Sunday, December 6, 2009



9.30 am.
Two eyes closed.

Two hands reach for the window.

One curtain drawn.

9.31 am. One and a half eyes open.

First lie in for weeks and am jolly well going to milk it for all it's worth. Here I lie, conciously still so not to move position from the warm me-shaped mold in bed.

9.35 am. Roll out, and creep downstairs with bed hair and twisted pijamas, for a hot cup of Earl Grey. Kettle boils. Water in large mug, tea bag in, tea bag out, drop of milk, mug in hand.
Back up I go and crawl into the already cooled bed sheets.

9. 45 am. Flick to find last read page of After The Fire, A Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld. Page 99, Chapter 6.

10.15 am.

Lisa calls to check what time we are heading to Leeds Farmers Market. 9.00 - 14.00. Arrange to meet at midday. Page 114. Chapter 8. Time to think about emerging from the lair.

10.30 am. Wake flatmate up. Feeding time.

I'll be damned if I poached eggs and marmite aren't included in this morning's non-activity.


Sunday Times essential - if not only to look at the pictures.

12.00 am.
This little piggy goes to market...
Walk down into town to make the most of the reluctant splashes of blue sky between Northern grey cloud blanket. Sun out, steamy breath, cold nose.

12.30 am. Arrival at the Farmers Market after hurling self at Christmas shoppers.

Taste this, taste that,

taste this,

gobble that.

Lancashire Haggis?
Whitby Crab?
Yorkshire Rye?

1.00 pm. £2.50 LINCOLNSHIRE RED BEEF BURGER in fresh white bread.


90% locally reared BEEF
4% RUSK (breadcrumbs)

1.30pm.Carol Singing.

Waddle home.

Hot Chocolate and Film with Ski Socks and Woolly Hats.

No food for a month. Well...maybe until Supper...

Gotta love Christmas.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Souper Supper

Firstly, a massive thank you to those who racked their brains for Last Supper suggestions. You all really know how to make me ravenous!

I have picked out a delicious 3 course meal from your ideas (open to debate if any more come along) but I am not going to give anything away just yet. Only when I have all the ingredients together, will I let slip what will be sizzling away in my oven...

Due to Mattie's 'Season is all' comment, I have chosen a menu which satisfies the Winter taste buds - something wholesome and warming as the months begin to freeze up...But enough with that - I've said too much already!

This week's blog is dedicated to my own last supper starter, but instead of a taster for meals to follow, I intend it to be a Sunday-Night-Supper, or the perfect Autumn/Winter lunch.
The recipe is taken from the Real Island Food Company - a fantastically friendly duo, Jackie and Rachel, who deliver to-the-door fresh goodies from local producers on the Isle of Wight.*

This recipe is SO delicious and unbelievably good comfort food. We added scrumptious Oak Roasted Tomatoes from The Tomato Stall, which give it an added smoky flavour to complement the nutty sweetness of the butternut squash - along with a hunk of still warm toasted soda bread.

You must must must try it!

Roast Tomato and Butternut Soup

Creamy, full of flavour and very warming - this seasonal soup is perfect to serve at a Bonfire party, or team it up with a Graces Bakery French stick and you've got a great lunch!

1 kilo of ripe Isle of Wight tomatoes (Cherry toms have the best flavour)
1 medium Butternut squash from Ben Browns farm in the Arreton Valley
2 cloves Isle of Wight (The Garlic Farm ) garlic
fresh thyme leaves
300 ml Coppid Hall farm double cream
300 ml good quality vegetable stock (water will be fine too)
1 tsp Demerara sugar
freshly ground sea salt and pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.

Place the tomatoes on a roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil, season well with salt and pepper. Roughly chop the peeled garlic cloves and mix in with the tomatoes. Roast in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes until softened and starting to colour (20 – 30 minutes)

Peel the Butternut, and cut into chunks. Place on a roasting tray and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with thyme leaves. Roast in the oven until soft and easy to squash with a fork. (approx 30 mins)

When cooked, place the tomatoes and Butternut in a large saucepan. Add the water or stock and sugar and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 5 mins. Using a hand held blender, liquidise until smooth (until you can’t see or taste any tomato skin in the liquid). Add the cream, season to taste and warm through for serving.

Enjoy with a chunk of fresh bread and butter.

A real winner! INDULLLLGE.

