Friday food links -3 March 2016

Figuring out dinner menu for tonight: slow-roast pork shoulder from @deliciousmag , roast potatoes, chard and marmalade sponge puddings for dessert 😋

I’m just starting to emerge from a week of being submerged under a cold. The headache is lingering, but I think I’ve turned the corner, and the sunshine today is helping too. Given the shortage of energy around here, this week’s food was anchored by leftover roast pork from Saturday, and a pot of soothing dal cooked midweek.

Dal is a great food to have when you’re feeling under the weather. It’s not very demanding to cook – at least the way I do it. You end up with something as soft and undemanding as mashed potato, but with a bit more flavour (I like to simmer it with turmeric and ginger) and a feeling that it’s doing you some good.


Without a recipe:

  • Dal, with sweet potato and chickpea curry from the freezer
  • A made-up pasta sauce with leftover roast pork and tomatoes
  • Ham hash – leftover roast veg, ham hock, with a fried egg on top, with cime di rapa on the side.
  • Weekend pizza
  • Pork stir-fry with broccoli and courgette
  • Milk bread (recipe coming soon)
  • Something between a quesadilla and a taco, with ham hock, caramelised onion, manchego and cime di rapa.
  • Foccacia with onions – from leftover pizza dough
  • Breaded fish with oven chips


Friday food links – 26 Feb 2016

Sliced bergamot lemons for marmalade

I had a few days of holiday to use up before the end of March, so I took two days off this week to do some work on the blog. I hope to move the whole thing to a new design soon, and to add some new feaetures – watch this space (but don’t hold your breath!). It also gave me the opportunity to spend an extended time in the kitchen, without toddler interruptions.

On Tuesday I put two ham hocks (bought from the farm shop near my mum and dad’s house) in the slow-cooker. The meat slipped easily from the bones after spending all day in the pot, and that was dinner, with some boiled potatoes, wilted Savoy cabbage, and a little bit of spring onion sauce from this Mark Hix recipe. On Thursday afternoon, I squirreled myself away with Adele and Kendrick Lamar to make soda bread, bergamot marmalade, ham hock soup and tea loaf.

This week, I also got two new food magazines: the latest issues of Bon Appetit and Delicious. I currently subscribe to both, but this month showed a particularly stark difference, and I why I’m moving from the former to the latter. Bon Appetit is the main food magazine in the U.S., since its stable-mate, Gourmet, was shut down. I used to enjoy reading about American food trends, which are usually ahead of the UK, and hearing about different cookbooks and restaurants. But it’s become so on-trend, I no longer find it interesting. I think I’ve bookmarked just three recipes from this issue, one of which is simply a serving suggestion for a platter of spring vegetables with olive oil. I feel less and less like I’m in the audience for this one. When ‘delicious’ arrived today, however, I’ve immediately started planning meals and dishes, and have a version of their Easter roast pork in the fridge tonight.


Without a recipe:

  • Meatballs and tomato sauce over rice
  • Beef stew leftovers
  • Slow cooker ham hock with potatoes and cabbage
  • Friday night pizza


Friday food links – 19 Feb 2016 – and a homemade pizza recipe

Gorgeous but freezing run this morning

It has been a real where-did-the-week-go week.  My kitchen saviours have been the freezer and the oven timer. From the freezer came a container of Chinese-flavoured braised pork, which made the most of a vegetable fried rice. Also from the freezer, I dredged up a container of beef stew, which was mostly mushrooms and shallots in rich gravy. Some boiled potatoes and wilted cabbage were all that was needed there. And then Tuesday was a pasta bake with cheese sauce, some scraps of broccoli, spinach and spring onion and pancetta, which also did duty as leftovers last night. I made the sauce and cooked the pasta and veg in the afternoon when E was occupied, and put it into the oven with the timer set so it switched on with a delay, and was ready 15 minutes before we were sitting down to eat.


  • Homemade pizza – see recipe below
  • Leek and potato soup in the Thermomix
  • Two ingredient microwave chocolate pudding – from Stephen Harris (a bit dark when made with 70% chocolate, but would be good with something milder).
  • Slow cooker caramelised onions – from Slow Cooked

Without a recipe:

  • Beef stew from the freezer, with boiled potatoes and savoy cabbage
  • Fried rice with chinese pork
  • Cheesy pasta bake with pancetta, broccoli, spinach and spring onion.
  • Fish and oven chips


Recipe: Homemade Pizza

Homemade pizza

I have tried any number of ways of making pizza at home, but my oven doesn’t really get anything like hot enough to attempt to replicate a real pizza oven, so I’ve gradually adjusted to the idea that homemade pizza is rather like oven chips – still good, but not what you’d get in a restaurant.

