Monday, 26 October 2009

Recipe: Sausages with Chorizo and Lentils

  • I made this Nigel Slater recipe this weekend. It is taken from The Kitchen Diaries, one of my all time favourite recipe books. I substituted the salami that Nigel recommends for chorizo which I know is pretty naughty, but I just love chorizo and it added such a smoky punch that I forgave myself. I made steamed asparagus with melted butter and sea salt for starter, simply because the asparagus was on offer rather than due to any natural synergy between the light, summery starter and the warming, winter main. Still, the whole thing was pretty sublime. I do hope that Mr Slater won't mind my tinkering with his wonderful recipe.
    I served this with a small amount of rice, which wasn't actually needed, and buttered toast to scoop up the sauce.
    P.S It is my 100th blog post today, which I couldn't let pass without mention. I am greatly enjoying sharing this little journal with you. I hope you are too.

    Prep time:
    20 mins

    Cook time:
    45 mins

    2 onions
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 200g salami, in one piece (I USED CHORIZO)
  • 350 g Sausages
  • 500g crushed tomatoes, or tomato passata
  • 150g green or brown lentils
  • 3 bay leaves


1. Peel the onions and cut each one in half from tip to root, then cut each half into four or five pieces. Warm the oil in a heavy-based casserole, add the onions and let them cook over a moderate heat until tender.

2. Meanwhile, peel the garlic, slice it thinly and add it to the onions. You'll need to stir them regularly.

3. Peel the thin skin from the salami and cut the inside into fat matchsticks. Add this to the softening onions and leave for a couple of minutes, during which time the salami will darken slightly.

4. Start cooking the sausages in a non-stick pan. You want them to colour on the outside; they will do most of their cooking once they are in the sauce.

5. Tip the crushed tomatoes into the onions, add the washed lentils and stir in 500ml water. Bring to the boil. Remove the sausages from their pan and tuck them into the casserole with the bay leaves.

6. Cover the pot with a lid and leave to simmer gently for about half an hour, until the lentils are tender. Stir the lentils and season with black pepper. You may find it needs little or no salt.

Meals for the masses

To celebrate this New Year's Eve, some friends and I will be descending on my parents home in Devon to enjoy some country air and some good food.

My parents are going to be away, so I will be mistress of the house and responsible for a group of about 12 people for several days. On New Year's Eve there will be a few more of us, and I want to feed them a great meal before the celebrations get going.

I really need ideas for feeding a group this size. From the 12 people around the table in the run up to the New Year, to the 20 who will be there on the big night.

Anyone have any ideas for filling this many hungry mouths? All I have so far is sausage and mash (yawn) and a delicious chorizo, sausage and lentil stew which I cooked on Saturday and I think could definitely be done on mass.

I'd love to hear your go to dishes for feeding a hungry crowd...

Thursday, 22 October 2009


On a lighter but still Christmas related note, I have begun compiling a list of gifts for myself. The gathering of just some of the items I am coveting in a serious way. These are not fleeting desires but rather the pieces I have spent the year trying to justify buying, but haven't quite been able to.

Maybe it's a little indulgent to put a big old list of things I want but don't really need (other than the puppy of course) however I think the reality is that those who can do like to give and receive. I already have my Christmas gift buying trips sorted - one in London, the other in Paris - and I really do love finding the perfect things for my friends and family. I think this is a time to go for quality over quantity, invest in key pieces which will last a long time and to shower those you love with items they will always hold dear.

Derek Rose Woburn Silk pyjamas
Diptyque candle (multiple)
heal's Cashmere Cable knit throw
Lemon tree
Michael kors perfume
Pasta cutting machine
Pinhole drawing on vintage photograph from Etsy seller Restless Things
Malti-poo puppy (yes, I know that creating an uber cute designer dog by crossing two different breeds is considered ethically dubious, but in this instance I have to ignore this in favour of this utterly gorgeous creature which seems perfectly happy to me - cue the angry comments)
Holga camera (and a polaroid too please, now that it's back)

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

May we all be together next year

I am a strong believer that Christmas is a time to gather with family and friends to take stock of the year gone by, and the one ahead.

