It has been an age since my last post, I am well aware. However, this is not without good reason. And in this instance that reason takes the unmistakable shape of a house. After five years of living in our beloved East London flat, we upped sticks to the sticks…. well, South East London.
Our little corner south of the river is blissfully quiet – we may even be among the youngest residents on our little street. We’ve been getting used to more space, bright light streaming in from all sides, a kitchen with potential, having a garden and… a leaky roof, windows that need replacing, ceilings that need to come down, a wasp problem, the cold and treacherous floors.
This is all, of course, before I get on to the plastering that needs doing, the bathrooms that look like a cross between a sauna and ship cabin (wood on the floors, walls and ceilings?!) and that kitchen… my kitchen of dreams is some distance away. And that distance covers some major building work tearing bits down and building other bits out and up.
Don’t get me wrong, these are definitely good problems to have. These are my diamond shoes are too small problems to have. However, they are undoubtedly time consuming, particularly as we have never done anything like this before. Making decisions takes research and becoming fluent in builder-banter takes some practice.
Moving to a brand new area is also always a bit scary, not least because I had a well-established links to our old neighbourhood – friends around the corner, suppliers I had made friends with (essential in my line of work) and well trodden cycle routes into town, to choir rehearsals, to appointments.
So we’re starting from scratch, with the house and with the location and I think the key is to be patient. It took years before East London truly felt like home and I expect our new area will take time too, not least because it is possibly a more mature move than we were anticipating. Perhaps we’ll grow into it?
There are still a number of boxes that will remain unpacked until bits of the house are totally finished (the husband’s studio kit, my less frequently used kitchen bits). But the other day, I opened a box marked ‘misc kitchen equipment’ and found my waffle maker. I’d forgotten I had it and so had to fire it up as an excuse to use up some leftover sweet potato mash. Here’s a breakfast dish for moving in days.
Sweet potato waffles with spring onion, chilli and a fried egg
You will need:
150g plain flour
2 tsp golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 spring onions, finely chopped
2 small sweet potatoes, mashed
Fried egg, avocado slices, coriander and chilli flakes – to serve
1. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and cayenne with a pinch of salt. Season with black pepper and add the spring onions.
2. Whisk the egg, milk and sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients and mix to combine.
3. Fire up the waffle maker and cook waffles according to manufacturer’s instructions. I like to use a cooking spray to make sure the waffles don’t stick. Once the waffles are crisp and golden, transfer to a wire rack and keep warm – leave plenty of space between them so they don’t steam and go soggy.
4. Serve with a fried egg, avocado, coriander and chilli flakes
So I woke up this morning to rain and wind battering outside. Autumn is in full swing and I feel like it’s already just a matter of time before Christmas. How did that happen? Meanwhile, it’s been a busy time in my kitchen with a heavy work load seeing my already bursting cupboards fill up even more in a whirlwind of shoots and recipe testing. I also recently worked with chef Valentine Warner on some lunches for furniture makers Another Country, which was full on but great fun.
When there’s been a spare moment, I’ve been trying to make the most of Autumn produce as it is probably my favourite season for fruit and veg. There’s something so exciting about the deep colours and flavours at this time of year. It also lends itself particularly well to hunker-down comfort dishes, the perfect excuse to indulge. In particular, some purple and green figs in local Turkish greengrocer’s caught my eye. Their honeyed flavour is incredibly versatile in both sweet and savoury dishes so I’ve been making the most of them in puddings, jams and a steak salad. I’ve actually been hanging on to some of these recipes for a little while, since last year in fact, but wanted to re-test them and take a few new (better) snaps. I hope they are worth the wait.
Steak, fig and rocket salad
You will need:
1 rump steak
3 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 ripe figs
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 bag of rocket
1 chicory bulb, leaves torn
50g walnuts, toasted
parmesan, shaved, to serve
1. Begin by marinading the steak. Mix together the chopped leaves from 1 rosemary sprig with the garlic, a generous pinch each of sea salt and cracked black pepper and 1 tbsp olive oil. Rub all over the steak, cover and leave in the fridge for about a couple of hours.
2. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Scoop out the flesh of two figs and mash with a fork. Mix with the remaining oil, rosemary, red wine vinegar as well as some salt and pepper. Set to one side.
3. Preheat the grill and chop the remaining figs into wedges. Drizzle with a little balsamic, season with salt and pepper and cook until starting to caramelise. Heat a grill pan until scorching hot before adding the steak. Cook for between 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on your preference. I like my steak still crawling, so I’ve gone for the lower cooking time. Leave to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.
