Thursday, March 19, 2009


I've been making marmelade! I can't work out yet how (if possible) I can just copy a post at my new blog over here, so I'll just post the link to there for now -

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


So, I stopped blogging here a while back, as I suddenly realised I could let myself just let it go. For pretty much the whole past year I kept hoping I would suddenly hit my stride and get as good and consistent as I hoped to be. But it turned out to be more like this: I'd plan posts then make made-up dishes that didn't quite work and then feel disappointed, I'd keep writing lists of what I wanted to make and blog and never quite find the time to do it. I'd take a load of pictures in a restaurant when I wanted to just be eating and then never get round to writing about it. I constantly felt like I should be better at this and doing more...

I don't have that much access to the internet and I don't have that much time to cook at the moment. I also realised I feel more pleased if I can just make some kind of dinner every night and it is enjoyable and uses up what needs to be used up, rather than attempting experimental or ambitious things that require one-off purchases and too much washing up...

So, at some point, I thought: I don't have to keep holding this over me like something I have to do - I can take a break.

Which is what I'm doing.

UPDATE 16th March - The blogging urge is too strong! I have started up a new blog on a bit of a tangent. There'll still be some food involved, but also some craftiness and a little about trying to live less wastefully and more resourcefully. When I do food-related posts I will cross post here so LS will keep going albeit slowly! Please do come over and see me in my new home!

And thank you, as always, for reading x

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You're a star, eurostar

Not a lot of cooking going down recently (or succesful cooking anyway), so I thought I'd share some high-speed cross-channel catering knowledge instead. I took this photo ages ago, on my first fancy class trip over to Brussels. I was so excited. I am normally excited where free champagne is involved (not technically 'free' I guess, but free enough). But the food was pretty cool too, so I took a picture to document it. After the very decent smoked salmon and bread roll, I got a tasty risotto for the vegetarian option, followed by not only that yummy shiny chocolate thing up there, but also the cheese with its cute little cube of manchego, and-and-and... coffee and a crunchy little biscuit thing. So I arrived at Brussels sated and happy and slightly light-headed...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Pintxo, pintxo!

(pron. 'pincho, pincho!')

So, Papa Saucepan was planning a gathering in the garden. There was a significant number hovering in the air, and it seemed some kind of celebratory shindig was due. We - the younger saucepan and I - proffered our catering services of course, were duly taken up on the offer and it went to work on a Spanish kind of theme. I forget what it was now, but there was something to eat up - chorizo, olives, or somesuch Iberian delicacy. And besides, PS had a string of Spanish flags, proclaiming 'Wines of Spain', which we could use to deck the trees (this is the kind of aesthetic the Saucepan household tends to go for). No idea where that came from - did PS sneakily remove it at a wine trade fair? Was he offered it as a prize? Or was it left over from working in the wine shop, 20-odd years ago? I never found out...
Anyhow, somehow I got onto pintxos. I think I had been searching tapas, and pintxos popped up, and as soon as I discovered that they are pronounced 'pinch-ose' I set my heart upon them. I honestly can't think of a more euphoniously named food right at this moment.
Using the marvellous food blog search I sourced inspiration; largely from the dough ball, who had done a magnificent job documenting her pintxo and non-pintxo culinary adventures in San Sebastian (a place very high up on my must-visit list). Essentially these are just little open sandwiches, and you can let your imagination run riot with what to place on top.
Incredibly enough, I was organised enough to do not one but two test runs for my pintxo performance. The first was fun but kind of unimpressive. By the second however, my ideas were sleeker and bolder and more refined, and if I say so myself, pretty damn good.
I did happen to be in Madrid the next weekend after and ended up in a bar where there were some pintxo-style things sitting in front of us on the bar as we supped coffee waiting for lunch to start being served. And it dawned on me that the whole idea of these little Spanish canapes was advance preparation, easy serving. We, however, had fun rushing in and out of the kitchen every half hour to freshly prepare another batch. Now I think about it, most could be served cold, so all that running around is not really necessary.
Anyway, enough babbling, let me introduce you to each little specimen. In a slightly off-on-a-tangent twist, I decided to pair them with shoes, like we're on a little fashion catwalk. There's something about them all being so pretty and different lined up together that reminded me of a shoe shop, and with exams coming up soon and how I promised myself if I passed my ACA I would be allowed an extravagantly pretty pair of shoes, somehow the two ideas got all mixed up in my mind...

