Recipes, baking - you name it, I'm cooking it. Probably with butter

Pan Roasted Chicken with Garlic

Reader… I married him. As some of you may know, last weekend my parents hosted a beautiful two day wedding for us at their house, with all our lovely friends and family there to make the weekend a really special one.

My husband and I are now in Paris on our honeymoon, and - joy - l’m in possession of a miniature kitchen to make the best of the lovely Parisian produce. Last night- slow roasted chicken with garlic, with a big artichoke, radish, fennel and tomato salad. Tonight we’re eating out at one of my favourite restaurants, but for a simple dinner a deux in, it’s hard to beat this:

Melt 50g butter in a heavy based frying pan with a splash of olive oil until sizzling. Add a handful of bashed garlic cloves, turn the heat to medium, then pop in two chicken thighs and two chicken legs (or four thighs, whatever you’ve got) skin side down into the pan. Season well with sea salt. Leave them alone for 15-20 mins so they get nice and crispy and golden on that side, then turn them over and cook on a lower heat for a further 10-15 minutes. Flip them over again for a further 5 minutes, then flip again, and check with a thermometer to make sure they’re cooked through to at least 70C. Yes, before you ask, I did pack a meat thermometer on my honeymoon. Leave them to rest for at least ten minutes before serving with salad, and a big glass of wine. Bon appetit!

Pan Roasted Chicken with Garlic

Reader… I married him. As some of you may know, last weekend my parents hosted a beautiful two day wedding for us at their house, with all our lovely friends and family there to make the weekend a really special one.

My husband and I are now in Paris on our honeymoon, and - joy - l’m in possession of a miniature kitchen to make the best of the lovely Parisian produce. Last night- slow roasted chicken with garlic, with a big artichoke, radish, fennel and tomato salad. Tonight we’re eating out at one of my favourite restaurants, but for a simple dinner a deux in, it’s hard to beat this:

Melt 50g butter in a heavy based frying pan with a splash of olive oil until sizzling. Add a handful of bashed garlic cloves, turn the heat to medium, then pop in two chicken thighs and two chicken legs (or four thighs, whatever you’ve got) skin side down into the pan. Season well with sea salt. Leave them alone for 15-20 mins so they get nice and crispy and golden on that side, then turn them over and cook on a lower heat for a further 10-15 minutes. Flip them over again for a further 5 minutes, then flip again, and check with a thermometer to make sure they’re cooked through to at least 70C. Yes, before you ask, I did pack a meat thermometer on my honeymoon. Leave them to rest for at least ten minutes before serving with salad, and a big glass of wine. Bon appetit!

16 notes
Herby cheese and cracked black pepper scones*
*Yes, I know the title sounds like a packet of upmarket crisps - except for ‘herby’, which in my opinion isn’t used enough as food descriptor - but these lovely mini scones are quite decidedly cheesy, herby and peppery, so the name sticks. I wouldn’t be too fussy about what herbs to use - here I threw in a mixture of chives, flat leaf parsley and rosemary, but you could easily use fresh marjoram or whatever else you’ve got handy. I made this batch cocktail sized, so they’d go just as well with a glass of prosecco as a big cup of tea. 
Preheat your oven to 200C. Using your fingertips or a food processor, rub together 500g plain flour, 1/4 tsp bicarb, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 3 tsp cream of tartar with 75g cold butter. Once the mixture looks like fine sand, tip in a good handful of fresh chopped mixed herbs, 70g grated extra mature cheddar and a good grind of black pepper. Briefly stir these into the flour-butter mixture, then pour in 300ml milk, into which you’ve stirred two good teaspoons of smooth dijon mustard. Using a fork, quickly stir the milk into the flour mix until it comes together as a sticky dough. At this point, pop another 35g flour over the dough and pat it all over, so you can lift the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Stamp out your scones and pop them on a floured or lined baking sheet, brush them with beaten egg, and top with another 30g cheese and some rosemary, if you like. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops are golden, and serve warm with salted butter. 

Herby cheese and cracked black pepper scones*

*Yes, I know the title sounds like a packet of upmarket crisps - except for ‘herby’, which in my opinion isn’t used enough as food descriptor - but these lovely mini scones are quite decidedly cheesy, herby and peppery, so the name sticks. I wouldn’t be too fussy about what herbs to use - here I threw in a mixture of chives, flat leaf parsley and rosemary, but you could easily use fresh marjoram or whatever else you’ve got handy. I made this batch cocktail sized, so they’d go just as well with a glass of prosecco as a big cup of tea. 

Preheat your oven to 200C. Using your fingertips or a food processor, rub together 500g plain flour, 1/4 tsp bicarb, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 3 tsp cream of tartar with 75g cold butter. Once the mixture looks like fine sand, tip in a good handful of fresh chopped mixed herbs, 70g grated extra mature cheddar and a good grind of black pepper. Briefly stir these into the flour-butter mixture, then pour in 300ml milk, into which you’ve stirred two good teaspoons of smooth dijon mustard. Using a fork, quickly stir the milk into the flour mix until it comes together as a sticky dough. At this point, pop another 35g flour over the dough and pat it all over, so you can lift the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Stamp out your scones and pop them on a floured or lined baking sheet, brush them with beaten egg, and top with another 30g cheese and some rosemary, if you like. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops are golden, and serve warm with salted butter. 

71 notes

Courgette & pancetta pasties with chili, mint and lemon

These little pasties would be perfect for a picnic, lunchbox, or sized up for a light dinner with a green salad. For a vegetarian version, just leave out the pancetta, and maybe stir a few cubes of smoked cheddar through the cooled courgette mix before assembling. 

Preheat your oven to 200C. Lightly fry a roughly chopped onion with 70g pancetta in a little olive oil for five minutes, until softened. Throw in half a chopped red chili (or more if you like it spicy) and a chopped clove of garlic, and fry for another couple of minutes. Dice a courgette into rough one centimetre cubes, and add these to the pan with the zest of one lemon and a handful of finely chopped mint. Stir well and let the courgette cook on low for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Season well with salt and a good squeeze of lemon, then set aside to cool down. Get a roll of ready to roll puff pastry (the pastry above is my homemade leftover rough puff pastry from a shoot, but I’d invariably use ready to roll otherwise), and roll it to about 4mm thick. Stamp out circles (as large or small as you like), put a dollop of the cooled courgette mixture in the centre of each one, brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg, then bring the sides up and pinch together with your fingers to seal. Brush the pastries with beaten egg, sprinkle on some sesame seeds, and bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden, and let them cool a bit on a wire rack before serving. If you’ve any leftover filling, as I did, it’s lovely stirred through hot pasta. 