* delivery on hampers and gifts is now available off the Isle, so check out to get your hands on some delicious real island food! I HIGHLY recommend...

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I'm sitting at the head of a table. Around me are 7 other chairs, (I'd prefer to provide for 8 than 13), and I'm holding the perfect dinner party for those whom I would most like to cook for.

On my left we have Nigel Slater - my all time food hero. And on the other side, constantly topping up my glass, the legendary Keith Floyd. I think two chefs are quite enough - too many cooks spoil the broth and all that. If criticism were needed, then Giles Coren may come, but he'd have a place at the other end of the table, so I could see his mouth moving but hear nothing come out.

See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil.

For the wit we'd have Bill Bailey. I think he'd eat what I put in front of him without fuss and we all need a good laugh.
Funnily enough, I was flicking through the November's Observer Food Monthly and who was writing about their last supper but none other than the drop dead gorgeous, ex-Blur guitarist, cheese-maker extraordinaire, Alex James. As I came across the words that read something like, 'I crave anything that costs less than three pounds', there was no doubt in my mind that A.J would almost certainly have to sit at the Rose Cottage table, and woo me with his curdles and whey.
So, there's the cheap date for the serenade. Why not! We'll have Seasick Steve, for some post-dinner jigging.

I seem to have omitted the female sex apart from myself and there must be eight at the table. So, Judi Dench, please. There. That's that. 8 WONDERFUL GUESTS TO JOIN ME FOR DINNER!

Now for:

I certainly have a few of my own ideas
...butternut squash and oak roasted tomato soup with soda bread...fresh ravioli stuffed with walnut and ricotta, drizzled in butter...ginger ice cream with bitter chocolate sauce...
But I need more inspiration...
I would like all those in favour to raise your spoons and answer me this:

'What would be your last supper?'

I will then endeavour to cook a starter and main, and perhaps pudding from my favourite suggestions and blog them. Please write your thoughts on the Rose Cottage Blog Facebook Group or down below so I can start choosing!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


One of life's most awkward moments: Your mouth is full, you are really trying to enjoy what's in there, but with every forced bite, the expression on your face is telling too much; there is no more time for petty white lies:

Here tells the story of my latest experiment.
My first attempt at a Lancashire hotpot didn't go quite the way I wanted it to.
To say the least...

Well, let's just say I feel sorry for the friend I fed it to! The problem certainly had nothing to do with the recipe. In fact, I was very lucky to get my hands on such an authentic one. It was more to do with the way it was cooked! As a proud cook always says, 'It wasn't me, it was the ingredients...'

The true cause of the disaster was, in fact, time. Another excuse but undeniably true. A hotpot should be slaved over, loving waited for, and welcomingly eaten.

An impatient chef is no friend to this dear dish.

I wouldn't dare go into details but I would like to apologise to Mrs. Bamford, for putting her recipe to shame. I will try again...and again...and again, until the meat falls apart at the smallest chew, the vegetables are juicy and the sauce is thick and scrumptious.

By putting this recipe up here, I ask those who will cook it to do it the justice it deserves.


Serves 6:
400g beef or lamb, stewing meat.
3 carrots,
3 large potatoes,
2 brown onions,
beef stock (1 or 2 cubes or 50ml fresh stock)
Shortcrust pastry.

Slowly cook the stewing meat at 160 degrees C for 2 hrs with stock and 3 tablespoons of water.
Roughly chop carrot, onion and potatoes and when the meat is done, repeatedly layer the vegetables and meat, finishing with the potatoes in deep, heavy based dish. Add more water if you think it is needed and season well. Cook for 1 hr at a medium heat with the lid on.
After an hour, check the moisture, and add a little more stock if needed. Another hour with the lid on.
Add the pastry and cook for a further 15 minutes. And Voila! You should have in front of you what should be deliciously warming Lancashire hotpot - unless your face has already given the game away...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


AT LAST. Internet, after many an hour talking to the-people-who-know-best, is connected! This is a pathetic excuse for my inactivity over the last few weeks (although it does help), but just because I haven't blogged it doesn't mean I haven't cooked it.

Getting back into the swing of moving into a new house, spending life in the library again and realising there is no food in the fridge is slowly but surely getting back to some state of normality. Summer has flown, gardens are nowhere in sight and the nearest I've been to cultivation is by way of a 'grow your own basil from an egg' plant on my windowsill...four shoots so far. Every little helps.