So, number 1, the courgette and grape combo.

Accompanied by some equally light, playful and refreshing Chie Mihara flats, this one is made of ribbons of courgette, lightly sauteed in olive oil with a heap of lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice, and topped with toasted pine nuts and grapes roasted in pomegranate molasses (about 40 mins in a medium hot oven). Yay, I finally got to try roasted grapes after being intrigued about them ever since Claudia cook-eat-fret posted about this peculiar idea. They're delicious. And an excellently sweet and rich match for the light and lemony courgette.

Onto number 2, the beef and mushroom

A more classic combo, this is just thin slices of medium-rare beef steak, tossed with fried wild mushrooms, which have had a glug of red wine or sherry reduced in them. We topped it off second time round with some chopped flat leaf parsley which really added something. The shoe is likewise both classic and sexy, (albeit a little more technically proficient than my basically-an-open-steak-sandwich!) - a beautifully sculptural Nicholas Kirkwood.

Number 3, tuna and red onions
Seared tuna steak slice atop caramelised red onion (1 red onion fried off til soft in olive oil, 1tsp muscovado sugar and 1tsp balsamic vinegar added, and cooked down til dark and rich) and lovely piquant little capers. Equally elegant, smooth but spiky is this lovely Reiss patent indigo number

and, numero quatro... bold, possibly a teensy bit ugly, but bright and bam! full of flavour.

That's homemade tapenade (just a load of Crespo's dried black pitted olives whizzed up with a food processor), topped with slow roasted cherry tomatoes (an hour in a low-medium oven with just olive oil, salt and pepper), and lightly steamed green beans. It is not quite so pretty, a little messy and ott looking you might even say, but velvety deep in the roasted toms, spiky with saltiness, and very tasty. And another Chie Mihara to match...

So, introducing the Morcilla pintxo...

A lovely rich slice of roasted piquillo pepper - char it under a grill or on a hob flame until blistered, cover in cling film til cool, and peel off all that pesky burnt skin - topped with a delicious soft and smooth butterbean salad (butterbeans, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, paprika), and a couple of slices of fried black pudding (which I'm calling morcilla, as 'black pudding' doesn't have quite the same Iberican ring to it). Scrumptious. And that, is a wedge heel from The Jacksons of Notting Hill - velvety and smooth with lots of contrast and rich colours too.

And... last, but certainly not least:
A slice of ripe beef or plum tomato. A couple of sprigs of rocket. A slice of juicy, fragrant mango. Three quickly fried fat chilli and lime marinaded prawns. A sprinkling of pepper. Vibrant and exotic and just lovely. Nicholas Kirkwood again on the right. That's not a shoe; that's a work of art.

Ok, I've spent far too long writing this post, and I am feeling like some kind of bizarre sommelier from some peculiar world where instead of suggesting a pleasant Riesling or fruity Burgundy to accompany Madam's excellent choice, I proffer instead various items of accompanying footwear...

I should get back to work.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I'm still here!

Another post-free month has sailed past and I'm hanging my head in bloggerly shame. I do have a few little things lined up to post when I get the time (exams are looming once again!) but mostly have just been eating ready-made soup and lots of Spanish ham.

Anyway, divert yourselves for now with this gem of a blog devoted entirely to cakes gone wrong. Awesome.