37 notes
Spiced Chocolate and Pear Frangipane Tarts
These mini tarts were the result of a slightly frenzied rummage through the cupboard for ingredient ideas - and a highly successful one, I might add. Pear and almond are natural companions, but dodging a precariously balanced tin of cocoa powder gave me the idea for these - to rather good effect. The filling is a rich, fudgy chocolate frangipane, lifted with aromatic ground cardamom and cinnamon, which contrasts nicely with the plump baked pear and my rather good home made rough puff pastry. If you use bought puff pastry, which I’d recommend unless you’ve got leftovers to use up or fancy a bit of pottering over the weekend, this takes minutes to mix together and stick in the oven, so I’d definitely keep it in mind for a prepare ahead dinner party dessert - there’s easily enough frangipane mix in this recipe for eight tartlets. 
For the pastry cases, roll out your ready to roll or rough puff pastry to about 3 mm thick and line your pastry cases. There’s enough butter in the pastry that it won’t stick, so don’t worry about buttering them. Pop them in the fridge to chill while you get on with the filling.
For the frangipane, beat together 100g ground almonds, 100g caster sugar, 100g butter and a teaspoon each of freshly ground cardamom seeds, ground cinnamon and vanilla extract. Or make up the quantity of caster sugar with vanilla and cinnamon sugar, if you have any. Beat in two eggs, then stir in 35g flour and 20g cocoa powder until everything is smoothly amalgamated, then pop the mixture in the fridge. 
Preheat the oven to 200C. You’ll need half a pear per tart case, so peel, halve and core the right number of pears (ideally nice plump ones), then slice them finely horizontally, keeping the slices from each half together. Squeeze a little lemon juice on the slices so they don’t discolour. Get your pastry cases and filling out of the fridge, and put a couple of tablespoons of mixture into each pastry case. You don’t want to fill the cases more than half way up, as the filling will rise. Carefully lift your stacks of pear slices and push them gently into the frangipane mixture in each tart case. Sprinkle the pear slices with a little ground cardamom, then bake the tarts for 20 minutes. Let them cool in the tins for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. They’re lovely hot or cold, either by themselves or with a big spoon of creme fraiche. 

Spiced Chocolate and Pear Frangipane Tarts

These mini tarts were the result of a slightly frenzied rummage through the cupboard for ingredient ideas - and a highly successful one, I might add. Pear and almond are natural companions, but dodging a precariously balanced tin of cocoa powder gave me the idea for these - to rather good effect. The filling is a rich, fudgy chocolate frangipane, lifted with aromatic ground cardamom and cinnamon, which contrasts nicely with the plump baked pear and my rather good home made rough puff pastry. If you use bought puff pastry, which I’d recommend unless you’ve got leftovers to use up or fancy a bit of pottering over the weekend, this takes minutes to mix together and stick in the oven, so I’d definitely keep it in mind for a prepare ahead dinner party dessert - there’s easily enough frangipane mix in this recipe for eight tartlets. 

For the pastry cases, roll out your ready to roll or rough puff pastry to about 3 mm thick and line your pastry cases. There’s enough butter in the pastry that it won’t stick, so don’t worry about buttering them. Pop them in the fridge to chill while you get on with the filling.

For the frangipane, beat together 100g ground almonds, 100g caster sugar, 100g butter and a teaspoon each of freshly ground cardamom seeds, ground cinnamon and vanilla extract. Or make up the quantity of caster sugar with vanilla and cinnamon sugar, if you have any. Beat in two eggs, then stir in 35g flour and 20g cocoa powder until everything is smoothly amalgamated, then pop the mixture in the fridge. 

Preheat the oven to 200C. You’ll need half a pear per tart case, so peel, halve and core the right number of pears (ideally nice plump ones), then slice them finely horizontally, keeping the slices from each half together. Squeeze a little lemon juice on the slices so they don’t discolour. Get your pastry cases and filling out of the fridge, and put a couple of tablespoons of mixture into each pastry case. You don’t want to fill the cases more than half way up, as the filling will rise. Carefully lift your stacks of pear slices and push them gently into the frangipane mixture in each tart case. Sprinkle the pear slices with a little ground cardamom, then bake the tarts for 20 minutes. Let them cool in the tins for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. They’re lovely hot or cold, either by themselves or with a big spoon of creme fraiche. 

37 notes
It’s all gone pear shaped…
A preview for this week’s upcoming pear recipe. 

It’s all gone pear shaped…

A preview for this week’s upcoming pear recipe. 

26 notes
Pearl barley risotto with fresh peas and hazelnut mint pesto
I first tried pearl barley at L’Escargot Bleu in Edinburgh a few months ago, in the form of a radiantly yellow saffron risotto amuse bouche. I could have quite easily ordered an entire bowlful for dinner, and have been attempting to recreate the dish ever since. Here, for once, I decided to leave off with the saffron, given that a) it’s expensive and b) I had an entire bag of fresh, unpodded peas from last week’s shoot in the fridge, and more mint than even I can add to glasses of iced water. Here’s the result -  a lovely summery, light risotto, with lots of contrasting textures, perfect for a weekend dinner.
This recipe serves four, though I’d advise making the full quantity even if there are less of you, as you know what risotto leftovers mean - arancini. Lots of arancini. 
For the risotto: in a large pan, fry off one finely chopped onion and one finely chopped garlic clove for about five to ten minutes on a low heat, until soft. Pop 200g washed pearl barley in with the onions, and fry for a few minutes until the grains smell nice and toasty. Pour in 1 litre vegetable stock, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pearl barley is cooked through and all the liquid is absorbed.  
Meanwhile, de-pod your fresh peas, if using (you’ll need about three good handfuls of fresh or frozen peas in total) and boil in lightly salted water for 3-4 minutes until cooked through. Drain, leaving a splash of the cooking liquid behind, then mash the peas with a potato masher until you’ve got a rough paste. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
For the pesto, chop two good handfuls of fresh mint leaves with one handful of fresh flat leaf parsley and a small handful of toasted hazelnuts. Save some of the hazelnuts to serve with the risotto later. Tip the chopped herbs and hazelnuts into a bowl, and pour in a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil. Stir, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then add a handful of freshly grated parmesan, and repeat with the oil and the parmesan until you’ve got the taste and texture that you want - I like my pesto quite thin, but use less oil if you want it thicker.
Once your pearl barley has had it’s fifty minutes, stir in the peas and pesto, along with about a cup of boiling water. Simmer for a further five to ten minutes, until the pearl barley is cooked to your liking. Season with salt, lemon juice, black pepper and more parmesan, before serving with fresh mint, shaved parmesan and the reserved hazelnuts. 