A time for amazing meals gathered around an enormous table where everyone has to loosen belts and undo buttons to make room for the excess of food. With lots of good wine and fantastic cheese and no holding back. Where families and friends can debate and laugh and unwind together, often gathering all in one place for the first time in a year.

I am well aware how truly lucky I am that I enjoy a Christmas like this. A celebration without family feuds, toasting good health and happiness - I count my lucky stars every day. Last year was not like this; my darling, wonderful Granny had died less than a fortnight before.

We gathered in grief and sorrow, not that my family would every really call it this. There was no funeral, or memorial, at my grandpa's insistence. Instead my mother, auntie, uncle along with their partners and children (myself included) stood in a sad looking crematorium on a bleak day in Newton Abbot, cried a few awkward tears, sung a strange sounding children's nursery song that had been a favourite of hers and left.

Our grandparents (we only ever knew our maternal granny and granpda, my dad's parents died before I was born) typically didn't join us for Christmas, preferring their own company and the home comforts of their little cottage in Sussex. So last Christmas was no different, in theory.

We laughed and ate and drunk too much - like any other year - but there was a deep, lingering feeling that this was not how it should be.

Throughout her life, whenever my granny was asked to make a wish she would always quietly say "may we all be together, safe and sound, next year", and this time we were not. We went through the motions but there were no gifts, no Christmas tree and every time we lifted our glasses to toast one another we only thought of her.

This is the first time I have written about her, and it won't be the last. Having had no funeral I never got to talk about how incredible she was to anyone but my friends. It just isn't really the done thing with my family, we prefer to quip and argue and tease and outwit each other- and I like it that way.

Needless to say this Christmas will, I hope, be different to the last. Gathering all together for the first time this year we will indulge and celebrate and toast each other...and crack open the most expensive and delicious bottle of bubbly of all in celebration of my darling, darling granny Katy.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Simple pleasures

Treating myself to indulgent alternatives to tea and coffee makes the dark nights so much easier to bear.
Sadly I have been hit with the worst bout of toothache and until I can get to a dentist I won't be able to enjoy my warming treats.
Until then, it's nurofen and a lot of whining for me!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Recipe: Chicken surprise

T0 start, an admission.
There is no surprise in chicken surprise.
It is just an affectionate name that it has been given over the last 5 years in which it has become a staple meal. My boy, or friends, will say to me "Can we have chicken surprise", generally knowing I'd rather cook chicken than other meat and that I can throw something together with the contents of the fridge/cupboard for a last minute gathering. This dish is one which requires very few ingredients, and ones I normally have in the house or within 2 minutes of it ( the corner shop). Hence, when they request chicken surprise they now know this is what they will get. They ask for it a lot, so I can only assume it is good.

That is not to say you cannot include your own surprise, maybe a favourite spice or spirit to give it an extra kick...I'll just give you the basic recipe and you can add your own twist if desired!

Ingredients (serves 2)

2 chicken breasts
4 shallots
200 ml single cream
1 lemon
French mustard
Bunch of tarragon
White wine

Thinly dice shallots
Fry shallots in frying pan with layer of olive oil
Once shallots are browning add chicken, sliced into thick strips
Fry chicken until cooked through (about 20-25 minutes)
Add half the cream and chopped tarragon, to taste.
Add splash of white wine, squeeze of lemon and tsp of mustard.
Continue cooking and stirring and add cream as desired.
As a guide, there should be enough sauce for a couple of large serving spoons worth on top of each portion.

Serve, with roasted potatoes and butternut squash (well, that's what we do!)
Enjoy, with the remainder of the wine.

Recipe: Chicken, cream and tarragon pie

Chicken and Tarragon pie
Recipe by Joanna Weinberg in the Times
Pictures and comments by me

This was my first ever pie and I was really happy with it. I served it with roast potatoes and cavolo nero. I am aware there has been a lot of chicken recipes of late, I will get some slightly more adventurous recipes up soon.