And I will be back soon - I promise...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Holiday breakfast

Pancakes are one of those things that if I thought about for a minute I would probably consider a peculiar weakness - just a load of flour eggs and milk, hardly very gastronomically exciting; and all that time standing in front of the stove, waiting for each to firm up and brown, before the next one can have its time in the pan, and then finally getting to eat them half an hour later, their meek flavours are drowned out in sharp lemon juice and liberal snow showers of sugar and a couple of seconds later they sit stodgily in the belly...

But their time-consuming nature contributes to their appeal. Because when else do you have the time to mix up batter and stand there idly daydreaming and singing along to Broken Social Scene as you fry each little flat and floury fellow and pop him in the oven to keep warm for later? On holidays, on weekends, on those glorious days of No Work and Nothing More Important To Do Than Breakfast for HOURS!

I'm off work this week. Holidaying in the lovely north London environs which I live in. I've been perusing books in the library, crocheting on the hill, watching Scrubs and making oatmeal pancakes. Apart from the distinct lack of any weather that could remotely call itself summery, it's been lovely.

I chose these oatmeal pancakes, rather than my usual 'recipe' (eye-estimated amounts of plain flour, milk and 1 egg) because they struck me as a little more meaty and substantial, more worthy somehow. And there is somehow something about that name 'Oatmeal Pancakes' which transmits ideas of homeliness, of rusticity, of heartiness and fun to me.

The recipe is adapted from a much-loved copy of 'Recipes for a Small Planet' that I picked up in a second hand book shop a while back. It follows Frances Moore Lappe's 'Diet for a Small Planet', which espouses a non-meat but protein rich diet in response to global famine and the wasteful practice of fattening up animals before ourselves (see for a much better explanation that this and more current writings from Lappe and Lappe junior). I don't use the book much - rather I like to delight in its enthusiasm and lovely old-school line drawings, and to marvel at the amount of milk, cheese and eggs which can be edged into pretty much any meal you care to think of.

The pancakes worked well. They're thick but not stodgy and the oats give you something to chew on. I covered them in combinations of honey, yoghurt, banana, lemon juice, sugar and jam. Messy and delicious.

Oatmeal Pancakes (adapted from Ellen Buchman Ewald's Recipes for a Small Planet)
(makes enough for 3-4 people)

1 cup wholewheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tsp oil
1 tsp honey
1 1/2 cups milk

1. Mix dry ingredients well

2. Stir in wet ingredients until all well combined

3. Fry on a hot pan (I used a little butter and/or oil to do mine) until brown on both sides.

Monday, July 21, 2008

beautiful on the inside

Mmmmm mmmmm - open wide for a mouthful of mud and snow covered in little white worms! Or at least, that is what my lovely pie has ended up looking like in this picture. It's not the most glamourous of gastronomical spoonfuls, in any sense.

But to hell with glamour. As the newscasters shower us with ever more scary statistics and shadowy harbingers of impending economic doom, and the frequency with which we converse about energy bills and the price of a loaf of bread multiplies exponentially, there is a place for a little humble pie. Simple - yes, ugly - maybe so. But tasty, comforting, cheap and easy too...

I've told you before of my love for lentils, I'm sure. And may have even mentioned how smitten I am with sweet spring cabbage... So, whilst for most people the idea of the two together may engender merely mild disgust, or even sniggers at the supposed flatulent effects of these two fibrous heavyweights, I am licking my lips with glee.
This is then, a fairly basic little recipe. It's nothing particularly new or clever, but with a little seasoning trickery and some rich luxurious dairy products sneaked in, it's really much more delicious and satisfying than you might imagine of a lentil and cabbage pie...
Saucepan-Style Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
(Serves about 4)
* Chop an onion, a couple of sticks of celery and a carrot in to small dice
* In a heavy over-proof cocotte (if you have one - otherwise use a normal saucepan and transfer to oven dish later) heat a little olive oil over a low flame, and cook the diced veg, stirring frequently until softened
* Add in half a cup of lentilles vertes, a couple of bay leafs, a finely chopped clove (or two) of garlic, and stir until the lentils are coated in oil.
* Add a good squirt of tomato puree and mix in
* Top up with a couple of cups of stock, bring to the boil and lower to a simmer (stir every couple of minutes and top up with water/stock if it looks like getting dry)
* Meanwhile, cube about 6-8 small potatoes (3-4 larger ones), peeled if you like (though I rarely bother) and cook in salted boiling water.
* After about 15-20 minutes, your potatoes should be done, and your lentils will just want another 10 minutes or so. At this point, drain the potatoes and add half a pointed (spring) cabbage, finely shredded, to the vegetable pot. Add also a can of chopped tomatoes.
* Mash potatoes with a generous knob of butter and a splash of cream (or milk if you don't have cream) and maybe a little parmesan, or any other hard cheese of your choosing.
* Once the lentils are almost cooked, and the cabbage wilted down, mix around, adjust seasoning for taste, and then top with the mashed potato (transfer first to an overproof dish if your saucepan isn't ovenproof)
* Pop in an oven preheated to 200C and cook for 20-30 minutes until browned on top.
* Serve.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

