Friday, 28 November 2014


BBC Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen is currently in Syria, reporting on the horrors of the civil war there. In addition to reporting for the BBC, he also tweets pictures of food.
I’ve sent plenty from Damascus. That’s partly because I think food tells you a lot about a society. But also because it is important to show how people live as well as how they die.
He has encountered disapproval from internet trolls and others for this, but he believes it is important to demonstrate that despite the all suffering, shelling, and devastation, everyday life still goes on, in spite of and because of, war. The markets remain open and people still shop for and prepare food: having a meal is a crucial social activity which binds people together. When in straitened circumstances, these societal rituals become even more important.

My husband heard Jeremy Bowen talking on the radio about his food tweets and was inspired to look up the recipe for a dish which Jeremy Bowen described: Maklouba or Maqluba - a Palestinian dish, also popular in Syria and Lebanon. The name means “upside down” in Arabic, and true to its name, the dish is inverted once cooked, and then left to rest a few moments to take shape of the cooking vessel. Once turned out, it has a crispy brown topping, garnished with almonds, cashews and pinenuts. It's a delicious "big" dish, fragrant with spices, and is very easy to make. It can be made with chicken, beef or lamb, and you could even omit the meat to make a tasty vegetarian version.

Chicken Maqluba (picture from

The best recipe I have found is this one, from Legalnomads blog

1 onion
2 medium-sized aubergines
1 cauliflower, cut into small florets
3 medium tomatoes, thickly sliced 2 large onions, thickly sliced 3 medium potatoes, sliced - See more at:
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
3 medium waxy potatoes (Charlotte), sliced
3 medium tomatoes, thickly sliced 2 large onions, thickly sliced 3 medium potatoes, sliced - See more at:
1kg of meat (chicken, lamb or beef works) diced or cut into pieces. For chicken, use joints such as thigh or leg, and breast pieces (skinned)
450g (2 cups) of Basmati rice
4 cloves of garlic
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp Baharat (“7 spices”). this can be obtained at most Middle Eastern grocers, but if not, make your own. The 7 spice blend is a mix of ground spices: black pepper, paprika, cumin, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom.
2 bay leaves
1 litre chicken stock
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
Sliced almonds and pine nuts.

  • Cut the aubergine into thick cubes, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven into just brown. (You could fry the aubergine, but I find it soaks up too much oil)
  • Place the cauliflower florets on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast until just browned.
  • Soak the rice in warm water with two pinches of salt and 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder and leave for 30 minutes.
  • Toast the almond pieces and pine nuts. Set aside for later.
  • Place the meat in a large pot/casserole dish and cover with the chicken stock. Add an onion chopped into quarters, the bay leaves, and Baharat spice mix, and cook until the meat is done, approximately 30 minutes.
  • Remove the meat and season with salt, saving the broth for later in a bowl.
Now build the dish.....
  • In the same pot (the one you used to cook the chicken), layer the cauliflower florets and aubergine in a desired pattern (remember this will be the top of the dish when you turn it out), then add the chicken pieces as another layer.
  • Spread the garlic cloves over the meat, and then arrange the rice over it all.
  • Add some salt and additional turmeric powder and cumin powder to the chicken stock, then pour it on top of the stack you have just built. Make sure the sauce just covers the rice (2cm over the rice is ideal).
  • Cook the saucepan on high heat for 7 minutes, and then cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes.
  • When the water has fully evaporated (and the rice is fully cooked) take the pot off the heat and leave to cool.
  • Flip the pot onto a serving plate and slowly and carefully remove the pot
  • Garnish with fresh parsley and the toasted nuts.
Optional extras: chopped preserved lemons and a yoghurt, garlic, lemon and mint dip to have on the side, harissa.

Read an article by Jeremy Bowen in the News Statesman
Follow Jeremy Bowen on Twitter @BowenBBC

(DemonCook tweets as @CrossEyedPiano)

Friday, 24 October 2014


All the flavours of classic lemon meringue pie in the easiest ice-cream, this is based on Nigella's Ridiculously Easy Coffee Ice-cream. Because of the high cream content, you don't need to churn this in an ice-cream maker, and its creamy texture is redolent of Italian gelato.

Makes 800 ml (serves c6)

  • 300 ml double cream
  • 175 g condensed milk (about 2/3 of a standard can)
  • 1 jar of good-quality lemon curd
  • about 4 large ready-made meringues smashed into walnut-sized chunks (use the brick-like bright white meringues you can buy in M&S or Waitrose - homemade tend to disintegrate in the mixture).
  • A drop of Limoncello liqueur, if you're feeling extravagant 

A plastic box to freeze the mixture in

Whisk the cream together until the mixture forms soft peaks. Fold in the lemon curd and meringue pieces. Put into a plastic box or bowl and freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight. Serve straight from the freezer.

