Tuesday, July 27, 2010


It's Turkish Delight, it's strawberry sherbet and it's diving into a pool of Daiquiri...

That's what happens after you eat James Ramsden's Pork Madras Curry, turn beetroot into muffins, and crane your unswan-like neck through your window to hum at the sunset. All powerful, all highly recommended, all rather narcotic. Time for bed.


A bizarre combo, an experiment, I know, but beautiful little cheese-boards, surprisingly scone-like and damn fine with a chutney and red wine.

Makes 6

75g softened butter
150g self raising flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 egg, whisked
1/2 orange, zested and squeezed
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 medium raw beetroot, grated
1/2 carrot, grated
75 ml milk

Preheat the oven to 165 degrees C. Wipe a little butter around the muffin moulds if not non-stick.

Rub the butter, flour and baking powder between the fingers until you reach a crumbly /pre-pastry like consistency. Beat the egg, orange juice and zest into the mixture, and stir with a blunt knife. Then fold in the sugar, beetroot, and carrot. Finally pour in the milk and quickly mix until all combined. The muffin dough should not be too wet, nor too dry.

Equally divide the mix into the moulds. You want them to fill just over half way.

Place them in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Check with a thin skewer to see if cooked. If it is sticky, the muffins need a little more love, if dry, they are ready to gobble.

Leave to cool slightly and serve with a good cheddar, and some in-season fig chutney.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


The West of Ireland. What a place.

It feeds us, it waters us, it drenches us. And any ray of sunshine is welcomed with open, if not wary and suspicious, arms. Pouring with rain and it's 'a good day in Ireland!' Wellies just aren't done - you get stuck in with the wet and that's that.

There's one thing that is as solid as a rock though; never changing, always reliable. In five minutes of sparing sunshine or wet feet up by the fire, Guinness is the guy who'll warm your toes. An Irish Barry White, if you will, drowning out the sound of force 8 Atlantic winds and sideways rain, with his smooth, melodic gulps.

So what happens when Guinness steps out of the glass and into the saucepan? Surely it's just not done. Never changing, I said. Always reliable.

I meant what I said. Even as the can of Guinness is poured out of its comfort zone into a pan of warm custarding cream, the flavour stays put. Mix it with honeycomb and chocolate, and freeze it into ice cream, and you'll be shouting 'Aim for a FROZEN Guinness!'


6 egg yolks
125g Light Muscovado Sugar
300ml single cream
225 ml Guinness (we added more - and sipped the rest)
2 x 40g Crunchie Bars, broken

Whisk the eggs yolks lightly and melt with the sugar in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water - you want only the steam to melt the ingredients. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat.

In a separate non-stick pan, heat the cream and Guinness to just below boiling point. Pour the cream over the egg yolk and sugar mixture, beating well with a balloon whisk. Drink the rest of the Guinness to whet your appetite. Chef's rights.

Return the mixture to the non-stick pan and cook over the lowest possible heat, stirring constantly, until the custard starts to thicken and coats the back of the spoon. This will take about 10 to 20 minutes.

Pour the mixture back into the heatproof bowl and leave to cool completely. It's delicious on its own as a custard, so make sure you don't accidentally 'test' it too much. Stir in 1 1/2 of the crumbled Crunchie bars - You want to leave half a bar to chop over the ice cream on serving. Some of the chocolate may melt slightly and ripple through the ice cream - this is no bad thing.

Turn the ice cream into a shallow plastic container and freeze for 2 hours, then remove it from the freezer and stir well. Return to the freezer until completely frozen.

When ready to serve, remove the ice cream from the freezer and leave at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to soften before serving. All agreed that it tastes better soft and melting. Sprinkle over the remaining chunkily chopped Crunchie bar.

There you have it: Pub versus pud. And bloody good too, so it is.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Dessert is usually the piece de resistance when it comes to fine dining. When it's good, the whole meal becomes memorable.

Time, effort, patience and skill are written all over a truly good pud. But perfection doesn’t always need to be so demanding. These white peaches are already beautiful – served just as they are they are fantastic – but when simply poached in syrup, and peeled, they naturally produce a glossy sheen which instantly makes them irresistible.