oh for some breeze and a biscotto!

I don't know if you've read that book by Joshua Ferris - half my fellow tube-travellers seem to have their noses buried in it so maybe you have. 'And Then We Came To The End', it's called, and it's set in a modern-day workplace. The workers are 'creative types', as opposed to the accounting types that surround me here, but there were some gems of workplace observations that I think will wring a wry smile of identification from most any of us who spend our days under humming fluorescent lights, wrestling with supposedly ergonomic chairs, staring into the glare of our screens. One phenomenon well known to anyone of the office-worker clan is those fluctuations in the passage of time. How the morning, punctuated by coffee breaks and cemented together with email updating can fly by, but then the afternoon can leave you dazed, beleaguered, emerging into the outside world, feeling a time-space continuum must have been breached and surely a decade has passed by...

Oh, sometimes - like now - time drags. And eyelids droop and minds melt, and thoughts turn to the joy of being free...

Like last bank holiday - (praise be for the 3-day weekend!) - when I walked up to Hampstead Heath, and I could curl up in the grass, and feel the wind playfully muss up my hair as I lost myself in a book and watched the city from through the grass.

And then I went home and made biscotti. And they were so incredibly easy. I love things that turn out good but take so little effort. Perfect! I thought, for impressing people who come round for dinner. For a simple dessert - a little vin santo dribbled over some good vanilla ice cream, biscotti on the side. Or just a good little nibble to go with the coffee.
Or, you know, they can always just sit there in a tupperware box on the counter, and I'll eat one when I get home from work, or as a little 'breakfast dessert' after my toast and cereal, or take them to work for my morning tea break etc. etc.
I just finished the last one, 5 weeks later, so that's what I'm thinking of now, lying in the grass on the heath, or having a slow cup of milky coffee in the sun, a zesty, nutty little biscotti for dunking and crunching alongside
Unfortunately, I don't have the recipe I used right here... but hold on and I'll post it as soon as possible, so watch this space.

And now, there are 38 minutes til hometime. I've expertly wasted a good chunk of afternoon work time so I had better do something before I escape into the lovely warm summer's evening...

Update - I've finally got internet access and the recipe together at the same time!

Biscotti (adapted from Leith's cookery bible)

Mix in a bowl: 200g plain flour; a pinch of salt; 1/2 tsp of baking powder; 40g ground almonds; 75 g sugar; 75g chopped or flaked almonds.

Make a well in the centre and add two lightly beaten eggs. Gradually incorporate dry ingredients to make a firm dough.

Roll the dough into a long sausage shape about 2 cm in diameter. Slice into two or three sausages so that they fit on a baking tray.

Place the rolls at least 5 cm apart on the baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven (190C/350F/gas 5) for 20 minutes.