Pearl barley risotto with fresh peas and hazelnut mint pesto

I first tried pearl barley at L’Escargot Bleu in Edinburgh a few months ago, in the form of a radiantly yellow saffron risotto amuse bouche. I could have quite easily ordered an entire bowlful for dinner, and have been attempting to recreate the dish ever since. Here, for once, I decided to leave off with the saffron, given that a) it’s expensive and b) I had an entire bag of fresh, unpodded peas from last week’s shoot in the fridge, and more mint than even I can add to glasses of iced water. Here’s the result -  a lovely summery, light risotto, with lots of contrasting textures, perfect for a weekend dinner.

This recipe serves four, though I’d advise making the full quantity even if there are less of you, as you know what risotto leftovers mean - arancini. Lots of arancini. 

For the risotto: in a large pan, fry off one finely chopped onion and one finely chopped garlic clove for about five to ten minutes on a low heat, until soft. Pop 200g washed pearl barley in with the onions, and fry for a few minutes until the grains smell nice and toasty. Pour in 1 litre vegetable stock, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pearl barley is cooked through and all the liquid is absorbed.  

Meanwhile, de-pod your fresh peas, if using (you’ll need about three good handfuls of fresh or frozen peas in total) and boil in lightly salted water for 3-4 minutes until cooked through. Drain, leaving a splash of the cooking liquid behind, then mash the peas with a potato masher until you’ve got a rough paste. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

For the pesto, chop two good handfuls of fresh mint leaves with one handful of fresh flat leaf parsley and a small handful of toasted hazelnuts. Save some of the hazelnuts to serve with the risotto later. Tip the chopped herbs and hazelnuts into a bowl, and pour in a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil. Stir, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then add a handful of freshly grated parmesan, and repeat with the oil and the parmesan until you’ve got the taste and texture that you want - I like my pesto quite thin, but use less oil if you want it thicker.

Once your pearl barley has had it’s fifty minutes, stir in the peas and pesto, along with about a cup of boiling water. Simmer for a further five to ten minutes, until the pearl barley is cooked to your liking. Season with salt, lemon juice, black pepper and more parmesan, before serving with fresh mint, shaved parmesan and the reserved hazelnuts. 

16 notes
Cinnamon & Oat Pancakes
These are absolutely lovely little breakfast pancakes - you don’t taste the oats very much, but they’re much more filling than regular pancakes. They were a compromise this weekend, as I fancied pancakes and my boyfriend wanted porridge, et voila, a porridge pancake. Cinnamon & oat sounds better. This is my adapted version of Martha Stewart’s recipe. If you don’t have baking cups, get some, they’re perfect for the lazy cook. 

Put 1 cup of plain flour, 1/2 a cup of rolled oats, 1/8 cup demerara sugar, 1/2 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt & 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into a food processor, and process until the oats are broken up. Whisk 1 and 1/2 cups of milk with 1 egg and 1/8 cup vegetable oil, then stir in the flour-oat mixture and another 1/2 cup of rolled oats. If the mixture looks too thick, add more milk. Drop heaped tablespoons onto a hot slightly oiled pan, and cook for a couple of minutes on each side. You’ll know when to flip them, as the top looks set instead of runny. Add a little more oil to the pan if you need it. These keep warm nicely in between two plates in the oven while you get on with making the rest. Serve with golden syrup, blueberries and bananas - perfect for a lazy weekend breakfast.

This is an old post of mine, but a favourite. Thanks so much to Tumblr for featuring it on their radar this week!

Cinnamon & Oat Pancakes

These are absolutely lovely little breakfast pancakes - you don’t taste the oats very much, but they’re much more filling than regular pancakes. They were a compromise this weekend, as I fancied pancakes and my boyfriend wanted porridge, et voila, a porridge pancake. Cinnamon & oat sounds better. This is my adapted version of Martha Stewart’s recipe. If you don’t have baking cups, get some, they’re perfect for the lazy cook.

Put 1 cup of plain flour, 1/2 a cup of rolled oats, 1/8 cup demerara sugar, 1/2 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt & 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into a food processor, and process until the oats are broken up. Whisk 1 and 1/2 cups of milk with 1 egg and 1/8 cup vegetable oil, then stir in the flour-oat mixture and another 1/2 cup of rolled oats. If the mixture looks too thick, add more milk. Drop heaped tablespoons onto a hot slightly oiled pan, and cook for a couple of minutes on each side. You’ll know when to flip them, as the top looks set instead of runny. Add a little more oil to the pan if you need it. These keep warm nicely in between two plates in the oven while you get on with making the rest. Serve with golden syrup, blueberries and bananas - perfect for a lazy weekend breakfast.

This is an old post of mine, but a favourite. Thanks so much to Tumblr for featuring it on their radar this week!

2,997 notes
Home made wedding favours

These iced and spiced biscuits, or cookies, are an update on a recipe of mine from a few years ago. I knew I wanted home made favours for my wedding in August, and having bored my sister senseless yesterday with such stream of consciousness ramblings as: ‘Florentines? Maybe too sticky. And there’s nut allergies. What about something like Iced Gems? Too fiddly. Or home made Bourbon biscuits? But is ganache really defrostable?…’ Several hours of monologuing my way through every type of biscuit known to man later, I finally (much to her relief) remembered my favourite ginger spiced biscuit, and decided to make a test batch. Luckily, I had a tub of royal icing in the cupboard, and can verify that once piped, it sets hard, and the whole iced biscuit defrosts beautifully. 

This amount of dough makes 20 medium heart shaped biscuits, so scale up depending on how many you want. A double quantity is a manageable amount to mix and work with though. Preheat your oven to 180 C. Beat together 75g softened butter, 50g caster sugar, 25g dark brown sugar, 50g golden syrup, 1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger, 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (use a food processor if you like). Add in 250g plain flour and blitz until it looks like sand, then add in one beaten egg and mix briefly to form a soft dough. Flatten the dough, wrap it in cling film and chill for 10 minutes in the freezer before rolling fairly thickly and stamping out with a cookie cutter. Chill the shapes on a baking sheet in the fridge for 10 minutes, before baking for 9-10 minutes and cooling on a wire rack. To decorate, let down your royal icing by beating it with a little water, then pipe your design onto the cooled biscuits. Store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze.

Home made wedding favours

These iced and spiced biscuits, or cookies, are an update on a recipe of mine from a few years ago. I knew I wanted home made favours for my wedding in August, and having bored my sister senseless yesterday with such stream of consciousness ramblings as: ‘Florentines? Maybe too sticky. And there’s nut allergies. What about something like Iced Gems? Too fiddly. Or home made Bourbon biscuits? But is ganache really defrostable?…’ Several hours of monologuing my way through every type of biscuit known to man later, I finally (much to her relief) remembered my favourite ginger spiced biscuit, and decided to make a test batch. Luckily, I had a tub of royal icing in the cupboard, and can verify that once piped, it sets hard, and the whole iced biscuit defrosts beautifully.

