Dukkah is an Egyptian nut and spice mix used to dip bread into. It has been popular in New Zealand and Australia for years, and as Middle Eastern food grows in prominence with the Ottolenghi effect, you see it here more often too. There are a range of different recipes and spice blends that can be used. Hazelnuts are used most often as the chopped nuts base, but you can also use almonds, cashews or pistachios, or a mixture. Once made, you can add this as a crunchy topping to a dip, as Ottolenghi does with this butter bean puree, or top soups or casseroles with it for last-minute flavour and crunch. Diana Henry’s new book ‘A Change of Appetite’ has a recipe for roast tomatoes and lentils with dukkah-crumbed eggs, which contrasts the dukkah with the soft, yielding tomatoes and egg yolks.


Banana granola in the jar

Granola is generally offered as a standalone choice with milk or yoghurt, but I prefer to use it as a crunchy topping to a bowl of cereal and muesli. This adds a nice contrast, but also means the dose of syrup and costly nuts per serving is reduced. Because with granola, you have to face the idea that it’s really just flapjack with a bit less syrup and a few more oats. A batch of granola can equally become a topping for cereal or yoghurt at breakfast, ice-cream for dessert, or make it into granola bars.

The crunch comes from toasting the oats and nuts in fat, but also from the caramelisation of the syrup or honey. One way to reduce the fat and sugar is to use some pureed fruit, but then more toasting is needed to thoroughly dry out the oat mix. My three favourite granola recipes:

Crumble topping

Strawberry crumble bars from @KimBoyceBakes recipe - using my homemade jam

The ideal contrast to a dish of soft cooked fruit, the recipe for crumble can provoke disagreement. Much of this is based in nostalgia for whichever crumble you had as a child, at home or school. As the American name, crisp, suggests, a crumble topping needs to have crunch. This is created by either rubbing roughly equal quantities of fat into the flour, or mixing in melted butter. Additional texture can be added with nuts and oats. Streusel toppings are along the same lines, often with more sugar, and can be used on top of a jam and shortbread base to make crumble bars.

 Further reading:

Friday food links (cookbook edition) – 2 Jan 2015

January 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

The Christmas cookbook haul #excessive

I thought I would use this New Year post to make some notes on the new cookbooks I got for Christmas, and to remind myself of the recipes I’m most excited about making:

Patisserie Made Simple – Edd Kimber

This is the third book from the winner of the first series of Great British Bake off. I was interested in his claim to make french patisserie more straightforward, using everyday ingredients and equipment wherever possible. So far, it looks like it has a nice balance of the traditional and new interpretations with original flavours.

Bookmarked recipe: Simple Croissant Dough

Honey & Co- Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich

This is the book from the restaurant of the same name near Warren Street. I haven’t been yet, not having been to many restaurants in the last year, but have heard many glowing reviews. The food is middle eastern, with lots of israeli and lebanese touchstones. The writing is also lovely – welcoming and honest: “we hired Carlos, a sweet, funny Catalan who was the worst porter we’ve worked with”; “With all the tension that comes with restaurant life, this is one issue we thought we could do without, and so we decided to avoid the subject altogether and not serve hummus at all.”

Bookmarked recipe: so many – and I’m not even halfway through yet, but feta and spring onion bouikos are on the list, for the header note alone.

All About Braising Molly Stevens

This is an older book that I have read US bloggers rave about before. My sister evinced scepticism that braising was a subject that needed a whole book. While it’s true that the basic rules of braising are easy to grasp, getting a really well balanced braise is very tricky. I’m also interested to try some of the vegetable and fish braises in this book.

Bookmarked recipe: The very first one in the book was the first that caught my eye: braised potatoes with garlic and olive oil. It sounds basic, but I’ve never cooked potatoes like this before, and I’m interested to try it. Whole chicken braised with pears and rosemary runs it a close second.