This is a good one though, and making your own pastry is fun (although I did have a very large tantrum when I thought the pastry was too moist and wouldn't roll, my beloved had to take a lot of abuse for advising me against overflouring!)


Serves 4

For the filling:
6 mixed chicken portions or 1 chicken, jointed
2 bay leaves
1 onion, quartered
1 onion, finely chopped
4 sprigs fresh tarragon
4 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh tarragon
1 leek, sliced into fine discs, woody head reserved a few whole peppercorns
500ml fresh chicken stock
500ml milk
200ml double cream
2oz butter
2oz flour
a capful of dry Vermouth
sea salt and pepper For the crust:
240 g white flour, preferably Italian 00,
170g cold butter
pinch of salt
iced water with a squeeze of lemon
1 egg, beaten, to glaze


Make the pastry by grating the cold butter into a bowl with the flour and salt. Rub through your fingers to combine. Add the iced water and lemon juice tablespoon by tablespoon until it comes together. Knead with floured hands and divide into two balls, one twice the size of the other. Wrap both in clingfilm and leave in fridge for half an hour.

Some people say there is no need to make your own pastry as shop bought stuff it so good now, and I did buy some ready made just in case. I wanted to try making my own though and it turned out great although I did have to use a LOT of flour to roll it and to stop it sticking to the surface as I rolled it.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. In a large saucepan, simmer the milk with the bay leaves, sprigs of tarragon, quartered onion, leek top and peppercorns for 15 min, then add the chicken and poach gently for 20-25 min. Set the chicken aside to cool, reserve the liquid, and discard the rest of the solids.

Bring the chicken stock to the boil, add the chopped onion and leek discs for a minute and then remove to the pie dish with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid in the pan and boiling to reduce by half.

When the chicken is cool, remove skin and bones, and shred into bite-sized chunks with a fork, adding them to the pie dish. In a separate saucepan, make a roux with the butter and flour, using 100ml of the reduced stock and the poaching milk until it has the consistency of double cream. Combine in the dish with the chicken, onion, leeks and two thirds of the chopped tarragon, and season. Set aside to cool.

Roll out both pastry balls into discs 5mm thick. Line the pie dish with the large disc, brushing the edges with the beaten egg. Fill with the chicken mixture. Cover the pie with the remaining pastry, sealing the join with the tines of a fork dipped in cold water. Cut a cross in the centre to release steam, using a blackbird to hold up the pastry if the dish is deep. Glaze with the beaten egg and bake for 15 min before turning the oven down to 180C/Gas 4 and baking for another hour.

I also added a splash of white wine and some cream in the sauce here too. I think a bit of mustard would have been good also, and maybe some peas.

For extra gravy: Just before you eat, reheat the remaining reduced stock, adding the Vermouth, and boil off the alcohol. Reduce to a simmer, stirring in the cream and the rest of the chopped tarragon. Season well and decant to a jug.

I didn't use vermouth and added wine to the extra gravy instead.

Catch up

I failed in my daily updates. I do have an excuse but it is a rubbish one so I won't bore you.
Here are some photos from the last few weeks to make up for it.

October has been a beautiful month in London. Bright, sunny, cold and crisp days which are my favourite kind. Lots of cooking (I made my first pie last night), gorgeous meals out and seeing friends. Being completley broke has meant I have travelled far and wide to see friends who are generously cooking for me, and I'm very grateful for their kindness and culinary skills.

I also offer you a recommendation, a little bit of an insight into my mind which is sort of what I promised. This is my favourite blog in the world. It puts mine to shame, so I expect to never see you again - and I understand. She is, without doubt, one of the funniest writers out around and I was so thrilled when she featured my friend Max as one of her cute boys last year. He got an overwhelming reaction -and believe it or not it wasn't me over and over!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

My favourite things: Rushmore

Rushmore is one of my favourite films.

Surreal, sharp, hilariously funny, tragic at times; it has everything I adore in a movie. Lots of the people I love don't like this film that much, which I normally find a big disappointment. But in this instance I don't mind because my brother finds it just as charming and clever as I do.