This means I have come around to a process that is as low effort as possible, but still produces something tasty with a crust that’s fairly thin and crisp on the edges and base. This is largely inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s approach in her cookbook.

The most important step is stretching the dough. Each time you stretch and work the gluten, it gets springy and wants to contract back. So stretching and shaping is best done in gradual stages, letting the dough relax in between. This makes it easier to get the dough really big and thin.

The other trick is to do the stretching on the baking sheet you use to bake it. You will lose something by not putting it directly onto a hot surface, but I think that’s outweighed by the ease of not having to slide the dough around.



  • 300g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 180g water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


  • small box of passata
  • 1 packet pre-grated mozzarella
  • 1 pack fresh mozzarella
  • toppings

Prepare the dough a couple of hours before you want to have dinner. Alternatively, you can prepare it the night before, and put it in the fridge. In that case, it helps to get it out of the fridge a bit before you want to bake with it.

Weigh out the flour and add the yeast and salt. Mix briefly together, and then add the water and oil. Stir everything together, or use a mixer with a dough hook.

Then knead everything for about 5 minutes, either by hand or in the mixer. Try not to add any extra flour. You can also use a food processor, with brief pulses.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave at room temperature to rise (it doesn’t need to be somewhere warm).

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 250C or as hot as you can get it – my highest temperature is 220C in a fan oven.

Divide the dough into two pieces, and shape into balls. Pat the dough out into a rough rectangle or oval, or use a rolling pin. Do this in stages, leaving the dough to rest for at least 5 minutes under a tea towel before trying to roll or stretch the dough again. This helps to get it really thin without breaking it or having it spring back.

Sprinkle a large baking sheet with cornmeal/polenta or semolina, or line it with baking parchment. Put the dough onto the sheet, and stretch the edges again to fill the sheet as much as you can.

Top the pizza with passata or tomato sauce, cheese and any other toppings. Bake at 220C for 10 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned, and the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Leave to stand for a couple of minutes before cutting into pieces.

Friday food links – 12 Feb 2016

Camellia in the gutter. A casualty of yesterday's storm, a sign of spring.

This week has been powered by a big joint of pork shoulder that my mum slow-cooked on Saturday. It has been served with baked potatoes, in burrito bowls and in tortillas. It would have made it into pasta too if I’d remembered. I also made some freezer supplies for E: muffins to toast and banana date cakes. As it’s been a long time since a recipe featured anywhere on here, I’ve included the recipe for these below.


Without a recipe:

  • Pulled pork
  • Pasta with red peppers and mushrooms
  • Pork and black bean burritos
  • Pork burrito bowls
  • Slow cooker chicken curry
  • Carrot and sweet potato soup


A bit light on reading this week. I’ve been working through Anne-Marie Slaughter’s ‘Unfinished Business’, on the challenge of the work-life balance and the low value we place on care.

Banana date cakes

Recipe: Banana and Date cakes

Adapted from a banana cake in the Baby Led Weaning Cookbook, these little cakes have no sugar, but are still sweet from the bananas and dates, especially if you use really ripe bananas. They make great toddler food, or a good breakfast or mid-morning snack.

  • 100g self-raising wholemeal flour
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 very ripe bananas (200g peeled)
  • 1 egg
  • 75g dates

Prepare a muffin tin by greasing or with paper cases. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.

Chop the dates. If they are somewhat dry, cover with hot water and leave to soak for about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Rub the butter into the flour. Stir in the mixed spice.

In another bowl, mash the bananas and mix in the egg. Add to the flour with the drained, chopped dates and mix everything together.

Spoon into cupcake or muffin cases and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

Friday food links – 29 Jan 2016

Some days are all about muddy puddles.

Last week I experimented with Hello Fresh, getting three of the week’s meals delivered as one of their meal kits. This week, I took a different tack, relying on batch cooking, some quick fixes, leftovers and the slow cooker to get us through the week. This week was the decidedly easier cooking week. It was also more satisfying from my perspective, allowing me to try a few recipes from new cookbooks, and to work with the ingredients in the fridge (more or less).

So a leftover piece of whole roast cauliflower, and some cooked potatoes were combined with flat beans, butternut squash and red lentils to make a big pot of vegetable curry on Sunday. This was served with a small portion of leftover chicken curry from the freezer, and supermarket naan. Monday was the same, but with rice and a little of the leftover bread. Tuesday was an Anna Jones-inspired traybake of grated courgettes, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes and red peppers, with roast chicken pieces. Wednesday was the leftovers of the veg, with leftover rice from Tuesday. Thursday was a piece of pork shoulder, cooked all day in the slow cooker, and served with baked potatoes and a broccoli pesto. Tonight we’ll have the rest of the pork with tomato sauce over pasta. It probably amounts to about the same effort as the three meals from the previous week, but from my point of view, divided up in a more sensible way.