This amount of dough makes 20 medium heart shaped biscuits, so scale up depending on how many you want. A double quantity is a manageable amount to mix and work with though. Preheat your oven to 180 C. Beat together 75g softened butter, 50g caster sugar, 25g dark brown sugar, 50g golden syrup, 1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger, 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (use a food processor if you like). Add in 250g plain flour and blitz until it looks like sand, then add in one beaten egg and mix briefly to form a soft dough. Flatten the dough, wrap it in cling film and chill for 10 minutes in the freezer before rolling fairly thickly and stamping out with a cookie cutter. Chill the shapes on a baking sheet in the fridge for 10 minutes, before baking for 9-10 minutes and cooling on a wire rack. To decorate, let down your royal icing by beating it with a little water, then pipe your design onto the cooled biscuits. Store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze.

29 notes
Coconut Burfi

While most Indian sweets are notoriously difficult to make, these coconut burfi are the home cook’s secret weapon. They take about 20 minutes to cook, use just two ingredients, and taste like the most wonderfully soft coconut fudge. What’s not to love? I could, and have been known to eat half a tray of them still warm. My mum used to make them for us when we were tiny, cut into diamond shapes with glacé cherries on top - which, to be frank, is still my preferred option (I adore glacé cherries) - but they’re also lovely rolled in desiccated coconut as above. Although I’ve just been reliably informed by my Mum that you can only call them burfi if they stay diamond shaped, so they’re just sweets if you make them round. 

To make them, just blitz 250g desiccated coconut in a coffee grinder until finely ground - you will need to do this in a few batches. Then pop the coconut into a saucepan along with a tin of condensed milk. Stir continuously over a low heat for about 7-10 minutes - you’ll know when it’s ready, because the mixture will suddenly come together in a smooth, shiny dough that comes away cleanly from the sides of the pan. Tip the dough out onto a buttered plate, and squash it down evenly to help it cool. When it’s warm enough to handle (this won’t take long), break off small sections and roll them into balls, then roll these immediately in desiccated coconut. Leave the sweets to cool, and store at room temperature in an airtight box for up to a week - though it’s unlikely they’ll last that long. Perfect for hostess gifts or birthday presents.

Coconut Burfi

While most Indian sweets are notoriously difficult to make, these coconut burfi are the home cook’s secret weapon. They take about 20 minutes to cook, use just two ingredients, and taste like the most wonderfully soft coconut fudge. What’s not to love? I could, and have been known to eat half a tray of them still warm. My mum used to make them for us when we were tiny, cut into diamond shapes with glacé cherries on top - which, to be frank, is still my preferred option (I adore glacé cherries) - but they’re also lovely rolled in desiccated coconut as above. Although I’ve just been reliably informed by my Mum that you can only call them burfi if they stay diamond shaped, so they’re just sweets if you make them round.

To make them, just blitz 250g desiccated coconut in a coffee grinder until finely ground - you will need to do this in a few batches. Then pop the coconut into a saucepan along with a tin of condensed milk. Stir continuously over a low heat for about 7-10 minutes - you’ll know when it’s ready, because the mixture will suddenly come together in a smooth, shiny dough that comes away cleanly from the sides of the pan. Tip the dough out onto a buttered plate, and squash it down evenly to help it cool. When it’s warm enough to handle (this won’t take long), break off small sections and roll them into balls, then roll these immediately in desiccated coconut. Leave the sweets to cool, and store at room temperature in an airtight box for up to a week - though it’s unlikely they’ll last that long. Perfect for hostess gifts or birthday presents.

70 notes
A day in the life: food stylist/professional food shopper
You might think that working as a food stylist sounds glamorous. And it is hugely enjoyable, with the massive buzz you get on set during a big commercial, or working with lovely photographers in beautiful location houses. But one of the biggest – and least glamorous - parts of the job is sourcing ingredients for each shoot, which can mean anything from my favourite one-stop-take-the-car-to-Sainsbury’s, to a mad dash all around London, going to as many shops as it takes to find unusual, out-of-season, or just plain perfect ingredients. Here’s a snapshot of my last big shopping trip….
10.45am: Arrive at Waitrose. I get confused by the lift system in Canary Wharf, and end up in the childrenswear section rather than the food hall. I try not to get overly broody, as am surrounded by tiny dresses, and fail miserably - they’re so small, and cute, and - I finally remember that I am a professional, and should really get to work. I start walking away purposefully, then realise I can’t take my trolley down the escalator. I keep my eyes studiously on the floor as I head back past the tiny baby clothes. With tiny, embroidered strawberries on them. Then I give in – how can I resist the tiny strawberries - and surreptitiously take a photograph to what’s app to my boyfriend. Fail. 
10.55am:  Finally, I’m in the food hall. I need four bags of perfect unwaxed lemons for Monday’s photo shoot. Over the next ten minutes, in which I fear that the security guard will arrest me for showing an unhealthy interest in citrus fruit, I pick up every single one of the fifty or so bags of lemons, and examine each one minutely. There is not one bag of perfect lemons, so I start inspecting them again, hoping for decent singles. Ten minutes later, and with a slightly crazed expression, in some sort of Groundhog Day of lemon shopping, I stare, again, at the same bag of lemons, realising that they’re all useless, and potentially deformed, and that Waitrose has, for the first time in my life, let me down. Although, they have kindly refrained from setting a security guard on me. And their lemons are fine, really, for eating, it’s just I need sixteen hyper-really perfect looking, Kate Moss grade citrus fruit, and all they have are - well, lemons that look like me, who are now really harassed, and want to go home, please. Or at least to the wine aisle.  
11.20am: Smoked salmon, puy lentils, extra virgin olive oil, herbs – tick. Only the wine left. I’m under instructions to buy cheap cooking wine, which I do, but compulsively hide the label under a packet of flat-leaf parsley, as secretly fear that the other Waitrose shoppers will judge me for buying £4.99 own-brand wine. If they haven’t already judged me for manhandling all the lemons.
12.45: With the food safely stashed in the car, I’ve taken the tube to Argos on Whitechapel Road, as we need gas canisters for the shoot. Approaching the shop, I feel smug, as ordered the gas the day before to collect in store. Then I realise, on entering, that the entire store is collect in store, with about thirty people packed into a room the size of a takeaway. It takes me five minutes to work out how the queuing system works (there isn’t one), before I decide to take the plunge and dive towards the counter. Ten minutes later, I’ve jostled my way out, and proudly emerge onto the street with four canisters of camping gas in a box. Which I then realise, with a sinking heart, I have to take back on the tube. Because, of course, everyone wants to travel on the tube next to someone carrying a large box with ‘Danger, Flammable’ emblazoned on the side.
1.30pm: At Sainsbury’s in Islington, looking at the lemons. Again. Another young woman shopper comes over, and starts examining the bags, tutting and putting the less than perfect ones back on the shelf. In my paranoid state, I think I recognise the desperate look in her eyes as that of a fellow food stylist, shopping for her shoot on Monday - and I quickly grab four bags to examine all at once, in case she gets to them first. Lose. At least I’ve got the gas. And it’s quality gas. Unlike the lemons.
2pm: I should explain that I have a pathological fear of all crustaceans, starting from king prawns, all the way up through langoustines and crabs to my biggest fear of all - the live lobster. So I steel myself to go into the fishmongers, where I’ve been instructed to collect the fish for the shoot. Including lobsters. And as soon as I go in, I spot a boxful of them under the counter. Live. Their accusatory eyes swivel towards me. I look away, quickly, and explain that my senior stylist has placed an order. The fishmonger dives into the box under the counter, and starts weighing up the lobsters for me to take home. They feebly scrape their bound claws against the scale. I whisper, nervously, that I thought the lobsters had been ordered cooked, and am shocked to be met with considerable hostility from the fishmonger, who insists they’d been ordered live. I try to explain I don’t have a pot big enough, when the fishmonger moves to about an inch from my face, and shouts that the order had been for live lobsters. Live Lobsters! Live! The lobsters, perhaps sensing conflict, redouble their efforts and wriggle at me imploringly from the weighing scale. I’m about to burst into tears, when a more friendly fishmonger offers to cook them for me in store, no problem. I sniff, and pay the mean fishmonger, and am told to my dismay that they’ll take thirty minutes. My shoulders slump, and I head out to find a cafe to console myself. With my gas. At least I’ve got that. And the lemons.
2.15pm: There’s a free table in the window of a nearby deli. Win. I head inside to the counter, buy an organic sausage roll (this is Islington) and a big cup of tea - and return to the window table to find that it’s now taken. Lose. It’s so windy at my outside table that the lid of my tea blows away within seconds. Too exhausted to chase it, I complain bitterly to my boyfriend on the phone about the excessively shouty fishmonger, and then we have a row, because his first response to my story of woe is to tell me to calm down. This make me more upset. How can he be so insensitive about the imploring eyes of uncooked lobsters and aggressive Islington fishmongers? It starts to rain. I huddle under the awning, and try to finish my sausage roll, while my tea does its best to escape onto Essex Road. I dread returning to the fishmonger, and am completely bemused on my return to find the shouty man transformed into someone who smiles, calls me ‘dear’, and wishes me a good weekend. Just like that. I don’t know what to make of this, and am somewhat cheered up, until the rain decides to turn into a monsoon of epic proportions. I’m left squashed under an archway with twenty other people, twelve feet from the tube. Two minutes close proximity to that many damp people, and I’m ready to make a break for it. Gripping the gas and the lemons, I run. The lobsters jiggle furiously in their bags.

