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Showing posts from October, 2010

OLD MASTERS AND MINESTRONE

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Sunday in town! What a civilised way to spend the day. I met a friend at the Royal Academy of Arts to see the Treasures from Budapest exhibition, which was surprisingly interesting, once one got beyond all the Renaissance religious paintings and Baroque mythologies. There were some beautiful drawings, including some real gems by Leonardo, Raphael, Watteau, and some very fine paintings. The exhibition was not busy and it was lovely to stroll through the quiet rooms, while outside Piccadilly seethed with tourists lost in London. Afterwards, we walked down St James's Street, past the eccentric bookseller where we once worked together, through St James's Park, pausing every so often to admire a wonderful vista, lit by the most gorgeous autumn sunshine, and on to Jacky's flat in Pimlico for Prosecco and her homemade minestrone soup. Jacky and I first met when we worked at the Dictionary of Art in the late 1980s. She is probably the only friend with whom I could talk about Sir G…

KITCHEN CONFESSIONAL

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What do you eat for breakfast?
Usually, Activia fig yoghurt. Not because I believe the advertising blurb, but because I like it. When it's cold, I like porridge, with a swirl of maple syrup. Fry-ups are reserved for camping trips. I love scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, boiled egg with Marmite soldiers, or fried tomatoes on toasted sourdough.

What food reminds you of your childhood?
Anything with kidneys or liver. My mother's puddings: 'Sylvabella' - a sort of chocolate mousse with boudoir fingers soaked in alcohol; Charlottoe Malakoff - almonds, cream, sugar and butter on top of boudoir fingers soaked in alchohol.


Ever eaten anything just to be polite?
No. If I don't like something, I just leave it. I cannot bear oysters, celery or dried fruits.

Marmite. Love it or hate it?
I LOVE it!! And I cannot recommend Nigella's marmite spaghetti too highly - delicious!

Coffee or tea?
I'm a big tea drinker and get through at least 10 cups a day - it's what keeps m…

THE BEST CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM

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I am normally wary of labelling anything "the best", but in the case of this ice cream, it is entirely appropriate, for it truly is the best chocolate ice cream I have ever tasted.

I am not a huge fan of ice cream, generally, at least, not the stuff you can buy here. In Italy, it's a different matter: on holiday on the shores of Lake Garda a few years ago, I made it my project to try every flavour at the local gelateria (it boasted about 30 different varieties). Italian icecream is softer than its English cousin and served at a more "comfortable" temperature (I can't bear temple-achingly cold food). My favourite flavours are pistachio, coconut, hazelnut, banana and zabaglione. A little gelateria has opened on the high street, just around the corner from where I live. It is pretty good, with an enticing selection of flavours, but the ice cream is kept at slightly too cold a temperature for my liking.....

I had some egg yolks left over from making rather brut…

CASSOULET

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Cassoulet is a speciality of the Languedoc region of France, where white beans are cooked slowly with a variety of meat. Along with coq au vin and poulet au vinaigre, this is one of the few classic French dishes that I make fairly regularly.

Made properly, Cassoulet is a very fatty dish, but it is the fat that makes it so delicious. The beans become soft with slow cooking, while the meat (I use duck) is tender and succulent, and falls easily from the bones. It is a very comforting dish, entirely appropriate for a chilly evening in late October. It requires no other accompaniment than a good bottle of Burgundy.

When I was in my teens, I used to visit France quite regularly with my parents, and we always bought tins of Cassoulet from the supermarket back with us. Even the most bog-standard Monoprix version contained at least a few of the key ingredients: pork belly and Toulouse sausages. My mother would add duck or pork pieces to turn it into a really fine dish. I suppose this is a reci…

LUNCH AT 202

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After a rather convoluted journey into work today, thanks to the vagaries of the London transport system, and a couple of hours trotting through dictation and emails with My Old Man of Kensington, lunch with a girlfriend at '202' on Westbourne Grove in trendy Notting Hill seemed just about the perfect end to a somewhat mixed morning.