This season I will be bringing you flavours of the North, experimenting with hot-pots and parkins; I will be preparing for the winter with warming and sustainable foods to defrost blue noses and keep the stomach rumbling at bay; and finding ways to make food last longer...

Before any of this happens though, I would like to bring on the term with the perfect housewarming gift: my favourite cupcake, the RED VELVET, courtesy of The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. My home baking has never tasted so good!

RED VELVET cupcakes

Makes 12
60 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150 g caster sugar
1 egg
10 g cocoa powder
20 ml red food colouring (preferably Dr. Oetker Red Food Colouring)
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
120 ml buttermilk
150 g plain flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
11⁄2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 quantity Cream Cheese Frosting*
(300g icing sugar, sifted; 50g unsalted butter, soft; 125g cream cheese, cold. MIX)
a 12-hole cupcake tray, lined with paper cases

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.

Put the butter and the sugar in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy and well mixed. Turn the mixer up to high speed, slowly add the egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.
In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract to make a thick, dark paste. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined and coloured (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Beat until well mixed, then add half the flour, and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added. Scrape down the side of the bowl again. Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until you have a smooth, even mixture. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Beat until well mixed, then turn up the speed again and beat for a couple more minutes.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the Cream Cheese Frosting on top.

This recipe comes from the brilliant book, The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Malouf.

Or check out their website at to order cakes for delivery if making them yourself seems just too much...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Recovery time.

Bestival is over and I am catching up on much needed sleep in a big bed with duvet and mattress, a far cry from achy backs in the morning, no-pillow-neck-crunch and grass in the sleeping bag.

This time of year is perfect for body and mind rehabilitation. Shuffling about with half open eyes suits the autumn light; each day lived through the lens of a Polaroid camera with warm orange light and slightly blurred edges. It all brings back a comforting nostalgia of bonfire smoke, apple crumble in the oven, feet by the fire and walks in a warm wind. This year's forecast has hit the
nail on the head for encouraging that oh-so-sickly word 'cosy' to stream back into our vocabulary.

Today has been one of those 'cosy' days. A warming Mumsoup, with hot bread and cheese for lunch, followed by a walk in the fields at a leisurely pace, stealing berries from bushes and no doubt, this evening lighting the fire whilst tucking into one of Monty Don's garden recipes. It has reached the season when it is considered perfectly OK to stock up on fuel for the winter; baggy clothes and big jumpers hiding the extra insulation you have worked so hard to build up in preparation for Arctic winds and sideways snow. Well almost...

Perhaps I am making up too much for the glut of my next recipe. But it is only right to be indulgent when you discover two ginormous Puff Balls beneath your feet, eager to be plucked from the grass and appreciated for all that they are. The Giant Puff Ball, otherwise known as Langermannia gigantea, is a rare and underestimated beauty which, unknown to many, can be delicious fried up in a saucepan with garlic and cream and parsley. With it's strange shape, white flesh, stiff skin and spongy texture, it looks less like a member of the mushroom family and more like a ball of freshly formed mozzarella.

Bizarre fruits of the earth, but these ring all bells. Serve on its own, with a fry up or throw chopped puff ball into risotto for a delicate version of risotto ai funghi.

In this instance, I am going to show them at their most simple.

Fried Puff Ball with bacon, garlic and cream.
400g puff ball, freshly picked, roughly chopped (This may seem like a large amount but it shrinks massively)
25g butter
2 rashers of smoked bacon. roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
40ml double cream

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and fry until brown. Throw in the chopped puff ball and keep stirring it so that it turns a golden brown colour. Add more butter if necessary, but the puff ball will become moist the more it is fried. Add the garlic and stir in.
This tastes fantastic just as it is without the cream, and I would recommend to keep it like this if serving it with a fry up. If the cream appeals to you, then let the mixture cool slightly before pouring it in. The cream will turn slightly brown because of the butter, but this adds to the earthiness of the recipe, I think.

Mouthwateringly good! Savour this, it may be the only one you find.
Now it is back up North for me. Back to baked beans and regular mushrooms.
Perhaps the Yorkshire Dales will surprise me with a treat or two to jazz up old leftovers?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a juicy glossy clot
among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate the first one and the flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam pots,
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

This extract from 'Blackberry Picking' by the Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, for me sums up the last weeks in August with every single word. Whether laden with empty bowls waiting to be filled, heading out on a "can't-come-home-until-we-fill-to-the-top" mission, or stopping at every bush, slowing the power walking down, resulting in bored and frustrated dogs.

