Friday, September 23, 2011


This week, after an over-carnivorous jolly at Abergavenny Food Festival, I opted to go meat free. Why? To boost veg intake, to be friendly to the environment, to save a bit of money and to try new things...Yep, all those things. Halo.

So far, the most notable change has been my weak, weak willpower.

There was a minor blip just 24 hours into my new found vegetarianism when I tucked into a juicy leg of chicken without even thinking. The slip-up was purely accidental and I didn't clock until the chook was done and digested. Since, aside from dreaming of more chicken legs, I have been trying to think before I eat.

So far, though shaky, so good. I've denied myself beautiful black pudding-stuffed grouse, and mac and cheese with minuscule shards of pancetta (bacon's just seasoning, right?). I refused leftover lamb and date tagine at work today - something I have never be known to do before. I even used vegetable stock in the recipe below.

The truth is, I often cook vegetarian food - my last blog was beetroot ravioli with sage butter and it was to die for. I certainly don't think you need to eat meat with every meal - vegetables are so very delicious on their own - but I do think that meat is damn hard to turn down when it's offered. This week has been fickle but strengthening, so maybe a week once a month will produce a less-meat-eating-me and - we'll see - a less greedy one...

Here is tonight's vegetarian supper which arrived crispy and light and sweet. No craving the big stuff as of yet.


serves 2


2 small floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper, peeled and halved
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
handful of fresh mint leaves
200g petit pois
100g Parmesan, grated
1 tbsp vegetable stock
3 free-range eggs, yolks separated from whites
knob of butter
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the potatoes until soft. Drain and slice.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan, melt a small knob of butter. Add the onions and soften. Follow with the garlic, peas and stock. Season well and add the Parmesan. Roughly blend with a hand whizzer.

Layer a small, shallow, buttered oven dish with the slice potatoes. Cover with the pea mixture and set aside. Lightly whisk the yolks and season. Now whisk the egg whites in a dry, non-oily bowl until stiff. Gently fold the yolks into the whites - you don't want to bash the air out - and pour over the peas and potatoes.

Place the dish carefully into the oven. Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until the top of the frittata is golden. Drizzle with olive oil, a pinch of sea salt flakes and serve.

Serve as it is with a watercress and spinach salad (or as a perfect accompaniment to a roast chicken lunch. Ouch).

Monday, September 12, 2011


This dish reminds me of sluggish pomeriggi in the trattoria of Bologna. Fresh pasta, floury and soft, with a painless, no-frills sauce. And probably a fierce glass of red to wash it down.

Here, the fresh garlic, crisp sage and toasted hazelnuts bring strength and bite to the earthy, soft gnocchini. Gnocchi are simple enough to knock up (there's a bit to do a the beginning but this can all be done in advance) and they go a long way for lunch - you'll be full after a small plate so there will be plenty left over for surprise diners.




100g beetroot, peeled and chopped
250g King Edward potatoes, peeled chopped
75g plain flour
1 small/medium free range egg, beaten
100g lightly salted butter
fresh garlic, sliced in rounds
handful sage leaves
approx. 10 hazelnuts, crushed

Bring two pans of salted water to the boil. Put the potatoes in one and the beetroot in the other. Cook the beetroot and the potatoes until soft enough to slip a knife through.

Put the beetroot into a food processor and whizz until pureed. Push the puree through a sieve once or twice to make it really smooth.

Mash the potatoes. They should be light and fluffy with little moisture. Keep them on the heat for a bit if the is any excess water.

Measure out the flour into a deep bowl, or on a floured surface. Make a well in the flour and add the egg, beetroot and potato. Season with salt. Mix through with your fingers, so that the colour of the beetroot spreads evenly. The mixture should turn into a soft dough. If too wet, add more flour.

Cut the dough into equal sized squares and roll into long sausages. This is where you can experiment with size and shape, but to go for the traditional diamond, cut the dough diagonally, every 2-3 cm. Lightly dust with flour.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil.

Gently toast the hazelnuts in a small pan and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and add the sliced garlic. You want this to cook very gently before adding the sage. Once the garlic has softened slightly, add the sage to infuse into the butter and crisp up.

Add the gnocchi to the pan. As soon as they float to the top, they'll be ready!

Serve up in a pasta bowl and drizzle with the sage garlic butter. Grate with a generous helping of Parmesan and sprinkle over the hazelnuts.

Talk to no one, look at no one, just eat.

Monday, September 5, 2011


September. Ah what a happy month for cookbooks! Invitations to book launches fly through the letterbox, large packages and giant boxes are squeezed through the shop doorway and tables are stacked high with new titles, sitting fresh for hours of page turning. This season my wish list hits the ceiling.

I wrote a piece for Waitrose Kitchen's September issue on the joy of owning, reading and, most importantly, cooking from cookbooks. From the response since its release, it's clear that most of us cooks, young or old, are keen to hold on to our loyal archives, and even with online recipes hovering just within our grasp, we'd all rather have a hard copy at home to flick through, drool over and splatter with batter. It's fair to say, we all love our cookbooks.

So with a new bunch o' beautiful books hitting Books For Cooks, we need to find space on our shelves. But how do we know which book will cut the mustard?

To help the decision, I will be choosing one fortnightly cookbook to cook from in the workshop kitchen at BFC. Any suggestions on new titles are very welcome.

When, how, what, where?

Saturday, every fortnight

Classes are £20 and you pay on the day.


Workshop Kitchen, 4, Blenheim crescent, W11 1NN
Bookshop and cafe open Tuesday to Saturday.