They produce the most delicious flavour –an equal balance of natural fruit juices and sugary sweetness, and out of this world when paired with ginger ice cream, or posset.

Must stop drooling.

This recipe is inspired by Skye Gyngell's Nectarine and posset recipe featured in the Stella magazine last week. I loved these uniquely shaped peaches and they work really well with her nectarine instructions. They are less plump but the fruit is still soft and juicy.



400g (7oz) caster sugar

950ml (17fl oz) water

8 ripe white peaches

Start by making the syrup. Put the sugar and water in a pan large enough to hold the peaches. Place over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. When it is dissolved, plunge the nectarines into the syrup and cook for one minute, no longer, as they need to be as pure in flavour as possible. Remove with a slotted spoon, carefully peel off the skin, then leave to cool. Place in the fridge to chill.

Keep the sugar syrup - it may need a little longer to thicken; it should have turned a soft pink colour from the peach skins. And serve the peaches whole - they look fab!

Monday, July 5, 2010


WOW. Thanks Tim. Anyone else?

(Published in Times newspaper 05/07/2010. Back letter regarding troublesome times with Weetabix from 2009)


Wonderful in a wild flower bouquet, superb in an bath oil, sleep-lulling in a pouch under your pillow, and pretty good in a cream frosting. Lavender is one of Britain's all time favourite smells; instantly recognisable, a comfort, a breath of fresh air...

...but all this seems a little precious for such a versatile flower. A little 'Hyacinth Bucket' (booookaaaay) if you ask me. Which is why I wanted to find some way of giving it a new lease of life - a daring step out of the airing cupboard and into the drinks cabinet.

Mum was given a copy of Sharon Shipley's The Lavender Cookbook a few years ago. In it, 182 pages of lavender fueled feasts. It seems our purple headed friend can be a seasoning to almost anything we cook... So much so that the thought of working through it, recipe by recipe, leaves a undesirable soapy taste in the mouth.

So, to narrow it down, I went straight to the 'Beverages' section, for something to serve to friends on a midsummer eve.

And there, amongst Lavender Chicken Breasts and Lavender marinated Goats Cheese, was the jackpot. Lavender Margaritas. ARIBA!

(adaptation of Sharon Shipley's recipe, p. 74 The Lavender Cookbook)

Serves 10-12 generous helpings.

I made the sweet and sour mix and the salt rub the day before the drinks were to be served, so when it came to serving all you had to do was salt the glasses and pour in the tequila and cointreau! The sweet and sour mix needs to be a perfect mix of sticky syrup and sour citrus. I prefer a little more of the sour for an extra kick!

Lavender Sweet and Sour Mix
600g caster sugar
500ml water
1 tbsp dried culinary lavender buds
400g freshly squeezed lime and lemon juice

In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, water and lavender. Bring to a boil over a high heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain into a pitcher or large jar. Add the lime juice and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until cold or until use the next day.

Lavender Salt Dry Rub
1 tbsp culinary lavender buds
100-150g (salty to extra salty) coarse sea salt.

For the glass rim - an essential ingredient for that oh-so-gorgeous face squirm as salt hits the tongue. It equalises the sweetness of the cocktail. And this is where the Lavender really makes its mark.In a pestle and mortar, pulse the lavender until finely ground. Transfer to a small bowl and toss with the salt.

The Final Touch
40cl Tequila (any type will do)
200ml Cointreau

Combine the sweet and sour mix with the tequila and cointreau. Add lots of ice.

Rim the glasses with lime - use wine glasses or tumblers if margarita glasses are out of reach. Place the salt rub onto a plate and gently turn the outside edge of the rim into the mix. Pour two centimeters from the top of the glass. Serve with a wedge of lime.

The ground lavender stands out against the salt; a dark and edgy contrast to the smooth lemon coloured cocktail.

The lavender taste saves itself to the end - a faint but unbeatable hint of good times in the bath!

They went down VERY well. A perfect compliment to my dinner party in the garden. And like the lavender, the guests were head to toe in fancy dress and barely recognisable...