There are endless opportunities for this bountiful berry. Jam. Pie. Crumble. Fool. Compote. Sprinkled on Yogurt. Summer pudding. But there is one new discovery for me that tops it off and hits the spot: a recipe found in the August 2009 edition of Waitrose Food Illustrated, slightly altered and loved loved loved by my niece and nephew.

The original recipe by Mark Price uses ripe plums, at their best at this time of year. Thanks to our garden, we had these too - and used them for a tangy alternative to the sweet blackberries.

Blackberry and Yogurt muffins.

Makes 30 mini muffins or 15 large ones
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes

115g Unsalted butter
300g Self-raising flour
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp Salt
250g Caster sugar
250ml Natural Yogurt
2 Eggs
200g freshly picked Blackberries
(for plum recipe:
300g chopped plums
3/4 Ground ginger
2 stem ginger balls, finely chopped)

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. If you are making mini muffins, use the non stick plastic cases, laid out on a baking tray, which work brilliantly. If making large, line a baking tray with muffin cases, or for a beautiful rustic look, adopt Waitrose's idea of using squares of baking paper (tying them round the middle with string at the end - it looks fantastic).

In a saucepan, gently melt the butter; set aside to cool slightly.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, (ground ginger) and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, mix thoroughly and make a well in the centre.

Add the yogurt, eggs (and ginger) to the pan of butter and whisk together.

Pour half the mixture into the dry ingredients: combine quickly using a wooden spoon. before mixing in the rest, add 150g blackberries. Don't over mix - any lumps will keep the muffins light.
Spoon into the muffin cases and top with the remaining blackberries.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and risen. cool in the tins/ cases for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.



Extract from 'Blackberry Picking' by poet, Seamus Heaney. The whole poem can be found in Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996

Original 'Spiced plum and yogurt muffins' recipe by Mark Price, taken from Waitrose Food Illustrated, Page 74. August issue 2009

There are now 88 species of bramble growing on the Isle of Wight.

Thank goodness for that!

Friday, August 14, 2009


Just a quick one...

A very good cuppa was kindly handed to me today - thank you - and I was asked how I took my tea. I replied, 'Oh, just a dash of milk, please'. It was only when I was, in return, asked a simple question that tea drinking became more of a thinker than it ever had been before...

When does a
dash become a splash??

For me, this comes into that agonising category of 'Is the glass half full, or half empty?'. I usually reply, idiotically, 'well, it all depends if the contents of the glass are above or below the half way line'. This is no way to respond...
But what about this one?
In my humble opinion, I'd say a dash was less than a splash. A dash shouldn't splash, otherwise it's too much and it becomes...a splash?
To satisfy my insanity, I typed in 'dash of milk' into Google images and this is one of the pictures it gave me. Either they are confused or I am about to go mad.

Perhaps, I need to stop drinking as much tea, start thinking less about dashes and splashes, and get on with real life...
More intelligent suggestions start here please:

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I am going to say FAREWELL, TOOTLES, TA RA, GOODBYE, as I am heading west from the Wight Isle to the Emerald Isle for a week for a fun filled holiday of diabolical surfing, puddle jumping and rolling down sand dunes. YIPPEEEE.

Until I return, enjoy the end of July, gobble up the remaining strawberries and bring in August with a sun dance, sipping on some deliciously sweet and sour lemon presse' - a must-drink for getting in the summer mood, even if it's raining!

2 lemons, sliced thinly,
150g caster sugar,
dash of elderflower cordial,
1 litre sparkling water,

handful of mint leaves to serve

Pop the first 3 ingredients into a blender, until the lemons have pureed. Add the sparkling water with the lemon/sugar mix into a large glass jug. Stir and add mint leaves.

If far too sour or too sweet, add more sugar or lemon juice.

Et voila! The sun is shining again...isn't it??

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


There are many many things about the summer months that I look forward to. BBQs, all day beaching, french cricket, greedy picnics, late orange sunsets and early morning sunrise.