202 is one restaurant which I visit regularly, and at one stage, I was going there at least once a month with my friend Sylvia who works close by. We worked our way through the delicious and varied menu, and then got bored, switching our allegiance to a branch of Le Pain Quotidien on Notting Hill Gate. The premises used to be a pub, as is evident from the frontage, while inside it is all pared-down shabby chic: bentwood chairs, marble-topped tables, a zinc bar, big oval mirrors redolent of a French bistro, and a view through French windows to a pretty courtyard garden hung about with clematis and palms. The restaurant is part of a Nicole Farhi clo…

RABBIT IN RED WINE - LIGURIAN STYLE

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Lovers of fluffy bunnies look away now.

As some readers of my blog know, I used to own a rather wonderful and eccentric brown rabbit called Georgina, who had a voracious appetite for vegetable peelings (especially butternut squash and sweet potato) and who had a penchant for nibbling cables (specifically, the hi-fi and the Christmas tree lights). She was popular with my piano students and a reward for good work during a lesson was often feeding the rabbit. Fear not: Georgie does not form the constituent ingredient for this dish. She has gone to a lovely new home, with two of my students, brother and sister Magnus and Saskia, who lavish far more love, care and attention on her than I ever could.

This recipe comes from my big doorstep-sized Italian regional cookery book, La Cucina: the Traditional Home Cooking of Italy. There are many variants of this dish, using different meats, such as oxtail, or wild boar. In fact, when I was in Italy in September, I ate both venison and wild boar ve…

DESERT ISLAND COOKBOOKS

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HOW TO EAT - Nigella Lawson
HOW TO BE A DOMESTIC GODDESS - Nigella Lawson
MEDITERRANEAN COOKERY - Claudia Roden
MORO: THE COOKBOOK - Sam & Sam Clark
THE OTTOLENGHI COOKBOOK - Yoram Ottolenghi
THE NAKED CHEF - Jamie Oliver
THE SUMMER COLLECTION - Delia Smith
INDIAN COOKERY - Madhur Jaffrey


On the eponymous programme on Radio 4, guests are asked to select eight favourite or significant records. I have selected eight favourite or sigificant cookbooks. If asked to choose only one, it would have to be HOW TO EAT by Nigella Lawson, not just because it is cramful of very good recipes, but also because she writes so beautifully about food, and the pleasures of cooking and eating it. Since one is also allowed the Bible on the desert island, my cookery bible would have to be MEDITERRANEAN COOKERY by Claudia Roden. Long out of print, this wonderful cookbook is full of superb photographs of ingredients and dishes, and contains many classic recipes from all around the Mediterraean. It is one …

CHOCOLATE MACAROONS

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Did I mention my love of almonds? Oh, and chocolate too? Here two favourite ingredients combine to create deliciously rich, chewy macaroons. I have been meaning to make these ever since a friend brought a plate of them to my Macmillan coffee morning last month, at which all the guests immediately fell upon them, eschewing my chocolate brownies, forgotten cookies and M&S Battenberg cake. In the photograph, the espresso maker is a reminder of how well these biscuits go with a mug of good, strong coffee.

With the arrival on our shores in recent years of French macaroon maker, Laduree, macaroons have gone from the bakery staple of large discs cooked on rice paper, with a lurid cherry or whole almond plonked in the middle, to elegant oversized petit fours. Each year, Laduree creates a new flavour. My favourites are salted caramel, liquorice (an all-black macaroon), rose and pistachio.

These macaroons are rather rustic in shape and flavour compared to their soignee Gallic cousins, but …

NIGELLA'S CRUSTLESS PIZZA

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This comes from Nigella's latest book 'Kitchen', which accompanies her new TV series, in which the Voluptuous One bounces around her fairy-light-lit kitchen, pouting at the camera and batting her eyelashes at raw prawns. It's hot viewing in my house: my son has been glued to the last two episodes. He assures me he is only interested in the food.....