3.30pm: I may be soaked to the skin, but I am on the tube home. I’m fairly certain that people are moving away from me in the carriage, but try to reassure myself that I look more like a harassed, damp, middle-class woman carrying expensive fish, rather than someone up to something dodgy- given that I have seabass fillets as well as flammable gas on one arm, and lobsters steaming gently in their bag on the other. Half an hour later, I slump gratefully in my car, ready for the final leg home, before remembering, with rising terror, that I have a kilo of puy lentils to cook and eight bags of lemons to sift through. Glamorous indeed….

A day in the life: food stylist/professional food shopper

You might think that working as a food stylist sounds glamorous. And it is hugely enjoyable, with the massive buzz you get on set during a big commercial, or working with lovely photographers in beautiful location houses. But one of the biggest – and least glamorous - parts of the job is sourcing ingredients for each shoot, which can mean anything from my favourite one-stop-take-the-car-to-Sainsbury’s, to a mad dash all around London, going to as many shops as it takes to find unusual, out-of-season, or just plain perfect ingredients. Here’s a snapshot of my last big shopping trip….

10.45am: Arrive at Waitrose. I get confused by the lift system in Canary Wharf, and end up in the childrenswear section rather than the food hall. I try not to get overly broody, as am surrounded by tiny dresses, and fail miserably - they’re so small, and cute, and - I finally remember that I am a professional, and should really get to work. I start walking away purposefully, then realise I can’t take my trolley down the escalator. I keep my eyes studiously on the floor as I head back past the tiny baby clothes. With tiny, embroidered strawberries on them. Then I give in – how can I resist the tiny strawberries - and surreptitiously take a photograph to what’s app to my boyfriend. Fail.

10.55am:  Finally, I’m in the food hall. I need four bags of perfect unwaxed lemons for Monday’s photo shoot. Over the next ten minutes, in which I fear that the security guard will arrest me for showing an unhealthy interest in citrus fruit, I pick up every single one of the fifty or so bags of lemons, and examine each one minutely. There is not one bag of perfect lemons, so I start inspecting them again, hoping for decent singles. Ten minutes later, and with a slightly crazed expression, in some sort of Groundhog Day of lemon shopping, I stare, again, at the same bag of lemons, realising that they’re all useless, and potentially deformed, and that Waitrose has, for the first time in my life, let me down. Although, they have kindly refrained from setting a security guard on me. And their lemons are fine, really, for eating, it’s just I need sixteen hyper-really perfect looking, Kate Moss grade citrus fruit, and all they have are - well, lemons that look like me, who are now really harassed, and want to go home, please. Or at least to the wine aisle.  

11.20am: Smoked salmon, puy lentils, extra virgin olive oil, herbs – tick. Only the wine left. I’m under instructions to buy cheap cooking wine, which I do, but compulsively hide the label under a packet of flat-leaf parsley, as secretly fear that the other Waitrose shoppers will judge me for buying £4.99 own-brand wine. If they haven’t already judged me for manhandling all the lemons.

12.45: With the food safely stashed in the car, I’ve taken the tube to Argos on Whitechapel Road, as we need gas canisters for the shoot. Approaching the shop, I feel smug, as ordered the gas the day before to collect in store. Then I realise, on entering, that the entire store is collect in store, with about thirty people packed into a room the size of a takeaway. It takes me five minutes to work out how the queuing system works (there isn’t one), before I decide to take the plunge and dive towards the counter. Ten minutes later, I’ve jostled my way out, and proudly emerge onto the street with four canisters of camping gas in a box. Which I then realise, with a sinking heart, I have to take back on the tube. Because, of course, everyone wants to travel on the tube next to someone carrying a large box with ‘Danger, Flammable’ emblazoned on the side.

1.30pm: At Sainsbury’s in Islington, looking at the lemons. Again. Another young woman shopper comes over, and starts examining the bags, tutting and putting the less than perfect ones back on the shelf. In my paranoid state, I think I recognise the desperate look in her eyes as that of a fellow food stylist, shopping for her shoot on Monday - and I quickly grab four bags to examine all at once, in case she gets to them first. Lose. At least I’ve got the gas. And it’s quality gas. Unlike the lemons.