Bizarrely, the best things about summer all seem to begin with the letter F:

Festivals (yes, I have just splashed out on my 5th Bestival ticket...ouch),
Fetes ( Brook Green on the Isle of Wight holds a delightful get-together with steam train rides, willow hut weaving, fresh strawbs and Irish jigs),
Feet (BARE is best),
and rather essentially: FOOD.

Just last week, I was lucky enough to indulge in my first cream tea of the summer. When I say indulge, I mean it...

Two large scones, a pot of tea, a larger than life dollop of
clotted cream,
fresh strawberries and delicious jam.

Sounds rather like something out of Mary Poppins...

It was all so twee being presented with pretty cakes and colourful pottery, that the celestial sounds of birdsong and the tinkle tinkle feet of Morris dancers drowned out the vicious grumbles blasting out from the over-stuffed stomach below. Only until the second to last sip of tea did I realise that getting off my seat might become a bit of an issue.

On the roll home, luckily all downhill, I thought to myself, perhaps I shouldn't have given in to such a large scone? With one round cream and jam filled loveliness sat in front of you, it is so easy to gobble it in one go, rather than taking your time over lots of little bites...

I know it is awful to say but maybe they would be easier to digest if just a fraction smaller?

SACRILEGE, I hear you cry?

Well, I certainly found it difficult to finish scone number one, let alone start on numero dos. But, truthfully, who wants just one scone? We would feel so much lighter if we were to eat the same amount but in smaller portions, non? And with the same amount of dough you can get more for your money. Bite-sized deliciousness, and endless fun spreading layer after layer of cream then jam then strawberry. Into the mouth they go, with no effort at all!
Here goes...

ALL PURPOSE SMALL SCONES ( the normal recipe for large but with 3cm scone cutter)

200g/8oz self raising flour
1/2 level teaspoon salt
50g/2oz butter
125ml/1/4 pint milk
Extra milk for brushing.

1. Sift flour and salt into bowl
2. Rub in butter finely
3. Add milk all at once. Mix to soft , but not sticky, dough with knife
4.Turn onto lightly flowered bowl. Knead quickly until smooth
5. Roll out to about 1cm/1/2 in thick.
6. Cut into around 20 rounds with 2cm biscuit cutter (serrated edge)
7. Transfer to butter baking tray and brush the tops with milk
8. Bake towards top of hot oven (230 degrees C/ 450 degrees F/ Gas mark 8) for 7 mins (or until well risen and golden brown)
9. Cool on wire rack.
10. Gobble. Share if you must.

Serve with delicious strawberry jam - for homemade recipes try Jo Pratt's version - but for laziness you can't beat Bonne Maman, bursting with fruit and with such beautiful packaging (Watch this space for blog on jam recipes soon!). Clotted cream is best but you can whip up some double cream which is just as satisfying, and more fluffy if that's your kind of cream tea. Fresh strawberries are at their best at the moment, and a scone without these is no scone at all.

A pot of tea and dainty little tea cups (egg cups if you want to carry on down the miniature route) and a cliche red gingham table cloth will do the trick.

Afterwards, why not take a dip in the river to cool off from the summer heatwave? Spiffing!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Unable to go to Weymouth Seafood festival last weekend, I have been on a mission for fish. Instead of standing in the rain under cover of fish markets and devouring the fresh flavours of the Dorset coast, I have been rummaging in the freezer at home - just as wet and cold, but without the wellies.

A recipe I managed to whip up by scavenging from larders, fridges and freezers - all ingredients dangerously near the sell-by-date (nothing like building up the immune system)- SEARED SCALLOPS, ROASTED BABY PLUM TOMATOES AND SMOKED HAM, WITH GARLIC AND CHILLI MASH. Quite a catch for a Sunday night supper for one...

Serves 2 (more polite and less greedy this way)
Cooking time: 24 mins

8 frozen scallops, de-frosted.
10 baby plum tomatoes, halved
3 leftover slices of smoked ham, cut into strips.
3 large potatoes.
Spoonful of English Provendor Co. Very Lazy Red Chillies
1 large garlic clove finely chopped.
Large pinch of Oregano.
2 glugs of Olive Oil.

First, defrost the scallops if frozen.
Put the tomatoes and ham into a baking tray. Drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with Oregano. Place in the oven at 190 degrees C for about 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and juicy and the ham is crisp.
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes, until soft.
When the potatoes are done, the tomatoes should be too. Leave them to rest a bit in their baking tray.
Place the rest of the olive oil in a frying pan, and carefully drop in the scallops, giving them two minutes on each side, so they have a golden glaze. While you are watching the scallops -no need to touch them while they are cooking, unless to turn them - mash the potatoes until smooth, and add the garlic and chilli.

