Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The construction of a real Bloody Mary cannot be sniffed at. I would take hours - if it took that long - stirring, dripping, toil and troubling if it meant that our terribly sweet and slightly dull tomato juice could be more than just sieved fruit.

I like a Bloody Mary to fix me, whether it be a hangover, tiredness or gloom. It needs to sting and flare my nostrils at first whiff, pinning my eyelids up to my brows as if sleep were forever forbidden. Or as if to warn other drinkers to tread lightly before taking a long slurp.
I'm cruel when it comes to pub pourers and brutal when it comes to home-concoctions...
So what goes into my Bloody Mary? The secret is I don't have a recipe - I pour by taste and mood and ALWAYS with 11 vital ingredients, all kittens and bows when served alone, ferocious when mixed together:
TOMATO JUICE; glassful of
HORSERADISH; spoonful of
CELERY SALT; sprinkling of
VODKA; gushes of
SHERRY; glug of
TABASCO; splashes of
BLACK PEPPER; crackle of
LEA IN PERRINS; dashes of
CELERY; stick of
ICE; chunks of

...A bit of whoooaaaaa there nessy and...eye of newt, why not?
So here's a toast to the best Halloween cocktail around. We'll certainly be drinking it on the 31st, probably out of pumpkins, with devilled mackerel, and death by chocolate cake, just because we can - so if anyone has a recipe that they think tops the lot then please post below and I'll make - only bloody scary bloody mary's allowed. None of this tame stuff.

If it doesn't bite, it ain't right.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Working in a cookery bookshop makes you hungry. All day.

The nostril-tickling smells of the cafe; the good-enough-to-lick-if-I-could pictures in the books; the cooking hot line which seems to hit promptly on a Wednesday morning as if by clockwork, flipping open the recipe book in the back of my brain, wishing I could be eating what they're cooking. But there's no complaints here.

It's one of those jobs that, in the best possible way, stays with you after hours. From the haven of the sofa - half of me engrossed in the long slow camera shots of The Song of Lunch, zooming into a large glass of much-needed red wine; and the other tied to my new orange and pink Madhur Jaffrey Curry Easy book - I can think only of my stomach. Again. There's no escape.

Fortunately, for risk of becoming belly-bound, Miss Jaffrey's book opens on a page which gives me the satisfaction of full-flavour but with half the gluttony. Her curry is light, perfumed and completely un-greedy but leaves you feeling perfectly full - enough to say no, I think I'll leave it, to the dry naan bread in the centre of the table.
Having forgotten to buy the ginger, I added a few more ingredients to soften and sweeten the spice.

BANGLADESHI-STYLE CURRY adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Easy

Serves 2-3

3 large hake fillets
2 medium sized shallots
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tbsp crushed ginger
2 tbsps olive/mustard oil
1 tsp red paprika
1/2 tumeric
1/2 cayenne pepper
3 kaffir lime leaves
half a lime
250ml water
1 tbsp honey
2 handfuls of fresh coriander
1 handful of mint leaves
300g basmati rice

In a large, deep frying pan, heat up the olive oil. Add the shallots and fry gently until a soft brown colour. Meanwhile, mix the ginger, garlic and spices with 3 tbsps water into a paste.
Boil a pan of water and add the rice, having rinsed it through with water to remove excess starch. Cook for 20 minutes or as the packet advises. When cooked add half the coriander and the mint.
Add the spice mix to the shallots and simmer off the water. Then add the 250ml water and simmer adding the lime and kaffir leaves to infuse into the sauce. Simmer for 2 minutes. Pour in the honey. Gently lie the hake fillets into the pan and cook on a gentle heat. Turn over after 2-3 minutes and cook them for another couple of minutes until cooked through.
Put the rice in bowls and place the fillet on top, pouring over the sauce, and distributing the shallots in equal measure for each bowl. Garnish with coriander and serve with a spoonful of natural yogurt.
If you like more sauce, add a tin of coconut milk just before adding the fish, and follow the process as normal.