Despite Nigella having become something of a parody of herself, and never forgetting that the term "food porn" was coined after all the finger-sucking in her first TV series, I remain a huge fan of hers. Like Lovable Jamie, she always displays immense enthusiasm for food and is no apologist for ingredients such as butter and cream. Her dishes are imaginative, fun, not overly fussy, nor difficult to make. I've just spent an hour watching Masterchef: The Professionals which is a sort of foodie version of The Apprentice. None of the food which was cooked on the programme appealed to me: I'm not keen on those …

A VIEW FROM THE FRIDGE

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Here is a typical snapshot of the contents of Demon Cook's fridge, today, Sunday 10th October.

Top shelf:
Two Pizza Express Sloppy Giuseppe pizzas. I quite often make my own pizzas, if I'm feeling energetic enough, but for those times when I am not, Pizza Express pizzas are the best from the chiller cabinet in the supermarket. They cook quickly and largely retain that "freshly made" flavour.In the white bowl is Ottolenghi's yogurt sauce, made quickly to have with a chickpea and sweet potato dish which I made for lunch today. I think there is also a packet of Chorizo slices lurking up there too. I like to keep a pack of Chorizo or Serrano or Parma Ham as this is a useful standby for quick snacks and paninisNext shelf down:
A wedge of Waitrose aged Manchego cheese. I was going to make canapes from this - slices of Manchego with membrillo (quince paste) to serve to my dinner guests last night, but in the end I never did.The white bowl contains pimento-stuffed olives an…

CHICKPEA AND ANCHOVY CROSTINI

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This is ripped off from something my friend Jacky served me recently; she in turn had ripped it off from a dish she ate a Polpo, a Venetian restaurant in Soho. If you do not like the idea of anchovies, don't worry: the flavour is very subtle, but I would argue it is essential to this dish. Choose a good bread for these crostini: I like to use a chewy sourdough or French country-style bread from Waitrose, and rather than toast the bread slices, I put them in the oven, turned it off and left them to dry out for an hour or so. The chickpea topping can be made in advance and set aside. Its texture is rather like hummous, but its flavour is quite different, though with the underlying nuttiness that comes from the chickpeas.




400g tin of chickpeas, drained of liquid
2-3 anchovy fillets
A pinch of salt
About 1 tbsp of olive oil
A small bunch of fresh basil, torn - for the garnish

Put all the ingredients in a liquidiser and whizz to a smooth puree. Spread onto the prepared bread slices an…

CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY PUDDING CAKE

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This "pudding cake" is one of my dinner party stand-bys - though I haven't made it for a long time, preferring Middle Eastern inspired pistachio or walnut cakes, or my trusty Tarte Tatin. It comes from Nigella Lawson's first and best cookbook 'How To Eat', and, as she herself says in the preamble, it is almost more effort to type out the recipe than to make the cake. A little gentle stirring and pouring is really all that is required

185g self-raising flour (or 185g plain flour and a tsp of baking powder)30g cocoa powder2 tablespoons creme de framboise or similar liqueur95g caster sugar95g muscovado sugar250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids minimum)185ml of strong espresso coffee + 185ml water OR 2 teaspoons good instant coffee made up with 370ml hot water 2 eggs, beaten slightly250g raspberries (or more if using well defrosted, frozen raspberries) plus extra for decorationPreheat the oven to 180°C. Butter a 22cm spring-form cake tin and line the base.

Melt t…

DE-STRESSING MONDAY SUPPER

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I've had a fraught day! And it's all Bob Crow's fault. Yes, he called a Tube strike and made my journey home from my Monday job in Notting Hill a supremely convoluted affair. It was all right going into work this morning: the District Line was running from Wimbledon to Earl's Court and, thanks to a neat App on my iPhone helpfully called 'London Bus', I was able to find out which bus would take me from Earl's Court to Notting Hill Gate (it was the 328 to Golders Green, for those who are interested in such minutiae). I left work at 12 noon, after a fight with the laptop which, after downloading a new bit of software, decided to stop working and refused to restart, despite some very stern words from me. I took all the typing home with me in the end, and set off for Earl's Court (on the 328 again, this time heading for Chelsea/World's End). Because I was on the bus, I had to forego my usual Monday lunch of Pret A Manger's deluxe sushi box, and had …