  • Bakewell tart – from ‘How Baking Works with a raspberry-cherry jam filling.
  • Slow cooker chickpeas – from Slow Cooked, but the recipe is just chickpeas and water!
  • Baking tray ratatouille with chickpeas – adapted from ‘A Modern Way to Cook‘ by Anna Jones
  • Sweet and savoury slow cooked pork – Food52 – but done in the slow cooker rather than the oven.
  • Broccoli pesto – The Green Kitchen: an approximation of their recipe, using blanched broccoli, garlic, lemon juice, a few chickpeas and olive oil. A bit too garlicky in the end, but good on top of baked potatoes.

Without a recipe:

  • Vegetable curry with lentils
  • Pasta bolognese
  • Quick tomato sauce, with meatballs from the freezer


Friday food links – 22 Jan 2016

Lunch: Sunday vat of soup with cooked chicken added, leftover Zuni bread salad with extra radicchio and crumbled Lancashire cheese #leftovers

I’ve been trying out a Hello Fresh box this week. [disclosure: I haven’t been given anything for free by Hello Fresh, or been approached by them to write this post. I don’t do that sort of thing here.] If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid their marketing bombardment, they are a recipe box delivery company. You get three recipes delivered each week, along with all the ingredients to make them, in just the right quantities. This means everything from fresh prawns to leeks to sachets of balsamic vinegar and tiny bottles of oil. The only things missing from my box were salt, pepper and vegetable oil.

I’m still not convinced by this model, especially for already competent cooks, but I will write another post when I’ve thought about it some more. My first impressions are that it is useful to have the decisions about which recipes to make made for you, and it’s also useful to have just enough to make the recipe and no more. For instance, one recipe came with a mini-block of feta. Normally, I would end up with half a packet unused, which would gradually go off in the fridge. But the recipes themselves tend to require more attention and steps than my usual weeknight fare.

Apart from those three recipes, the rest of the week was all about slow and patient cooking: salting chickens for roasting a day and a bit ahead of time; roasting a head of cauliflower for an hour on a weeknight; making a big pot of soup to last the week. For me, that’s a much more satisfying form of ‘easy’ cooking, and not much more time consuming.


  • At the weekend:
    • Zuni Chicken bread salad
    • Five O’Clock Apron apple flapjacks
    • Honeyed rye bread and a Sunday Vat of soup (sweet potato and butternut squash) from Anna Jones’ ‘A Modern Way to Cook’
    • Ham, cheese and leek scones from ‘The Violet Bakery Cookbook’
  • Three from Hello Fresh:
    • Firecracker prawns with Chinese leaf and rice
    • Butterflied chicken with leeks, feta and tomatoes
    • Steak stir fry with broccoli and noodles
  • Whole roasted cauliflower – from the New York Times. Served with meatballs (from the freezer) in tomato sauce.

Without a recipe:

  • Chicken, cheese and avocado quesadillas
  • Meatballs in tomato sauce


Friday food links – 8 Jan 2016

Sunset, Boston Manor

This week has felt like proper winter for the first time this season – actual frost on the roofs some mornings, a chilly wind that forced me to do up my coat for just about the first time this year. Sunshine, and showers, and clouds so dark and grey there might have been an eclipse, and evening sun setting into a perfect blue sky, with a whisp of a crescent moon. I’ve been pointing the moon out to E some evenings when we come home from nursery in the dark, and now she sometimes demands to see it – a tricky request to fulfill when it is new and hardly there.

A week into the New Year, and I feel like it’s going, tentatively, fairly well. I have stuck to my resolution and written at least 750 words every day. (Many of those words are nonsense, and certainly not publishable, but that’s not the point). I have been reading Bee Wilson’s wonderful ‘First Bite’ when I get a moment, and think it’s an excellent book, carefully researched and well written. And there has just about been enough time for work, for play, for writing, for laughing, and for cooking. A good week.


Without a recipe:

  • Lasagne, using the last of the rib of beef ragu
  • Roast chicken, with roasted vegetables and broccoli
  • Chicken pie
  • Fish cakes/fish fingers and crinkle-cut chips
  • Fish curry with potatoes and peas
  • Slow-cooker chicken stock (that went into the chicken pie, the soup and some I’ve kept back to cook with beef shin this weekend).