2pm: I should explain that I have a pathological fear of all crustaceans, starting from king prawns, all the way up through langoustines and crabs to my biggest fear of all - the live lobster. So I steel myself to go into the fishmongers, where I’ve been instructed to collect the fish for the shoot. Including lobsters. And as soon as I go in, I spot a boxful of them under the counter. Live. Their accusatory eyes swivel towards me. I look away, quickly, and explain that my senior stylist has placed an order. The fishmonger dives into the box under the counter, and starts weighing up the lobsters for me to take home. They feebly scrape their bound claws against the scale. I whisper, nervously, that I thought the lobsters had been ordered cooked, and am shocked to be met with considerable hostility from the fishmonger, who insists they’d been ordered live. I try to explain I don’t have a pot big enough, when the fishmonger moves to about an inch from my face, and shouts that the order had been for live lobsters. Live Lobsters! Live! The lobsters, perhaps sensing conflict, redouble their efforts and wriggle at me imploringly from the weighing scale. I’m about to burst into tears, when a more friendly fishmonger offers to cook them for me in store, no problem. I sniff, and pay the mean fishmonger, and am told to my dismay that they’ll take thirty minutes. My shoulders slump, and I head out to find a cafe to console myself. With my gas. At least I’ve got that. And the lemons.

2.15pm: There’s a free table in the window of a nearby deli. Win. I head inside to the counter, buy an organic sausage roll (this is Islington) and a big cup of tea - and return to the window table to find that it’s now taken. Lose. It’s so windy at my outside table that the lid of my tea blows away within seconds. Too exhausted to chase it, I complain bitterly to my boyfriend on the phone about the excessively shouty fishmonger, and then we have a row, because his first response to my story of woe is to tell me to calm down. This make me more upset. How can he be so insensitive about the imploring eyes of uncooked lobsters and aggressive Islington fishmongers? It starts to rain. I huddle under the awning, and try to finish my sausage roll, while my tea does its best to escape onto Essex Road. I dread returning to the fishmonger, and am completely bemused on my return to find the shouty man transformed into someone who smiles, calls me ‘dear’, and wishes me a good weekend. Just like that. I don’t know what to make of this, and am somewhat cheered up, until the rain decides to turn into a monsoon of epic proportions. I’m left squashed under an archway with twenty other people, twelve feet from the tube. Two minutes close proximity to that many damp people, and I’m ready to make a break for it. Gripping the gas and the lemons, I run. The lobsters jiggle furiously in their bags.

3.30pm: I may be soaked to the skin, but I am on the tube home. I’m fairly certain that people are moving away from me in the carriage, but try to reassure myself that I look more like a harassed, damp, middle-class woman carrying expensive fish, rather than someone up to something dodgy- given that I have seabass fillets as well as flammable gas on one arm, and lobsters steaming gently in their bag on the other. Half an hour later, I slump gratefully in my car, ready for the final leg home, before remembering, with rising terror, that I have a kilo of puy lentils to cook and eight bags of lemons to sift through. Glamorous indeed….

35 notes
Chorizo Coquilles St Jaques
I must admit here to a rather shocking culinary confession; I don’t care for scallops. Never really liked the texture, or the taste, though I must admit to a childish partiality for their shells, which I insist that people keep and give to me, so that I can wash and hoard them for future use. Contrary, I know. But my fiancé loves scallops, so occasionally, I do try to come up with dishes in the hope that I might eventually like one of them.
And this is the dish. The scallops get a spicy paprika kick from the chorizo, with added crunch from the parsley panko crumb. Instead of the flour heavy roux you usually get with coquilles st jaques, here I’ve lightened and freshened the sauce, with an intense lemony chorizo reduction. This is perfect for dinner a deux, or if you have lots of mini scallop shells, as a party canapé. 
This serves two as a main, or four as a starter. Chop 100g good quality cooking chorizo into small chunks, and saute them in a little oil until cooked through. Pour in 80ml white wine and let it bubble for a moment or two until you can’t smell the alcohol anymore, then add 1 bay leaf, 8 scallops, and 1/4 stick celery. Pop the lid on and let the scallops simmer for 1-2 minutes, before tipping the contents of the saucepan into a sieve set over a bowl. Discard the celery stick and bay leaf, and leave the scallops and chorizo in the sieve while you get on with the sauce. Return the cooking liquid from the bowl into the saucepan, then reduce it down by half on a high heat, tasting as you go - you want a nice, concentrated flavour. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to taste, reduce the heat to a simmer then stir in 80ml single cream and 40g cold, cubed butter, a couple of chunks at a time until they’ve all melted. Check for seasoning, then halve the scallops and arrange them with the chorizo among your scallop shells (a shallow casserole dish is fine if you don’t have any shells). Top with a generous sprinkling of panko breadcrumbs and flat leaf parsley, and flash under a hot grill to brown the breadcrumbs. You can make these up in advance and grill them just before you want to eat them. Good with lots of crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

Chorizo Coquilles St Jaques

I must admit here to a rather shocking culinary confession; I don’t care for scallops. Never really liked the texture, or the taste, though I must admit to a childish partiality for their shells, which I insist that people keep and give to me, so that I can wash and hoard them for future use. Contrary, I know. But my fiancé loves scallops, so occasionally, I do try to come up with dishes in the hope that I might eventually like one of them.

And this is the dish. The scallops get a spicy paprika kick from the chorizo, with added crunch from the parsley panko crumb. Instead of the flour heavy roux you usually get with coquilles st jaques, here I’ve lightened and freshened the sauce, with an intense lemony chorizo reduction. This is perfect for dinner a deux, or if you have lots of mini scallop shells, as a party canapé.

