Sunday, February 27, 2011


A recipe (mildly adapted) from my dear friend and super cook, Clare.


serves 2
1 1/2 tbsp groundnut oil
1 large butcher-bought pork loin steak, thinly sliced into strips
6 spring onions, thinly sliced (leave one onion, sliced length ways, for a garnish)
1 tbsp red curry paste
1/2 tin coconut milk
1 tbsp organic, smooth peanut butter
1 tsp molasses
1 tsp fish sauce
juice of 1/2 lime

200g 3mm rice noodles (Gueytow)

Heat 1 tbsp groundnut oil in a large wok and add the slices of pork. The oil should be hot enough to make the pork sizzle as it touches the pan. Let them fry for 2 minutes on each side so that the meat is light brown all over. Remove the pork and leave it to rest.

Add the rest of the oil and add the spring onions, and the curry paste. Let the spices fry and the onions soften. Then pour in the coconut milk, the peanut butter, the molasses, fish sauce and lime. The sauce should be relatively thick. Let it simmer on a medium-low heat for 8 minutes to thicken the sauce further.

Add the pork and stir. Taste. Add more lime juice if the peanut butter is overwhelming - a little goes a long way.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add the rice noodles and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and serve in a shallow bowl. Pour over the curry and garnish with raw spring onions and a sprig of coriander.

A right porker.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Eggy bread has me dreaming of late nights and late mornings, energy gone. It's exactly what you want from a meal when your head's in a fuzz and your limbs won't move.

Slip, slap, pan, flip, flop.

I love using potato farls instead of bread. A good, spongy sourdough soaks up and holds in the moisture of the egg which is delicious, but with this recipe the farls are coated and crisped, melting away underneath the leeks so you almost don't need to chew. The salty butter and egg lightly fry up the square edges leaving a bit of crunch. Slice into the soft farl and the minty melted leeks, and your knees go giddy. These will be the best ten minutes of your day.



prep 5 minutes
cooking time 5 minutes

3 medium free-range eggs
pinch of chilli flakes
4 Irish potato farls
large knob of salted butter
generous pinch of salt
generous pinch of butter

large knob of butter
1 large leek
1/2 white onion or 3-4 shallots
50g stilton

2 heaps Godmother's Christmas tomato relish.

Finely chop the leeks and onion and set aside in a bowl. Crack three eggs into another bowl, whisk, and season well with salt, pepper and the chilli flakes. Put the farls in with the egg and turn a few times so that each side has been coated.

Heat a large knob of butter in two large frying pans, both on a medium-low heat.

Place the farls, one by one, into one frying pan and pour over the remaining egg mixture that has not been soaked up. Once the egg starts to cook, turn the farls over and fold over the egg around them. After about 30 seconds flip the farls again.

Meanwhile put the leek and onion into the other saucepan with the melted butter, and slowly fry. Add more butter - you'll want them to turn almost creamy. Stir in the stilton. Even creamier.

When the leeks are soft and the farls are crispy, it's time to serve. Pour the leeks onto the farl and serve with a large spoonful of homemade tomato relish. Now, silence.

Sunday, February 20, 2011



Get your bloomin' lovely silicon pie birds from cook's haven Ceramica Blue to keep your pastry from sinking ship.

P.S DAY 7. Sourdough starter (Bruce) has been lovingly cared for - half of it discarded each day and fed with new fuel - and is now bubbling happily away. Almost ready for bread making frenzy. Brain a-fizz with first recipes...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Bubbles have started appearing after 48 hours. As I opened the lid, one came to the surface and popped. A great gulp of air from nothing in particular. It smells beery and warm - just like yeast should.

Stage two.

♥ Whisk in 100g flour (of the same flour) and as near to 100g water as possible. You want to keep the thick consistency of the previous mix.

♥ Put the lid back on - put it back in the warm spot - and wait at least another day before scooping out half the batter and adding a fresh mix. This is no game for nail biters...

Monday, February 14, 2011


Watching the light and bouncy sourdough be rolled out every morning at Books For Cooks wakes up the baker in me. In goes a spoonful of Eric's age-old starter, which has been nurtured everyday since the first mix was made almost thirty years ago. The starter is entirely unique, made only with the grape skins from the Savarine vineyard in the South West of France, organic flour and purified water, topped up with every use. The flavour is heady, strong and bitter and makes the most delicious focaccia.