4. To serve, toss the rocket and chicory with the dressing, figs and toasted walnuts. Divide onto two plates and arrange the steak on top, scatter over some shaved parmesan and drizzle with any remaining dressing.
Goats milk, honey and thyme ice cream with fig ripple
You will need:
4 egg yolks
1 tbsp corn or potato flour
500ml goats milk
1/2 vanilla pod, split
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked and roughly chopped
4 plump figs
50g golden caster sugar
1. Combine the yolks, corn or potato flour and honey in a large bowl and mix until thick and creamy. Slowly add in about 100ml of the goats milk and whisk to combine completely. Heat the remaining milk in a large saucepan along with the vanilla and thyme. When just coming up to the boil, remove from the heat and gradually, slowly, pour over the yolk mixture, whisking the whole time. Discard the vanilla and pour everything back into the saucepan. Heat very gently, until thick, custardy and clinging to the back of the spoon. Allow to cool before chilling for at least 4 hours.
2. Meanwhile, scoop out the flesh of the figs and place in a small saucepan along with the caster sugar. Bring to a boil before lowering the heat and allowing to simmer for about 5-7 minutes, until thick and syrupy – add a little water if necessary. The fig should have completely broken down, but you might have to help it along a little with a fork. Allow to cool completely.
3. Turn on your ice cream maker and churn the cool custard, following manufacturer’s instructions. When the mixture is very thick, tip half into a plastic tub. Spoon over half of the fig and ripple through. Add the remaining mixture and repeat with the last of the fig. Freeze for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight before tucking in.
Chocolate and Fig French Toast
Serves 1 greedy person
You will need:
2 slices bread (naughty white bread is best here, or brioche)
knob of butter
a couple of thin squares of dark chocolate
1 fig, flesh scooped out and mashed or a few tbsp fig jam
1. Whisk the egg and milk together in a shallow bowl. Spread one slice of bread with the fresh fig or fig jam and top with the squares of chocolate. Sandwich with the second slice of bread. Heat the butter in a large frying pan until melted and foaming.
2. Dip the fig and chocolate sandwich in the egg and milk mixture to coat thoroughly. Quickly transfer to the pan and fry over a low heat until golden on both sides and the chocolate has melted and is beginning to ooze out. Serve straightaway.
I have been working with Tenderstem® recently to create some recipes under their ‘date night’ theme. This really appealed to me as I love the idea of giving vegetables a starring role by building a dish around them. Tenderstem is a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale and although at its best in the Spring, is available in the UK all year round. In the States, it is more commonly known as Broccolini and is not to be mistaken with Broccoli rabe, which is in the turnip family.
Incredibly, a 100g portion gives you your entire daily requirement of vitamin C as well but Tenderstem is also packed full of vitamin A, calcium, folate and iron. It is an incredibly versatile ingredient as it can be steamed, boiled and stir fried of course, but I particularly love it roasted or grilled. You can even eat it raw in salads or as a crudité. I’ve put together an elegant date night dish for Tenderstem® with polenta and chorizo crumbs (for when you want to impress your date) and a more relaxed pizza for when you’ve been together a bit longer and just fancy a slobbing out in front of the telly. Finally I’ve wrapped them in prosciutto with a hollandaise-style dip, which would make a lovely starter – or even brunch the next day.
Smoky Three Cheese Polenta with Sautéed Tenderstem, Chorizo Crumbs and Parsley
You will need:
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
50g chorizo, finely chopped or blitzed in a food processor
40g fresh breadcrumbs
200g instant polenta
50g smoked cheese, grated
30g grated mozzarella
30g parmesan, grated
1 tsp chipotle paste, optional
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
small bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped.
1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the tenderstem and simmer until just cooked through, with a little bite, about 5-7 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to stop the broccoli cooking and set the colour and texture.
2. Heat 1/2 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan and add the chorizo. Fry until golden then remove to drain on kitchen paper, keeping the fragrant oil in the pan. Add the breadcrumbs and fry in the oil until crispy – about 3 minutes. Combine with the cooked chorizo.
3. Fill a large saucepan with 1 litre of cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer then slowly pour in the polenta. Lower the heat immediately and stir continuously until cooked, about 5-7 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat and add all of the cheese, stirring until completely dissolved. If you’d like extra smoky flavour, add up to 1 tsp of chipotle paste.