Friday, 9 May 2014


Special birthdays need special celebrations: those rites of passage of 18 and 21 should definitely be celebrated in style. And when one enters one's thirties, another rite of passage - for often by the time one may be married, settled, with a new baby, or one on the way - some kind of celebration is in order. And then there's the forties - a time when one perhaps feels well settled, in life, career and family and a party might be just the thing to stave off the dreaded "middle aged, middle class" ("we were wild in the old days" - Joni Mitchell)

Fifty is significant, no getting around that. It's a Big One, the half-century, the golden one. To party or not to party, that is the question? My Significant Other celebrates his half-century this month and was adamant there would be "no party". But not to celebrate seemed churlish, and so a low-key Sunday lunch with friends and family, which will extend into the pub with more friends and family in the evening, seemed in order.

Banana Tarte Tatin

Eight is about the most I can cater for comfortably without getting stressed - and we can't accommodate more than eight people around our dining table either. The gathering will be convivial and relaxed, and the food I am cooking reflects that. I'm also making two of my husband's favourite dishes - Banana Tarte Tatin and Lemon Polenta Cake.

Here is the menu for Sunday lunch:

Tapas & antipasti (chorizo, Serrano ham, Pissaladiere, Dukka & olive oil, homemade focaccia)

Chicken 'Marbella' with spinach, feta and pine nut salad, and new potatoes

Cheese & biscuits (Picos blue, applewood smoked Cheddar, goat's cheese)

Banana Tarte Tatin, Amaretti Ice Cream, Lemon Polenta Cake

And here are links to the recipes:


Chicken Marbella 

Spinach, feta & pine nut salad

Banana Tarte Tatin

Amaretti ice cream

Lemon Polenta Cake

Saturday, 26 April 2014


I've been neglecting this blog over recent months, for which I apologise. My 'other' life, as a piano teacher, pianist, music reviewer and co-host of the London Piano Meetup Group and the South London Concert Series keeps me pretty busy, and I haven't had as much time as I would like to explore new recipes. I've also been doing less entertaining than I used to.

But tonight I'm putting that right by having a supper party for friends, in part to show off the new(ish) extension to the house and "Bechy", my beautiful 1913 Bechstein model A grand piano. (Bechy got a special polish ahead of the event.) I selected a menu which could be made well in advance to give me time to socialise: two of the couples who are coming tonight I haven't seen socially for a year, not since we were in the throes of building work and our sitting room resembled a dusty camp site.

I don't often prepare a sit-down starter: I find it's nicer to have a glass of fizz and enjoy simple tapas like Serrano ham, salami, olives and Manchego cheese with membrillo paste. The main course is a rather retro dish which I discovered via Yotam Ottolenghi: it's not one of his recipes, but if he liked it, I knew it would be good. Chicken Marbella or roast chicken with dates, olives and capers comes from The Silver Palate cookbook, the recipe book of the New York deli The Silver Palate, which was founded 35 years ago on Manhattan's Upper East Side by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, two women who, like me, had a passion for good simple food. It was the first deli to offer quality take away food. In the 1980s a recipe book was published, containing many of the most popular dishes from the deli. The book has become a classic, and The Silver Palate brand has gone on to be highly successful.

The dish is clearly eastern Mediterranean in inspiration. Back in the day, I suspect it was probably considered quite daring and unusual with it combination of meat with dates, olives and capers. It's worth taking the time to marinade the chicken for as long as possible, to allow the flavours to develop and deepen. Then, when you're ready to cook, all you need do is turn the chicken pieces and the marinade into a roasting dish. I'll be serving this with a feta and spinach salad (from Moro: the Coookbook) and boiled new potatoes with butter and garlic shoots.

Pudding is blood orange posset, a dessert I'd forgotten about until I had lemon posset at Brunswick House, the rather wonderful Georgian mansion owned by the London Architectural Salvage Supply Co, at which the South London Concert Series recently hosted a concert. Brunswick House is an amazing treasure trove of antiques and salvaged curiosities, slap bang in the middle of a brand new luxury housing development close to London's Vauxhall Station. 

Beautiful blood oranges

Posset is not a retro dish, but rather a "historic" dish. In Medieval times, a posset was a warming drink, rather like a bedtime cup of cocoa. Lady Macbeth poisoned Duncan's guards with a "drugg'd posset". Originally, a posset was made from cream curdled with lemon juice or alcohol. By the sixteenth century, egg yolks, ground almonds or crushed biscuits were used to thicken the cream mixture. Posset got rather overlooked when more fancy puddings like Syllabub and Egg Nogg appeared on the culinary scene. But Posset is back - and it doesn't have to be made with lemons. Blood oranges make for a delicately pinky-orange tinged dessert. The chemical process of combining cream with lemon juice and sugar and then boiling the mixtures gently for a short period of time is what gives posset is creamy, silky texture. When made well it should be set, but not solid. It should certainly not be slurpy. Serve it in pretty glasses with a homemade shortbread or amaretti biscuits, or langues de chat for extra elan.

The recipes:

And more.....



Demon Cook (AKA Frances Wilson) will be performing piano music by Takemitsu and Rachmaninoff at the 1901 Arts Club on Friday 16th May, as part of the South London Concert Series. Full details and tickets here