This serves two as a main, or four as a starter. Chop 100g good quality cooking chorizo into small chunks, and saute them in a little oil until cooked through. Pour in 80ml white wine and let it bubble for a moment or two until you can’t smell the alcohol anymore, then add 1 bay leaf, 8 scallops, and 1/4 stick celery. Pop the lid on and let the scallops simmer for 1-2 minutes, before tipping the contents of the saucepan into a sieve set over a bowl. Discard the celery stick and bay leaf, and leave the scallops and chorizo in the sieve while you get on with the sauce. Return the cooking liquid from the bowl into the saucepan, then reduce it down by half on a high heat, tasting as you go - you want a nice, concentrated flavour. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to taste, reduce the heat to a simmer then stir in 80ml single cream and 40g cold, cubed butter, a couple of chunks at a time until they’ve all melted. Check for seasoning, then halve the scallops and arrange them with the chorizo among your scallop shells (a shallow casserole dish is fine if you don’t have any shells). Top with a generous sprinkling of panko breadcrumbs and flat leaf parsley, and flash under a hot grill to brown the breadcrumbs. You can make these up in advance and grill them just before you want to eat them. Good with lots of crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

90 notes
Paris When It Sizzles
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of cooking in Paris is this. You’re ambling down the street, marvelling at the number of florist shops, and then suddenly, you stop. There’s the most delicious scent - hot, savoury, tantalisingly close to but not quite burnt - coming from - where? You must find the source of that smell! Then you hear a loud hiss, and a splutter, and you quickly follow your nose and start walking towards the source of the sizzling. You’re metres away from a large, fridge-sized silver box, and approach it warily. Then you reach the front of the box and suddenly realise - it’s not a fridge. It’s a machine that roasts chickens - on a spit! And, as if that wasn’t exciting enough, underneath the plump, serenely rotating chickens, there’s a large tray of potatoes, roasting in the fat dripping off the chickens! You shake your head in disbelief. Those Parisians, you think. With their endless florist shops, their savoir faire and now chicken fat potatoes. So you go into the shop and order a moderate sized bucket to try. And as the chicken fat man hasn’t given you a little wooden fork, like they would in a good British chip shop, you take the potatoes to your apartment around the corner, and take a bite. And breathe a sigh of relief. Because, delicious as they are, they are not a patch on Delia’s roast potatoes, that you have an annual Christmas battle with your Mum over, that are as perfectly crunchy as glass on the outside and as fluffy as mash within. And I’ll admit that’s whether they’re made with oil, as Mum and Delia prefer, or butter, which as you know, I’m partial to.
So with my faith in British food restored, for my special dish cooked in Paris, I would do this. From the local butcher - who does have lovely meat, even if he doesn’t have any little forks - I would buy a beautiful corn fed Bresse chicken. From the food market around the corner, I would pick up an armful of plump fennel, baby globe artichokes, curly frisée lettuce, sunshiny lemons and rosemary – and, of course, a small bag of potatoes. Good Normandy butter and crème fraiche from the cheese shop. Back in our tiny, rooftop apartment, I’d push slivers of the butter under the skin of the chicken, pop half a lemon and some rosemary inside, drizzle it with olive oil and sea salt, and stick it in the oven to roast. The potatoes, I’d par boil, drain, shake violently to rough up the edges, leave to steam, then roast in hot butter and oil with plenty of sea salt. For the salad – well, at this point, I’d send my boyfriend out to buy more wine, so that I could endure the herculean task that is preparing artichokes by myself, and clear up the mess, and put some plasters on my cut fingers before he gets back. Restored by a good sip of wine, I’d thinly shave the raw artichoke and fennel with my speed peeler, and immediately dunk them into lemony iced water (acidulated water in the trade, but, essentially, it’s lemony). Then just before serving, I’d tear up the frisée and toss it with the drained artichoke and fennel slivers in a – you guessed it – lemony, peppery dressing. Once the chicken’s cooked and rested, I’d make a quick gravy from the pan juices, bubbled with white wine and finished with a swirl of crème fraiche – and we’re ready to eat. 
Roast chicken, roast potatoes and green salad – a British classic, made with the best ingredients that Paris can offer. Parfait, non?

Paris When It Sizzles

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of cooking in Paris is this. You’re ambling down the street, marvelling at the number of florist shops, and then suddenly, you stop. There’s the most delicious scent - hot, savoury, tantalisingly close to but not quite burnt - coming from - where? You must find the source of that smell! Then you hear a loud hiss, and a splutter, and you quickly follow your nose and start walking towards the source of the sizzling. You’re metres away from a large, fridge-sized silver box, and approach it warily. Then you reach the front of the box and suddenly realise - it’s not a fridge. It’s a machine that roasts chickens - on a spit! And, as if that wasn’t exciting enough, underneath the plump, serenely rotating chickens, there’s a large tray of potatoes, roasting in the fat dripping off the chickens! You shake your head in disbelief. Those Parisians, you think. With their endless florist shops, their savoir faire and now chicken fat potatoes. So you go into the shop and order a moderate sized bucket to try. And as the chicken fat man hasn’t given you a little wooden fork, like they would in a good British chip shop, you take the potatoes to your apartment around the corner, and take a bite. And breathe a sigh of relief. Because, delicious as they are, they are not a patch on Delia’s roast potatoes, that you have an annual Christmas battle with your Mum over, that are as perfectly crunchy as glass on the outside and as fluffy as mash within. And I’ll admit that’s whether they’re made with oil, as Mum and Delia prefer, or butter, which as you know, I’m partial to.

So with my faith in British food restored, for my special dish cooked in Paris, I would do this. From the local butcher - who does have lovely meat, even if he doesn’t have any little forks - I would buy a beautiful corn fed Bresse chicken. From the food market around the corner, I would pick up an armful of plump fennel, baby globe artichokes, curly frisée lettuce, sunshiny lemons and rosemary – and, of course, a small bag of potatoes. Good Normandy butter and crème fraiche from the cheese shop. Back in our tiny, rooftop apartment, I’d push slivers of the butter under the skin of the chicken, pop half a lemon and some rosemary inside, drizzle it with olive oil and sea salt, and stick it in the oven to roast. The potatoes, I’d par boil, drain, shake violently to rough up the edges, leave to steam, then roast in hot butter and oil with plenty of sea salt. For the salad – well, at this point, I’d send my boyfriend out to buy more wine, so that I could endure the herculean task that is preparing artichokes by myself, and clear up the mess, and put some plasters on my cut fingers before he gets back. Restored by a good sip of wine, I’d thinly shave the raw artichoke and fennel with my speed peeler, and immediately dunk them into lemony iced water (acidulated water in the trade, but, essentially, it’s lemony). Then just before serving, I’d tear up the frisée and toss it with the drained artichoke and fennel slivers in a – you guessed it – lemony, peppery dressing. Once the chicken’s cooked and rested, I’d make a quick gravy from the pan juices, bubbled with white wine and finished with a swirl of crème fraiche – and we’re ready to eat.

Roast chicken, roast potatoes and green salad – a British classic, made with the best ingredients that Paris can offer. Parfait, non?

26 notes

Spinney’s FOOD Magazine Vegetarian Feast Feature

Food Photography: Simon Brown

Food Styling: Rukmini Iyer

I was absolutely delighted to feature a vegetarian feast menu in the latest edition of the Dubai based Spinney’s Food magazine. Some of my favourite photographs from the shoot above; you can see all the others in my portfolio at www.rukmini-iyer.com

110 notes

Swedish Cardamom & Cinnamon Buns

These pillowy, soft, cardamom and cinnamon laced buns are possibly my favourite thing to bake, and eat - and bake for other people to eat, come to think of it.  I could rhapsodise about how wonderful they taste, and how good they make your kitchen smell while they bake, but I think they speak for themselves - try them once and you’ll see. This week they were a bit of a celebratory bake too, as I wanted to create a post to say thank you to Tumblr for featuring my blog in the ‘Trending Blogs’ section of the site over the past few days - I’m really honoured to be featured, and figured nothing says thank you like a nice bit of baking.