5. In a large frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil and add the tenderstem and garlic slices. Sauté until heated through and the garlic is crispy.
6. To serve, reheat the polenta and divide between four plates. Top with the tenderstem and sprinkle with chorizo crumbs and chopped parsley.
You will need:
For the pizza:
300g wholemeal flour or wholegrain spelt flour
30g grated parmesan
1x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100ml double cream
25g grated parmesan
50g grated mozzarella
1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped
2 large handfuls rocket
For the red pepper sauce:
2 red peppers
1 clove garlic
1 red chilli, deseeded
50g blanched almonds
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1. Being by making the pizza dough. Combine the wholemeal or wholegrain flour, grated parmesan, yeast and 1 tsp salt in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Mix together the warm water and oil and pour almost all of it into the bowl, mixing with your hands as you go. Add as much of the rest of the water as you need for form a sticky dough. Tip onto a floured work surface and knead for a few minutes, so it comes together and feels elastic. Cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes in a warmish place.
2. Meanwhile, make the red pepper sauce. Grill the peppers in the oven or, if you are feeling confident, over a gas hob until charred. Leave until cool enough to handle, then remove the skin, seeds and any remaining stalk. Blitz the peppers in a food processor along with the garlic, chilli, almonds and vinegar. With the motor running, gradually add the olive oil until you have a dressing-like sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Place the tenderstem in a large pan of salted boiling water. Cook until just tender, about 5-7 minutes. Refresh under cold water, drain thoroughly and set aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 200 C. Divide the dough into two and roll out on a floured work surface into two rounds, about the thickness of a pound coin. Place each round on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper and leave for a further 15 minutes until beginning to poof up.
5. Combine the cream and cheeses with a little seasoning. Spread over the pizzas and sprinkle over the rosemary. Top with the tenderstem and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and the veg is starting to crisp up. Top with the rocket and drizzle with the red pepper sauce just before serving.
You will need:
80g prosciutto slices, halved lengthways
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
100g hollandaise sauce
zest and juice of 1 lemon
small bunch chives, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the tenderstem and simmer until just cooked with a little bite, about 5-7 minutes. Drain thoroughly.
2. Wrap each broccoli stem in a piece of prosciutto and place on an oven tray. Drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic oil and bake for about 15 minutes, until the prosciutto has started to crisp up.
3. Meanwhile, mix the hollandaise with the lemon zest, chives and a squeeze of juice. Serve with the tenderstem broccoli, letting your guests dip the stems into the sauce.
It seems so very fitting that this is the time of year when citrus fruit is at its best. These last few weeks the temperature has been sticking firmly around the freezing mark. Is it only me or was it warmer last winter? I cycled everywhere last January and February! This year my bike hasn’t seen daylight for weeks. So these zesty bursts of brightness feel pretty essential. I always look forward to enjoying clementines and tangerines at their sweetest in January and lately I’ve been stock piling blood oranges- greedily peeling each newly bough batch to see if their ruby shade has intensified with the passing weeks.
This year, I found a real, unexpected treat on a routine trip to Tesco, of all places, where I stumbled upon a pack of MEYER LEMONS. I can’t tell you how excited this made me. I’ve never seen them in this country but remember them fondly from my New York days. For those of you unfamiliar with the fruit, imagine if a lemon and a mandarine had a lovechild. Basically, it has all the zesty freshness of a lemon minus that bitter edge. Less sour, more sweet. Plus you can eat the skin and rind, like a giant yellow kumquat. They are hugely popular in the States, where Wikipedia tells me they were introduced over a hundred years ago. Which begs the question- what took the rest of us so long??!
Anyway, I hope they are on their way to becoming a regular supermarket feature over here as well. Although they did actually sit for days in my fruit bowl before I finally decided what to do with them- too much choice! Like garden-variety lemons, these Meyer cousins actually work well in both savoury and sweet dishes, so I mixed and matched. Here are the results.
First up, the ultimate lazy weekend brunch pancakes. These could also be made in miniature as little blini style nibbles, topped with a little creme fraich and dill. They are very light and fluffy, almost soufflé-like, which makes them a bit less robust for cooking and flipping, but definitely worth the extra care once they’ve hit your plate.