Serve the scallops on top of the tomatoes and ham - their juices should be the perfect marinade/sauce for the scallops and potatoes.

Need I say more?

Yes. YUM

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


A relaxing holiday abroad. It seems just the thing for de-stress after the torment of leaving another country. I needed to hold on to the dream-world a little longer so rehab was at hand, our holiday destination in the Costa Blanca region of Spain offering me heat, sun, and most importantly foreign food.

I never thought I would miss Italian cuisine so much - that fresh pasta, pizzas which hang off the plate and overflowing markets of fresh fruit and vegetables. After nine months of nothing else, why was I so longing for it again?

The weaning off process from a oh-so-delicious high carb diet proved difficult... In this part of town, the restaurants seemed to offer me exactly what I had just left behind.

Spain? The land of Paella, fresh fish, patatas bravas and tapas?

Instead, the fresh calamares fritas seemed overwhelmed by Italian menus. Even here there was nowhere to escape! Suddenly my daydreaming of tortellini left me gagging for Spanishness.

With luck, our villa was perfect for cooking at home, so instead of spending holiday cash on wannabe Italian dishes, we stocked up with the fresh stuff and feasted on salads, olives, couscous with chorizo, and stuffed green Piquillo peppers. Despite looking rather unimpressed in the photo below, the peppers were more than edible!

After a week of home cooked meals, albeit scrumptious and highly satisfying, my holiday companions and I were champing at the bit for a taste of Javean authenticity.

I am a firm believer of local and traditional food is best, as I'm sure most are. I prefer a restaurant with a small menu - mainly to speed up the decision process - with dishes plucked from the family tree and embedded in the livelihood of the town. So to find a good-looking restaurant, out of the way of the heaving beach promenade, was just what el dottor had ordered.

Our last night in Javea, dressed to the nines and in panic to find some fresh fish, took us away from the pizzas and into true Spanish territory. A restaurant under the name of Amare ( Italian name, no?), looking out onto the harbour with, luck had it, a table laid for 14 and a charming waiter.

Surely too good to be true?

The menus were handed to us, and the gaze of 14 clucky chicks immediately flicked towards paella and the three course set menu. An array of calamares, sea bass with balsamic vinegar, coconut ice eyes now far bigger than my stomach.

One thing that really caught my eye, was the melon sorbet. Not served as pudding – that was something else, far more indulgent – but as an unexpected inbetweener, a miniature course slipped in after the starter and before the main.

It arrived, very gracefully, as a palette cleanser. And a genius one at that. A strange concept to tuck into dessert when you have hardly begun your main meal, but it really worked. I could no longer taste the fried batter of the succulent calamari, but a sweetness that made me excited about gobbling up my next course.

Is it greedy to drop in an extra mouthful amongst a mountain of food? No, I don't think so. By the time the sorbet is demolished, one miraculously feels un-full again, and could go on eating and eating.

Finally, I felt I could happily release myself from cucina italiana, and begin to be normal again - remembering the important fact that there is more out there other than spaghetti bolognese...

Sadly I was unable to swindle the recipe from the restaurant in Spain, but have instead stolen, tried, tested, and translated the measurements of the melon sorbet recipe from another great blog 'GLUTEN FREE IN SOUTH AFRICA', and although not Spanish, it tasted pretty similar and mouthwateringly tasty.


The success of this sorbet all depends on the melon; under ripe fruit only produces an underwhelming result.

1 large, ripe melon- enough to make 4 cups (US measures) /940 ml / 2 pints puree

1/2 cup /125ml water

1/2-3/4 cup / 125-180g Castor sugar, depending on sweetness of melon

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons witblits (heated dry white wine at 80 degrees C) or other alcohol

Ice cream machine needed for churning

Puree the melon with the water, sugar [start with 125g of sugar], salt and taste. Adjust with more sugar if necessary.
Stir in the alcohol and churn 15-25 minutes, or according to the instructions on your machine.

And perhaps to eat before or after the sorbet...