But with every sourdough, whether fermented with grapes or not, comes an individuality. No batch is the same. The growth, pureness and flavour of the natural levain are dependent on the surrounding environment, feeding on yeast particles in the air.

In the months leading up to making my own sourdough starter, I've been offered samples to adopt...but with stories like the one above, I'd rather have my own to tell. It may not be clean French air here - in fact it's Shepherd's Bush - but it's damn exciting all the same.

Here's the start of my starter, and here's to a daily bread:


♥ Sterilize jar with boiling water for approx. 10 minutes. Pour water out. The container needs to be free from anything that will corrupt the natural yeast of the starter.

♥ Measure out equal parts of organic flour and warm distilled water - I used 25g Doves Organic wholegrain spelt flour and 75g Doves Organic strong wholemeal with 100g water.

♥ Beat water and flour together well to a porridge-like consistency. Hugh F-W likens it to 'thick paint'.

♥ Leave the mix in a warm (about 30°C), undraughty place, cover with clingfilm and leave to ferment.

♥ When bubbles appear - and it could be hours or days - it's feeding time...TBContinued.

Read food blogger and cookbook-writer Vanessa Kimbell's enchanting account of her love for sourdough.

I lived in the south of France every holiday since I was a very young girl. We always ate sourdough bread from the village bakery. As I got to about 12 years old, every morning I would get up and go to the bakery and help bake the bread. It was magic. The smell of the first batch would waft through the pigeon holes of my bedroom and I would charge down the alleyway in the dark to a floury warm bakery where I would eat hot croissant and drink sweet dark coffee. I worked in the bakery full time for a summer aged 17 and, a year later, went on to work in another bakery in the local town. As I got to about 19 years old I was busy at university and didn't go to France for several years...

Just 3 years ago I was back at the house in France. I woke to the smell of bread. It drew me like the pied piper's song to the bakery doors. It was irresistible and before I knew it I was in the bakery spreading butter over warm crusty sourdough and sinking my teeth in. Oh, familiar joy! The crunch of the crust and the yield of the soft bouncy inner. Exquisite. I didn't give a fig. There was me.. and the bread - and that was all there was to the world.

Join the sourdough community with recipes and tips on The Sourdough Companion.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Brown, knobbly skin, hard white flesh, and dug from the earth just like a potato, the Jerusalem artichoke looks more like a stem of ginger than an out-of-ground thistle - which, with a surname like artichoke, is what we generally expect. Bearing no relation to the globe arty - no leaves to dip in butter; no hearts to preserve in oil - they often get overlooked. While snapped up at markets by keen cooks on the look out for seasonal Winter veg, the rest of us leave them sitting. But we shouldn't dismiss these hairy outcasts.

When peeled and roasted they can be souped, gratined, and mashed - an interesting change to the usual tatties. They have a sweet, earthy taste, brought out even more when the skin in left on. Which is why I do just that with this warm salad. Pair it with smokey and honey flavours and you'd never know you were eating the bulb of a sunflower.

So, next time you're at the local market, pick up a Jerusalem. And roast it good.

serves 4

5 medium sized knobs of Jerusalem artichoke (approx. 500g)
2 large raw beetroot, peeled
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
6 rashers dry cured pancetta
3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
generous pinch salt and pepper
2 sprigs fresh thyme

seasonal baby salad leaves (spinach, beetroot, rocket) optional

Preheat the oven to 220°C/ 425°F/ Gas mark 7.

Quarter the artichoke bulbs, and the peeled raw beetroot in the same way. Throw into a small, but deep roasting tin. Add the garlic cloves and place the strips of pancetta on top. Drizzle with the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. After adding the thyme - no need to take the leaves from the stem - give the tin a shake so that the oil coats the veg.

Leave to roast for 40 minutes, shaking a few times to avoid sticking. Check one bit of artichoke with a knife to check it is soft and tender.

Dress the salad with a balsamic dressing and throw over the roast. Eh voila. The perfect Winter lunchtime treat. It couldn't be easier.