This would work well with any other white fish, or chicken if you prefer two legs to no legs. A quick and detoxifying treat for the under-nourished and over-fed.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

GUEST BLOG:Alice Brady

Dance to your Daddy with Alice's dive into the world of fish pie...

In Pursuit of Perfection

It has become apparent to me of late that I am officially an addict. I have seen it occur in so many friends; that first try and taste hooking them in instantly, an inability to break away from it and try new things. My drug of choice: the fish pie. It started with my auntie’s classic version; creamy, rich and filled with perfectly cooked meaty white fish. Since then I have embarked upon my own journey of discovery by attempting to create my version of the perfect fish pie.

This is definitely easier said than done. A friend of mine has been perfecting macaroni and cheese for a good ten years now. With each version come new ideas and combinations, all of which reveal themselves to be delicious concoctions, yet how do you decide on the ultimate? I fear there is no ending to this task. Don’t get me wrong, I am thoroughly enjoying the process; what could be better than the excuse to cook and eat your preferred dish on a regular basis under the disguise of research? What worries me is that I shall go off the dish due to over indulgence before having achieved perfection!

Anyway, enough of my fears, lets talk about fish pie. I am truly at the starting line as this is only my second attempt. The first was a taste if not an aesthetic success; I learnt my lesson about sticking to measurements and using the right equipment, as the “pie” took on the effect of having been pureed due to a too thin roux and the use of a metal roasting tray in place of an oven dish. The taste however, saved me; freshly shelled summer peas, smoked haddock, large succulent prawns, dill and a touch of Dijon mustard. All in all, a job well done.

My second attempt this evening did in fact exceed my own expectations. I gently cooked leeks in a small amount of butter, salt and pepper and layered them on the bottom of the dish (I was lucky enough to be given an earthenware dish for my birthday, perfect for these experimental evenings, from one of the guinea pigs of my first attempt). I poached smoked haddock in milk and white wine and left it to cool whilst I made the roux. Having used the correct measurements I managed to create a lovely think consistency using the milk the fish had been poaching in and adding double cream, a few good dollops of Dijon mustard, a little more white wine and fresh parsley. Once I’d folded the fish and the prawns into the mixture I spooned it on top of the leeks and let it sit for a while. Apparently, leaving it to cool for a time makes it easier to spread the mash onto it (thank you Diana Henry). Of course, as the purist that I am, the only thing this could be topped with was a wonderfully creamy, fluffy mash. The next thirty minutes proved to be torture as we could smell it and hear it bubbling way in the oven. When it finally emerged the potato had taken on a lovely golden colour whilst the sauce had just started to bubble out of the sides. Yummy!!!!!

I am not one to blow my own trumpet so I therefore urge you to try it at home and discover the wonders of a good home made fish pie; perfect for a wet, autumn evening with a few friends and a bottle of wine. If that one doesn’t appeal I have been working on the next concoction involving sweet potato mash. I’ll keep you updated.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Got some plums from Portobello market last week; 10 juicy, round, purple little devils for a mere £1. Shared them round, oohed and aahed and took the rest home.

I would have finished them all that day had it not been for the last minute decision to escape London for the weekend. The lovely plums were left lonely and neglected in my empty and dark flat and, out of spite, turned tasteless and over-ripe in time for my return.

It's not in me to throw things away without trying to revive them first, so with a mind on recycling, I breathed a heavy kiss of life into the wrinkly old dears, dolloped on a knob of butter and drizzled them with honey for an under-the-grill, Nigella-style evening snack. The skins slid off to reveal a vibrant contrast of October colours, crumpling into rose-shaped hats.

This works with any old fruit, literally. And with a spoonful of creme fraiche, alongside cheescake for a real pud, or on porridge the next morning, you'll never throw anything away ever again.
5 over-ready plums.
Cut in half.
Drizzle with two tablespoons of honey.
Small knob of butter to replace the stone.
Under a hot grill for 10 minutes.
Serve and eat. Cold or hot. Easy as plum.