Friday food links – 4 Dec 2015


Christmas has officially appeared on the horizon now. Sorry to those of you who dread this run-up, but after the 1st Dec, I think we’re officially allowed to begin preparations. Ours kicked off promptly with a Christmas party on the 1st, followed by a wet-and-windy trip to see the Christmas lights at Kew Gardens. As I’m posting this late (on Saturday) I’ve also made progress on a gingerbread house, using some neat cutters from Lakeland. Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Sausages and roast veg
  • Pork and red pepper stir fry, with purple sprouting broccoli and rice
  • Pasta bolognese


Friday food links – 27 Nov 2015

#latergram of the chocolate pavlova from Sunday lunch 😋

A week of holiday, away at Center Parcs means not much cooking. I brought a stack of ready meals (Charlie Bigham), and supplemented by my mother-in-law, we’ve brought enough food to last the week in our little lodge.
The amusements here are relatively basic if you’re 18 months old, but fortunately, at this age, you don’t need much to amuse you. Some time in the swimming pool, a few walks and the novelty of riding in a cycle trailer are all very diverting. And a mere three DVDs, plus a stack of books and a teddy bear are enough to occupy the dark and rainy hours.

Before we went away, we had our final all-comers Sunday lunch of the year. As we were catering for a gluten-free guest, I made two small modifications – using rice and potato flour to thicken a slow-cooker beef shin stew, and making a pavlova rather than a tart or cake for dessert – pretty undetectable modifications. The pavlova in particular was a great choice – a Nigella recipe for a dark chocolate, chewy meringue, topped only with whipped cream and raspberries. My daughter just wanted to pick the raspberries off the top, and demanded that someone else remove the cream from them. Sometimes I’m not sure that we are related.


  • Slow-cooker beef shin stew – I flitted between recipes for this, but eventually based it on the beef shin recipe in Slow Cooked, with some Boeuf Bourguignon twists: I substituted the beer with a mixture of red wine and beef stock. And after it had cooked overnight, I strained out the meat and vegetables, and reduced the sauce with a bit of potato flour to thicken it further. I added this back to the meat, along with some sautéed mushrooms, some browned pancetta, and a few sautéed shallots. This then had another hour in the oven just before it was served.
  • Hasselback potato gratin from Serious Eats – I couldn’t quite bring myself to make the full cheese-and-cream version, so mixed cream and milk to coat the potatoes, then added the remains of the beef stock to the bottom of the dish before baking. It probably could have used some extra butter on top to make the tops properly crispy, but was pretty good nonetheless, and much easier than the traditional version of layering.
  • Chocolate raspberry pavlova – from Nigella’s ‘Forever Summer
  • Dark Banana ginger bread – using up the browning bananas before we left on holiday. This is an old Dan Lepard recipe, super-simple to make, but with a good flavour. I added the zest of a clementine and a teaspoon of mixed spice as well.

Without a recipe:

  • Pasta with tomatoes, with bolognese
  • Various ready meals: Charlie Bigham fish pie, chicken and mushroom pies, lasagne. Donated sausage casserole and cottage pie (thanks, Chris!)
  • Cheese and ham quesadillas


Devouring this book on holiday this week. Ruth Reichl (and @nigellalawson) write my favourite food prose.

I’ve spent much of the week engrossed in Ruth Reichl’s new book, ‘My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life’. Ruth is one of my favourite food writers, but she’s not very well known in the UK. She was a restaurant critic for the LA Times and New York Times, then editor of iconic American food magazine ‘Gourmet’ until it was shut down by Conde Nast in 20xx. This book is about the year after she lost her job, and the healing power of getting into the kitchen. Much like Nigel Slater’s recent books, it’s organised into seasons, and has a story with each recipe of what she was doing at the time. I’ve already bookmarked a stack of recipes to make, including Venetian pork (little pieces of sticky pork ribs), her basic chilli, diva grilled cheese, gingered applesauce cake with caramel glaze and Big New York cheesecake.

Other reading:

And if none of that is your thing, Sali Hughes has her beauty gift guide out too.

Friday food links – 30 Oct 2015

It's a rule that making Christmas cake means finding the largest mixing bowl in the house.

My meal plan ran out half way through this week – I just didn’t get around to planning the second half of the week. Which meant we ate pasta on those nights I failed to plan for. What I was doing while I failed to plan meals (apart from going to work) was making the Christmas cake.
I love the ritual of making the cake. Even when all my good intentions of early present buying and homemade decorations go out the window, I feel better for knowing the cake is done. And the process itself is satisfying: wrapping the cake tin in brown paper, like a present. The bittersweet smell of candied peel. Tumbling raisins, sultanas and currants into a bowl, and covering it all with brandy. Just the smell of brandy says Christmas to me – is that wrong??
So this weekend I will be building more good intentions and writing lists. But if all else fails, there will still be cake.


Without a recipe:

  • Fresh pasta
  • Chicken curry – Spice Tailor sauce with some edits
  • Waitrose pizza