I like that we are united in our adoration of this film - it's like being a kid again and being in on a joke that no one else quite gets.

"Dear Max, I am sorry to say that I have secretly found out that Mr. Blume is having an affair with Miss Cross. My first suspicions came when I saw them Frenching in front of our house. And then I knew for sure when they went skinny dipping in Mr. Blume's swimming pool, giving each other handjobs while you were taking a nap on the front porch."

This is no great piece of writing, but it sums up the glory of this film in 3 awesome sentences.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Words are all well and good

But then you go through your picture library and see these...

Maybe it's just me, but in this instance I'll say pictures do just a good job. Just for once.

My favourite things: Wedding Readings

I have no plans to marry but regardless of that even my cold heart cannot ignore the timeless beauty of these readings I have collected over the years.

Our union is like this: You feel cold, so I reach for a blanket to cover our shivering feet.
A hunger comes into your body, so I run to my garden and start digging potatoes.
You asked for a few words of comfort and guidance, and I quickly kneel by your side offering you a whole book as a gift.
You ache with loneliness one night so much you weep, and I say here is a rope, tie it around me, I will be your companion for life.
I must credit the amazing Joanna for this amazing find. Our Union by Hafiz.

I also adore the simplicity of this reading - The Orange by Wendy Cope
At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all my jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

Another wonderful one :
The young couple first married on August 5, 1744, when Joseph was eight and Sarah six, and first ended their marriage six days later when Joseph refused to believe, to Sarah's frustration, that the stars were silver nails in the sky, pinning up the black nightscape. They remarried four days later, when Joseph left a note under the door of Sarah's parents' house: I have considered everything you told me, and I do believe that the stars are silver nails.

They ended their marriage again a year later, when Joseph was nine and Sarah seven, over a quarrel about the nature of the bottom of the river bed. A week later, they were remarried, including this time in their vows that they should love each other until death, regardless of the existence of the riverbed, the temperature of the river bed's bottom (should it exist), and the possible existence of
starfish on the possibly existing riverbed.

They ended their marriage one hundred and twenty times throughout their lives and each time remarried with a longer list of vows. They were sixty and fifty-eight at their last marriage, only three weeks before Sarah died of heart failure and Joseph drowned himself in the bath. Their marriage contract still hangs over the door of the house they on-and-off shared-nailed to the top post and brushing against the welcome mat:

"It is with everlasting devotion that we, Joseph and Sarah L, reunite in the indestructible union of matrimony, promising love until death, with the understanding that the stars are silver nails in the sky, regardless of the existence of the bottom of the river, the temperature of this bottom (should it exist) and the possible existence of
starfish on the possibly existing riverbed, overlooking what may or may not have been accidental grape juice spills, agreeing to forget that Joseph played sticks and balls with his friends when he promised he would help Sarah thread the needle for the quilt she was sewing, and that Sarah was supposed to give the quilt to Joseph, not his buddy, ignoring the simple fact that Joseph snores like a pig, and that Sarah is no great treat to sleep with either, letting slide certain tendencies of both parties to look too long at members of the opposite sex, not making a fuss over why Joseph is such a slob, leaving his clothes wherever he feels like taking them off, expecting Sarah to pick them up, clean them, and put them in their proper place as he should have, or why Sarah has to be such a pain about the smallest things, such as which way the toilet paper unrolls, or when dinner is five minutes later than she was planning, because, let's face it, it's Joseph who's putting that paper on the roll and dinner on the table, disregarding whether the beet is a better vegetable than the cabbage, putting aside the problems of being fat-headed and chronically unreasonable, trying to erase the memory of a long since expired rose bush that a certain someone was supposed to remember to water when his wife was visiting family, accepting the compromise of the way we have been, the way we are, and the way we will likely be. May we live together in unwavering love and good health. Amen."
from Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

And the one I love more than any other. The one I will choose for my wedding, if ever there is one - and was, without a doubt, written for me and my beloved.

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being in love which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.

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