I’ve used lots of different recipes for these buns over the years, but this latest version yields, in my opinion, the fluffiest buns for minimum effort. Double up the quantities if you’ve got freezer space, because they defrost beautifully for the sort of rainy day when you need a bun, and don’t have the ingredients or inclination to make them.

In a large mixing bowl, weigh out 500g flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 75g sugar, and 3 and a half teaspoons of dried fast action yeast. Remove the seeds from 6 cardamom pods, and grind them finely in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Add the ground spice to 240ml milk and 75g butter in a small saucepan, and heat through until the butter has melted. Let the milk and butter mixture cool down to tepid, then whisk in one egg. Add the egg, milk and butter mixture to the dry ingredients and mix together thoroughly to form a wet dough. Work it in the bowl with your hands until it comes together, then knead it briefly on a surface for 3-4 minutes, without adding any extra flour. (The dough will come together smoothly, and quite quickly - you don’t want to over-knead, as you’ll be rolling it out thinly later and if the dough’s too elastic, you’ll find this tricky. That’s also why, proportionately, there’s less yeast in this recipe than you might expect for the amount of flour.) 

Pop the kneaded dough back into the bowl, cover it with clingfilm, and leave it in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 hours. Five minutes before the dough’s ready, preheat your oven to 220C, and make the filling by beating 75g softened butter with 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 30g dark brown sugar. Punch down the dough, roll it out into a thin rectangle measuring 50cm by 30cm, and spread the cinnamon butter mixture all over, leaving a small margin around the edges.

For the shaping part, I’ve made you a handy infographic which you can view here on my recipe page, which is much easier than looking at written instructions. Once you get to stage 6, fold the twisted ends in on themselves, almost but not quite in a knot shape as in the photographs above, and pop them onto a baking sheet, well spaced out. Leave them to prove for 35-40 minutes, before baking them on the middle shelf of your oven for 12-14 minutes. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool a bit, and eat warm. Not that you need me to tell you that.

195 notes
Pork cheek, armagnac prune and leek broth
It feels like the right time of year to move away from heavy casseroles to light, herby spring broths. I used pork cheeks here for the first time - they’re not only incredibly good value for money, but possibly the tastiest, meltiest cut of pork too. And as I had a box of Armagnac prunes about (born of my compulsive need to buy anything in the Sainsbury’s baking aisle labelled ‘Taste the Difference’- it’s a problem) I decided to pop them in too, remembering that they’re a classic French flavour combination with pork, and understandably so. Flavour the broth with whatever fresh herbs you have to hand, and serve it with a good dollop of strong Dijon mustard and - if you’re me - a cold glass of sauvignon blanc.
Preheat your oven to 150C. In a large casserole dish, soften a roughly chopped onion in butter for five to ten minutes, before adding two sliced cloves of garlic, a grated carrot and a sliced stick of celery. Stir and soften for a further ten minutes. Meanwhile in a large frying pan, brown eight pork cheeks (around 550g) in two batches. You want them well browned on each side, not to seal the meat, but to add lots of lovely caramelised flavour to the dish. Once you’ve browned all the pork cheeks, set them aside on a plate, and deglaze the pan by throwing in half a large sliced leek along with a knob of butter. Leave the leeks to soften for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once they’re soft, throw in 125ml white wine, and let it bubble down until you can’t smell the alcohol anymore. 
Tip the leeks, wine and pork cheeks into the casserole dish with the vegetables, and tuck in 150g armagnac prunes around the meat along with your fresh herbs. Pour over 450ml good quality chicken stock, bring it to a simmer on the hob, then transfer it to the oven to cook for 1 1/2 hours. Half an hour before the casserole is ready, slice the other half of the leek, a carrot and a stick of celery into 1/2 cm pieces, and tip them into the casserole dish to cook with the pork for the final 25 minutes, so you’ll get a lovely textural contrast between the melting pork and crisp vegetables. After an hour and a half, remove the casserole dish from the oven, prod the pork to check that it’s completely tender (it should threaten to fall apart), and taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with a good grind of black pepper and smooth Dijon mustard. The broth is rich and filling enough that you don’t really need much to go with it, but buttery mashed potatoes or a nice crusty baguette wouldn’t go amiss. 

Pork cheek, armagnac prune and leek broth

It feels like the right time of year to move away from heavy casseroles to light, herby spring broths. I used pork cheeks here for the first time - they’re not only incredibly good value for money, but possibly the tastiest, meltiest cut of pork too. And as I had a box of Armagnac prunes about (born of my compulsive need to buy anything in the Sainsbury’s baking aisle labelled ‘Taste the Difference’- it’s a problem) I decided to pop them in too, remembering that they’re a classic French flavour combination with pork, and understandably so. Flavour the broth with whatever fresh herbs you have to hand, and serve it with a good dollop of strong Dijon mustard and - if you’re me - a cold glass of sauvignon blanc.

Preheat your oven to 150C. In a large casserole dish, soften a roughly chopped onion in butter for five to ten minutes, before adding two sliced cloves of garlic, a grated carrot and a sliced stick of celery. Stir and soften for a further ten minutes. Meanwhile in a large frying pan, brown eight pork cheeks (around 550g) in two batches. You want them well browned on each side, not to seal the meat, but to add lots of lovely caramelised flavour to the dish. Once you’ve browned all the pork cheeks, set them aside on a plate, and deglaze the pan by throwing in half a large sliced leek along with a knob of butter. Leave the leeks to soften for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once they’re soft, throw in 125ml white wine, and let it bubble down until you can’t smell the alcohol anymore. 

Tip the leeks, wine and pork cheeks into the casserole dish with the vegetables, and tuck in 150g armagnac prunes around the meat along with your fresh herbs. Pour over 450ml good quality chicken stock, bring it to a simmer on the hob, then transfer it to the oven to cook for 1 1/2 hours. Half an hour before the casserole is ready, slice the other half of the leek, a carrot and a stick of celery into 1/2 cm pieces, and tip them into the casserole dish to cook with the pork for the final 25 minutes, so you’ll get a lovely textural contrast between the melting pork and crisp vegetables. After an hour and a half, remove the casserole dish from the oven, prod the pork to check that it’s completely tender (it should threaten to fall apart), and taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with a good grind of black pepper and smooth Dijon mustard. The broth is rich and filling enough that you don’t really need much to go with it, but buttery mashed potatoes or a nice crusty baguette wouldn’t go amiss. 

63 notes