Makes 20

20 small green Piquillo peppers - topped and de-seeded

(1 tbsp olive oil if frying)

200g soft cheese

1 garlic clove, very finely chopped

juice of half a lemon

20g fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Tabasco (4 drops but add more for more spice)

salt and pepper

These little bite-size peppers are full of flavour and perfect for handing round as an aperitif. They are also extremely quick and easy to make, and seemed to go down as a success.

Before anything, top and de-seed the peppers, making sure you leave the bottom half intact for filling later. Heat up the oil in the pan on a medium/high heat until soft and the skin is starting to brown, or alternatively place them under the grill for 20 minutes.

The peppers need to cool, so meanwhile, mix up the other ingredients for the filling until all the flavours have merged together. With a small teaspoon, fill the peppers carefully with the soft cheese mix. Then they are ready to serve warm, or put in the fridge for later on. They won't last long...

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Horrah! Mumsoup has exceeded all expectations. Even Gordon Ramsay thinks it's OK.

Having got the results back from the Times Online Recipe Exchange competition my family soup has got a place in the 21 most highly commended entries. To say the least, I am proud of this chunky blend of vegetables and lentils. Thank you to my mum, her mum and her mum for passing down such goodness.

There is no stopping this soup. It is just so eager to be eaten.

To see Mumsoup in all its glory, as it deserves,

and the rest of the 21 most highly commended recipes from the Recipe Exchange go to

I like the sound of Giles V's Rhubarb and fig jam. I think I would eat the whole lot too...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Don't know about you, but I say at the top of my voice: 'Thank God Asparagus Season Is Back!'

Alas it's only here for the best of two months, so from late April to mid June, our days are to be spent experimenting with this goodly green! There is nothing simpler or more delicious to eat than a plate of four or five or, go on, six, fresh, al dente steamed asparagus spears drizzled in butter...or with anything for that matter. Despite minor side-effects, of which I will leave out, I could easily eat them with every meal. Although served hot they are unbelievably juicy and refreshing and they are the perfect starter for the oncoming summer. I love asparagus on their own, in salad, with meat, ohhh and with poached eggs!

Having just read Nick Wyke's article on How to Cook Asparagus, my taste buds are excited. There are so many ways to cook and serve this heavenly vegetable. As I mentioned before, I love asparagus with eggs. One old favourite recipe which features both these ingredients is Gloria's Pasta. Gloria was one of my mother's hens and she, among a few others used to lay the most delicious eggs with bright orange yolks and an incredible flavour. I would never usually put a poached egg on to pasta but this really works. Each ingredient has its own unique flavour, yet put together the taste is fantastic.

delicious magazine's Pasta with asparagus, mint pesto and poached egg (GLORIA'S PASTA). SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS: 250g pasta, 250g asparagus spears, 4 slices pancetta, good bunch of mint leaves, 100ml good quality olive oil, 50g grated Parmesan, 2 eggs.

1. Cook 250g pasta of your choice (I prefer fresh tagliatelle) in plenty of boiling water until al dente, or according to packet instructions.

2. Add 250g asparagus spears, with the ends broken off, to the boiling pasta water for the last 2-3 minutes of the cooking time.

3. Meanwhile, grill 4 slices pancetta until crisp.

4. Put a good bunch of mint leaves into a food processor with 100ml good-quality olive oil, then blend to a puree. Stir in 50g grated Parmesan, lots of black pepper and set aside.

5. Poach 2 eggs in barely simmering water for 3-4 minutes.

6.Meanwhile, drain the pasta and asparagus, then mix in the mint pesto. Divide between 2 plates. Crumble over the pancetta, sprinkle with extra Parmesan and mint, then lift out the poached eggs with a slotted spoon and place on top.

I think it tastes better named after Gloria: unfussy, hearty, and fresh from the garden...

A less indulgent yet perhaps more satisfying way of making the most of the asparagus season is to lightly dress the asparagus with extra vergin olive oil, a thick and sweet reduced balsamic vinegar, a liberal pinch of salt and pepper and thin shavings of Parmagiano Reggiano. Best eaten soon after cooking, picked on the day for that wholesome grassy taste, or even cooled and taken to the park for a great picnic treat!

Food for thought...Perhaps try raw asparagus with wasabi??


Check out Nick Wyke's How to Cook Asparagus feature with video:

Sunday, May 24, 2009


The title of this blog may sound a little daunting and deep. I am not trying to get you to sit in the lotus position and breathe profoundly with your legs behind your head. Nor am I handing out advice on how to become a more tranquil, and better person. I am, however, going to shout about the wonders of Sushi.