Buckwheat Buttermilk Pancakes with Mayer Lemon and Dill
served with smoked salmon and creme fraiche
You will need:
100g buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
2 egg whites, 1 whole egg
140ml (half pot) buttermilk
1 tbsp maple syrup
about 1.5 tbsp chopped chives
zest and juice of 1 meyer lemon
olive or coconut oil
1. Place flour and bicarb in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. Whisk in the buttermilk, whole egg and maple syrup then add the chives, lemon juice and zest, beat well.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until thick, frothy and just holding their shape in soft peaks. Carefully fold into the pancake batter.
3. Heat a good glug of oil in your best non stick pan and add a ladelful of pancake batter. These might be a bit tricker to flip than your average pancake- a palette knife will help.
4. Serve straight away or keep warm in a low temperature oven while you crack on with the remaining batter. Try the pancakes with smoked salmon and a dollop of creme fraiche. For a sweeter version, omit the chives and add another tbsp of maple syrup and serve with berries.
In doing my Meyer Lemon recipe research, trying to sift through the overwhelming possibilities, I stumbled upon quite a few pizza recipes topped with whole slices of the fruit. While this intrigued me, I’m not sure I would want them to feature quite so prominently on my dinner plate. However, it did get me thinking about how they might work as a topping for other bread-based products, something sharable like focaccia. My take on this is based on my go-to recipe for bread of this kind- the Schiacciata from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’ which is totally failsafe and has all of the light airiness that you’d want from an Italian flatbread.
Meyer Lemon and thyme Focaccia
Makes 1 large focaccia loaf
You will need:
350g strong white flour
150g Italian 00 flour
2 tbsp sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
20g fresh yeast
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
small bunch thyme, some leaves picked
2 meyer lemons, thinly sliced
1. Place flours and salt in a large bowl. Mix the yeast with 1 tbsp of blood temperature water in a small bowl or jug. Measure out 300ml of blood temperature water, adding the yeast mixture along with 2 tbsp of the olive oil.
2. Make a well in the flour and add the liquid ingredients, mixing until it begins to form a dough. Tip onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes until you have an elastic dough. You can of course use a stand mixer if you prefer. Form the dough into a ball and place in a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about an hour.
3. Meanwhile, place thyme stems in a small bowl, cover with cold water and set aside. Oil a large rectangular baking sheet generously. Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/gas mark 6.
4. Tip out the dough and knead briefly before stretching and punching out to cover the baking sheet. Cover and leave to rise for a further 30-40 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, drain the thyme and shake off any excess water. Once the dough has puffed up, arrange the lemon slices and thyme sprigs over it and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with a little sea salt. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and hollow sounding when the base of the bread is tapped. The lemon may caramelise a little, cover with some foil if it starts to turn very brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack before sprinkling with a few extra thyme leaves and tearing into.
I suppose all these meyer lemons have reminded me of other foodstuffs that I miss about my time in the big apple. In particular the Eastern European and Jewish heritage which lends so much to the baking culture that is taken for granted there- the most amazing bagels, of course, but also wonderful cakes like the babka. This twisty loaf cake is usually made with chocolate and cinnamon, but can of course be filled with anything you like. It is made from a yeasted dough and in that respect reminds me a lot of some of the braided loaf versions of cinnamon and cardamom buns we have in Sweden.
This recipe is not for the faint-hearted. Adding the butter by hand is a nightmare as the dough and the fat will not seem like they want to mix together at all, rather just slip and slide around each other. Trust me, they will come together with a little patience. It is also essential that the butter is at room temperature. Of course, if you have a stand mixer this will save you the agony, but as I do not as yet own one (my little Bow kitchen has no space for such luxuries), this is the way that I roll.
Meyer Lemon, Cardamom and Pistachio Babka
Makes 1 babka
You will need:
For the dough:
250g plain flour
50g golden caster sugar
15g fresh yeast
1 egg, beaten
zest and juice of half a meyer lemon
75g unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the filling:
50g green pistachios
25g golden caster sugar
2 tsp cardamom
zest and juice of 2 meyer lemons
1. To make the dough, combine the flour and sugar with a pinch of salt in a large bowl. In a small jug, measure out 75ml of water and dissolve the yeast into it. Add the egg, lemon juice and zest and beat well. Make a well in the flour and add the liquid ingredients, mixing until just combined.
2. Tip out the dough onto a well floured work surface and knead to come together. Continue kneading by hand for about 10 minutes, until elastic. You can test this by pressing a finger lightly into the surface of the dough, pulled slightly taunt. It should slowly spring back. At this stage, you can start adding your butter, a tsp or so at a time, kneading and folding until it starts to dissolve into the dough before adding the next teaspoonfull. This will take time and be very messy and greasy. There’s no way around it, but it will work with patience. Put the radio on.