Remove the rolls from the oven nd turn the temperature down to 80C/175F/gas 1/4

Cut the rolls at a 45-degree angle into 1cm slices and place on the baking sheet. Bake for a further hour, turning the biscuits over after 30 minutes. Leave on a wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Squash and walnut risotto

Just a note on a new favourite risotto combination:

Sweetly squashy sweet squash
Tart chewy sundried tomatoes, wrinkled lipstick red
Crunchy little brain-like walnuts
Thyme, just a few leaves like light snow in spring
And parmesan, of course, dear parmesan.

Mmmmmmmmm mmmmmm

(ps - for risotto instructions and quantities see this post - cut out the lemon and fennel, and add the tomatoes near the start of cooking, the squash and walnuts right at the end. Squash should have been roasted in a medium-hot oven in olive oil for about 30-40 mins until soft and brown-edged. Walnuts - just break them up a little and chuck them in. )

Update - In response to a request I am amending my lazy ways, and putting a whole recipe here!

Skin a butternut squash and cut into chunky dice (about 1" across). Coat in oil and roast in a preheated medium-hot oven until soft (about 30-40 mins)
Meanwhile, fry off a finely diced onion in a generous slug of olive oil over a low heat.
Once soft, add a handful of chopped sundried tomatoes and about 400g/14oz arborio rice, and stir until all the rice is coated with oil.
Tip in a small glass of white wine and stir in.
Cover with a generous amount of vegetable stock, bring to a simmer and put the lid on. Stir every 5 minutes or so for the next 30-40 minutes, making sure the rice doesn't stick to the bottom, and adding more stock or hot water as required by the rice (I never bother with the one spoon at a time method - it's ever so time-consuming and I'm not sure it makes that much difference - do try not to forget your risotto tho - it will burn!)
When the rice is cooked to your taste, stir in a little butter and parmesan for extra creaminess (optional), then add the squash and a couple of handfuls of chopped walnuts, stir lightly to mix through
Serve scattered with chopped thyme and parmesan shavings

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Simple things

My mother told us once how one of the most memorable meals she had consisted of a boiled potato, a boiled carrot and a boiled onion. There was possibly another vegetable, maybe even some white sauce, but that was the gist of it. Each thing just tasted of itself and that was perfect and exciting just how it was.

Of course, we mocked. A boiled onion! A boiled potato! But, oh, how I know now - sometimes a simple boiled potato - smooth, fresh, nutty - can be truly a thing of beauty.

Recently this is the kind of thing I've been hankering for in the evenings. No complicated melange of unusual items and techniques and flavourings, just a few unadulterated lovely ingredients.

How can you go wrong with some good parma ham and a plate of ripe melon?

And the other day I delighted myself by using the leaves off the beetroots that would often I suppose get thrown away. Certainly I've never cooked with them before. Wilted quickly in a little butter and served on toasted home made bread with a squeeze of lemon juice and a poached egg, they made a really enjoyable supper. It's so much more satisfying to make something easy and pleasing out of some odds and ends hanging around than to spend too much time and money to churn out something slightly disappointing.

And then, we had the meal at the top of this post recently, which finally gives me some kind of recipe to post. With asparagus starting to appear all over the place my mind drifted to homemade mayonnaise. I'd made it once before in an electric food mixer, and really wasn't that impressed, but I had a little time to kill and thought I'd give it another go.

So, I'd like to report that if, like me, you thought you needed a mixer to make mayonnaise, you can consider yourself corrected - a wooden spoon and plenty of elbow grease is all it takes.

And it's good. Very very rich, but a plate of fresh olive oil and lemon juice dressed asparagus, those lovely boiled potatoes and a dollop of silky, sharp mayonnaise is really quite, simply, superb.

Homemade mayonnaise
  1. Beat one egg yolk and a pinch of salt in a bowl with a wooden spoon
  2. Add 75ml oil (olive or half olive and sunflower as I used to make it less strong flavoured) DROP by DROP, beating all the time. The mixture will get very thick.
  3. Beat in a squeeze of lemon juice
  4. Add another 75ml oil - this time you don't need to be quite as careful but still pour in little bits. Alternate the oil with small quantities of white wine vinegar (about a dessertspoon in total).
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.