A few months ago I met a Japanese lady, Yoko (not Ono), and after a few minutes of discussing the greatness of Sushi she said she would teach me how to do it. I was extremely keen on taking her up on this as after almost nine months of cooking and eating Italian pasta, I was looking for new ideas...
The next time we saw each other she handed me a neat, hand written, step by step instruction for making Sushi. Along with this, a pair of beautifully painted chopsticks, a packet of Nori seaweed sheets, and a Sushi roller.

This afternoon, my untouched, authentic Japanese Sushi instructions were laid on the table. There couldn't have been a better day for it. Sheltering in my apartment from heavy city heat, I could think of nothing cooler than putting together a light and refreshing lunch.

I had almost all the ingredients for making Sushi, minus two vital condiments. The one shop in Bologna I know which sells everything you could possibly want for oriental dishes is conveniently five minutes from my flat and it would have been a sin to kick off my first attempt without lime green Wasabi and bright pink pickled ginger.

So, all ingredients in hand, the process began, with the eager help of Georgia, another BIG Sushi fan, who had made a homemade lemon iced tea to compliment our lunch.
We boiled the rice (Arborio in this case) until sticky, and let it cool in the fridge before layering it into the centre of the seaweed sheet. Sashimi of salmon, tuna, cucumber, and fried omelette were cut into thin strips and laid in along the centre of the rice, altering the flavour combinations here and there.

The act of carefully adding layers felt therapeutic and hugely artistic. I think the best thing about Sushi, apart from the taste, is also the way it looks. The contrast of the black seaweed against the white rice, with the brightly coloured fish and cucumber, made our amateur spontaneity look like a work of art.

The rolling part proved the most difficult, as it is key to get the seaweed tight enough around the rice so the filling is held firmly inside. Once it is all rolled up, it is ready to be sliced into smaller pieces - ours were a bit too big, making conversation a little sporadic - then lightly dipped into the soy sauce and Wasabi for a mouthful of heaven.

After devouring about 6 large pieces of Sushi each, the stomach was highly satisfied. A full feeling, but not too full...and cleansed down with the iced tea it was a relief on such a hot day.

INGREDIENTS: (for 12 pieces of sushi)

2 Nori seaweed sheets

Rice: 2 cups Japanese rice (Arborio will do), 4 cups water. 20g sugar, 5g salt, 25 cc white vinegar (Rice vinegar is best) - mix seasonings well beforehand.
Filling: sashimi of salmon, cucumber, tuna, fried omelette - the choice is yours.

Condiments: Wasabi, dark soy sauce, pickled ginger


1. Before cooking, wash the rice with cold water until the water becomes clear.

2. Cook the rice with the water.

If you don't have a rice cooker:

  • Put the rice and water in a pot and put on a lid. Cook it on a low heat.

  • When the water starts to boil lightly, raise the heat to medium - shift the lid a little to let steam out.

  • When the water starts to spout, turn off the heat.

3. While the rice is hot, put it in a wet bowl, and pour on the sugar, salt and vinegar. Mix with a wooden spoon.


1. Lay out the sushi roller with the bamboo bark facing down. Make sure the lines of bamboo are horizontal.
2. Cut the seaweed to size and put horizontally into the middle of the roller. It is best to leave a space on the lower and upper sides of the roller.

3. Layer the rice thinly and evenly onto the middle of the seaweed. Do not cover the layer completely! Leave a space on upper and lower sides.

4. Put some slices of the raw fish and vegetables - anything you like - length ways onto the middle of the rice.

5. Pick up the lower edge on the roller with both hands, and wrap the ingredients quickly. Do not roll the edge of the roller you picked up.

6. Roll it up to the end of the seaweed, tightening it up and letting the roller go to the other side. You should end up with a tightly rolled cylinder of Sushi. Slice up into manageable pieces and serve as a great starter.

This recipe is so easy and delicious. It is such a sociable dish - get friends round to help make it and why not experiment with ingredients and come up with your own version of sushi!

If you want a hot dish to go with your Sushi, try a warming coconut broth, made simply with coriander, kaffir lime leaves, stock, coconut milk and rice noodles, and any meat or vegetables you feel like adding!

Cleansing of the stomach and soul accomplished!