Mast Brothers Chocolate Rick Mast and Michael Mast

The Mast Brothers look like archetypal Brooklyn hipsters, because they are. In a little factory in Brooklyn, they grind cocoa beans and produce powerful, fruity chocolate bars, wrapped in beautifully designed paper wrappers. This book has lots of very chocolatey recipes, but also lots of their story and how they source their beans and make their chocolate – they are very particular. [Note: I think this is my sixth chocolate cookbook. I may have a problem.]

Bookmarked recipe: Chocolate gingersnaps

The Trifle Bowl and Other Tales Lindsay Bareham

I’m not yet sure about this one. I has been on my list for ages, and Lindsay Bareham, like Molly Stevens, has the authoritative tone of someone who has cooked these dishes over and over and knows them inside out. This book is a compilation of some of her favourites, organised by the type of equipment used to make them – the trifle bowl, the cast iron casserole, the mandoline. Although I’m not yet convinced that this conceit works, I love the header notes, and the sense of her passing on well-worn tips and tricks.

Bookmarked recipe: Spinach malfatti, for a trick she passes on from the River Cafe of shaping the delicate dough by swirling it in a wine glass.

Plenty More Yotam Ottolenghi

This has had so much coverage, partly because of Yotam Ottolenghi’s celebrity status. The photography is the first thing that grabs you – page after page of rainbow-coloured vegetables, beautiful, mouth-watering dishes. Cooking from this is a given.

Bookmarked recipe: Beetroot, avocado and pea salad, for the beautiful contrast between the beetroot and red onion with the avocado, lambs lettuce and peas.

Brilliant Bread James Morton

This is another book from a Great British Bake Off contestant. I took it out of the library earlier in the year, and I find James’ scientific approach very appealing. He has a new book out this year on how baking works, which I’m looking forward to.

Bookmarked recipe: Tea loaf

Persiana Sabrina Ghayour

Sabrina Ghayour has rightly become something of a food star in the last year. This book is one of those where I whisked through, sticking a post-it on every other page. I already have a lot of middle eastern books, including Claudia Roden’s, but there is something fresh and easy about these recipes that makes it very approachable. I already feel like I’m going to cook a lot from this book this year.

Bookmarked recipe: Spice-perfumed shoulder of lamb I made this for New Year’s eve with a half-shoulder, which was just right for two. A mixture of rose petals, sumac, cinnamon and cumin is spread over the lamb before slow roasting. It’s both exotic and simple.

Konditor & Cook Gerhard Jenne

There is a Konditor and Cook shop perilously close to my office. Their curly whirly cake is my favourite choice for a comfort-eating treat, and they do great lunches as well. This book compiles their greatest hits from the London shops, with tips from the bakery.

Bookmarked recipe: Sunken pear and black gingerbread cake, as well as the more obvious Curly Whirly brownies.

One Good Dish David Tanis

I have David Tanis’s ‘A Platter of Figs’ and find his style very appealing, if not always achievable. He cooks at Chez Panisse, and is steeped in that California style of cooking that leans on the best, freshest produce, always seasonal and local. There’s no such thing as a ‘hungry gap’ in California, as far as I can tell. This book has lots of very simple, pared back dishes, some to the point of absurdity (garlic toast). But he has a way of putting together simple flavours that is just right.

Bookmarked recipe: Very green fish stew, a coconut-and-lime stew, loaded with fresh herbs.

Friday (non)-food links – 26 Dec 2014

December 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

Christmas tree

In place of the usual list of weekly reading (and because I haven’t read much this week), here are a few links to articles I’ve really enjoyed this year. Some are food-related and some are not. I hope you had a good Christmas, and enjoy the New Year.

Friday food links – 19 Dec 2014

December 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

Christmas shopping

Wow, that week went fast. I think I am done with Christmas shopping, but I always find that as soon as you declare that, you think of one more thing you haven’t got. I’m waiting for that shoe to drop. I still haven’t baked all the biscuits I made dough for last week, but I’m hoping to crack that this weekend. I did get to go to Borough Market today (see photo), and that explains why I now have two Bread Ahead doughnuts in me. So. Much. Custard.

Have a very Happy Christmas. Next week, I am going to round up some of my favourite long articles from the year.


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