3. Place the now quite greasy dough into a medium sized bowl. Lightly grease a bit of cling film and cover the bowl, placing in the fridge to rise slowly overnight.
4. To make the filling, simply blitz the pistachios and caster sugar until the nuts have broken up to a fine powder. Add the butter, cardamom, lemon zest and juice and blitz for form a smooth paste. Refrigerate until the next day.
5. Generously oil a 900g/1lb loaf tin and line the base with rectangle of parchment and remove the filling from the fridge to soften slightly. Tip the dough out onto a well floured work surface. Roll into a thin rectangle, about the size of an A4 piece of paper. Spread with the filling then roll into a sausage-like shape. Trim the ends to remove any messy edges then, using a large sharp knife, divide the roll in half lengthways. Lay each half next to each other vertically. Pinch the top ends together before gently twisting the two halves of dough around eachother by lifting each side over the next. When you get to the bottom, pinch these ends together as well.
6. Carefully lift into your prepared loaf tin- it might be a bit to short for your babka, in which case simply curve it in to form a snake-like shape. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about 1.5-2 hours in a cool spot.
7. Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/gas mark 6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a skewer inserted to the cake comes out clean. If it starts to brown a bit too much, just cover with foil and continue to bake. Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes before turning out to a wire rack. For extra sweetness and as I often do with cinnamon buns, I brushed my loaf with a light sugar syrup while it was still warm. Slice to serve with a cup of tea or coffee.
It’s Shrove Tuesday and Pancake Day! An absolutely brilliant British institution- why don’t all nations have a dedicated day for eating pancakes? We generally go to town and have some savoury (generally stuffed and baked) followed by a few (or perhaps more than a few) with sugar, lemon, melted chocolate, ice cream… It is only once year, after all.
In Sweden, pancake day isn’t nearly as big as it is in the UK. Instead, they have semlor- wonderful cardamom-scented buns, filled with marzipan and whipped cream especially for Shrove Tuesday. So fair play, really. However, when it comes to pancakes, the Swedes have got something right. It’s called a pancake cake. And it is exactly what it says on the tin- a stack of pancakes layered with fillings, most often cream and berries, and served as a cake with messy slices cut out of it.
One of my favourite books as a child was a beautifully illustrated story book called the Pancake Cake about Mr Pettson and his cat, Findus. For the cat’s birthday, Pettson sets out to make a pancake cake. For this he needs flour, which involves going to the shop. But his bicycle has a flat tyre and the pump is locked in a shed. And the key for the shed is at the bottom of a well, so they need a ladder. But the ladder is in a field with an angry bull in it. So they have to distract the bull, to get the ladder to get the key to get into the shed to get the pump to… you get the picture. Hilarity ensues.
This is my hat tip to Pettson and Findus. A very simple blueberry and lemon flavoured pancake cake that can be made as outrageously tall as you like. For a smaller cake, simply halve the recipe.
Blueberry and Lemon Pancake Cake
You will need:
400g plain flour
4 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp melted butter plus more for frying
2 lemons, zested and juiced
290ml double cream
blueberry jam- or your favourite jam, raspberry and strawberry also work very well
blueberries, to serve
1. To make the pancake batter, sift the flour into a large bowl along with a pinch of salt. Make a well and add the eggs, milk, butter and 100ml of water. Whisk together until you have a thick batter. Add most of the zest and a squeeze of lemon juice. Set to one side for about 20 minutes to let any bubbles or lumps of flour settle.
2. Fry your pancakes. For this cake I used a small frying pan, but you could just as well use a large one. Melt a little butter in a hot pan and add half a ladle full of the batter. Immediately swirl the pan around to evenly disperse the mixture. Once bubbles start to appear on the surface and the bottom seems dry, flip the pancake over using a spatula. Fry for another minute or so. This first pancake is likely to be a disaster- this is the universal pancake rule. Eat it immediately sprinkled with sugar and then carry on making more pancakes. As you can gain confidence, you can try having two pans on the go at the same time and perhaps doing some pancake flips?
3. Allow your pancakes to cool completely on a wire rack. Whip your cream quite stiffly, adding a little squeeze of lemon juice and any remaining zest. Sweeten if you like. Layer the pancakes on a serving plate, alternating with the jam, cream and berries. Finish by spreading the top layer with cream and decorating with more blueberries and perhaps a sprig of mint.