Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Too hot for soup. But not for a chilled one. 

This cooled soup is smooth and light, and thanks to the surprisingly enormous amount of fresh garlic, it has a lovely, earthy sweetness.

I imagine this to be eaten from a thermos in the park, or from tiny bowls with tiny poached quails egg to garnish. Oh, and if the weather forces on our anoraks, have it hot.


serves 2

25g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large leek, roughly chopped, white bit only
15 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and halved
1 potato, peeled and chopped
500ml chicken stock
150ml double cream
1/4 tsp ground mace or nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt, extra to serve
generous pinch coarsely ground black pepper
2 ice cubes
2 quails eggs (optional)
handful parsley leaves, finely chopped

Melt the butter in a medium pan and add the olive oil. Add the onion and slowly cook to soften but not colour. Then, add the leek and the halved garlic cloves and fry on a low heat for 5 minutes. Now add the potato and, after two minutes on a gentle heat, pour in the stock. Simmer the soup, unseasoned at this point, for 20 minutes. Do not bring to the boil as this may spoil the flavour of the garlic.  

Leave the soup to cool slightly before pouring it into a blender. Add the cream and seasoning and whizz. Pour, through a sieve, into a jug and taste - it may be tempting to add more at this stage but I'd leave it to cool completely before adding more salt. 

Making sure the soup has cooled down completely add the ice cubes to the jug, cover and leave in the fridge for an hour or until ready to serve.

Just before serving, bring a small pan of water to the boil. Take the pan off the heat. Drop in the shelled quails eggs, one by one, from a small cup that is almost touching the surface of the water. Leave to cook for 1 minute and remove with a slotted spoon.

Serve the soup into small bowls and carefully place the egg on top. Scatter with parsley and light drizzle of oil. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012



Spring on toast

serves 1-2


250g broad beans, fresh best but frozen good too
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
handful mint leaves, plus more to serve
3 tbsp olive oil, plus more to serve
2 tsp sugar, plus more to serve
1 tsp salt, plus more to serve

2 large slices of good bread

Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the broad beans. Bring to the boil again and simmer for 4 or so minutes. Drain and refresh under cool water and, if you have time, shell some or most of the beans. They are much easier to shell when cooked.

Add the beans to a small food processor and add the rest of the ingredients. Pulse about 20 times until you have a rough paste. If some beans have been missed out and are whole, leave them. They look lovely mixed through.

Taste the mixture. Add more salt to season, sugar to sweeten or lemon juice to sharpen up.

Toast the bread and spread over the broad beans. Scatter with mint leaves, a scrunch of black pepper, a pinch of sea salt flakes, and a generous drizzle of olive oil.

Serve for a light lunch with pea soup, chop up and serve as a canape or have for an unusual breakfast like I just have.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Melt. Slurp. Sigh... This is trattoria food at its most drool-worthy. The ox cheek turns from tough to tender over 6 hours and reduces down into a sauce so succulent you'll want to write a novel about it. 

This recipe - a new favourite - is ideal for feeding lots of people on the cheap - 500g of cheek cost me a fiver and was enough for 4 friends with giant appetites. It takes a while to cook - slow and low - but the only physical strain is putting it in the oven, taking it out and sharing it around. 


serves 4


1 tbsp olive oil
500g ox cheek

1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
1 large red chilli, finely chopped
250ml water
300ml beer (I used smoked beer. Wine will work well too)
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper

400g papparadelle
Parmesan, grated, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C. 

Heat the oil in a large, heavy based casserole and brown the cheeks all over. When brown and crisp, set aside. 

Add the onion to the oil and soften, following with the garlic, celery and chilli. Place the cheeks back in the pan and pour in the liquids. Add the chopped tomatoes, bay and thyme and season well. 

Lay a sheet of baking paper over the pan and cover with a lid so that the moisture is locked in.

Place the pan in the oven and leave for at least 4 hours to simmer away and slow-cook the meat. It will look like stew at this point but the meat will fall apart at the lightest touch.

Take the pan from the oven and remove the lid and baking paper. Leave the pan uncovered over a medium heat for approx. 20 minutes to reduce the excess liquid.

Just before serving, cook the pasta. Add sauce to the pasta and mix through. Serve piping hot with a generous helping of Parmesan.

Friday, May 4, 2012


I'm raising a glass to a fabulous few years at Books For Cooks with this cracking cocktail and giving you something to kick off the Bank Holiday with.



serves 4 glasses
8 cubes ice
4 shots amaretto di saronno
4 shots vodka
1 ltr still ginger beer (fizzy will do)
juice half an orange
4 round slices orange
12 small mint leaves

Pulse the ice with all the liquids in a blender so that the ice crushes slightly. Pour into four glasses and garnish with the orange and mint. Say 'salut!' with a sun umbrella.

It's delicious. I think it's time for another...