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Showing posts from November, 2011

FAVOURITE THINGS NO. 6: PASTEIS-DE-NATA

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PORTUGUESE CUSTARD TARTS
I  first discovered these delicious little confections at the old café at the Victoria & Albert Museum. A friend and I used to visit regularly for exhibitions or simply to drift around the galleries, taking in the treasure trove of decorative art from Medieval metalwork to swords of the Samurai. Our visit would always begin with coffee and custard tarts at the cafe. Imagine our disgruntlement, then, when the café was taken over by another franchise, tarted up (forgive the pun) and relocated in a different part of the museum. Despite offering a fair to middling patisserie counter, the Portuguese Custard Tarts were no more.

Fortunately, my disappointment was short-lived, as a local café, which I frequent with girlfriends for coffee after school drop off (for those friends with kids still at primary school) and before the gym, now stocks them. They are just as delicious as the ones at the V&A, and a perfect small cake to have with a big mug of coffee.

I w…

FAVOURITE THINGS No. 5: JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES

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No relation to the more sophisticated Globe Artichoke, these knobbly roots make a delicious, nutty winter soup and are great with potatoes in a gratin, or even as a pizza topping.

My father used to grow Jerusalem Artichokes, and when I was little, I liked to help him dig them up. We'd shake the dirt off them, place them in a colander and take them in for my mum to turn into something delicious. They are neither from Jerusalem nor are they artichokes, but they are easy to grow and push out all sort of lush green growth up top while the gnarly roots develop underground. Their flavour is nutty, strangely redolent of oysters and the merest hint of soil. When pureed, their texture is an unparalleled silkiness. Peel them if the skin is really tough; if not - and these days they come helpfully pre-washed - keep their skins on for added flavour and roughage.

Treat them as you would potatoes: boil them or roast them, slice them and put them in a gratin with lemon, and cook until their ski…

BIRTHDAY SUPPER WITH FRIENDS

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To celebrate my entry into "middle middle age", I cooked a Thai-inspired supper for good friends. My son cleverly sourced gyoza (Japanese dumplings "like we have at Wagamama, mum!") and spring rolls in the oriental supermarket in Kingston, and I bought prawn toasts from Waitrose. The only canape I made myself was Chinese pancakes filled with smoked salmon and cucumber and, as we found, a rather too generous helping of wasabi.

The main course was Thai green curry and green papaya salad, fragrant and lime-infused, simple yet delicious. But the culinary piece de resistance was undoubtedly pudding - Indian ice-cream or kulfi - served with homemade brandy snaps.

I remember making brandy snaps as a child with my mother. I loved the way the mixture spread and bubbled in the oven, taking on a lovely burnished chestnut colour as it cooked. We'd take the sheet of mixture out, let it cool for a few moments, before shaping the brandy snaps on a wooden spoon. They are very …