an adventure into my cookbook collection: soul-searching, doing things differently & the truths I learn along the way...

deseeding pomegranates is feminine & erotic, unless you hit them with a wooden spoon...


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Almond and blueberry pudding

From Second Helpings of Roast Chicken by Simon Hopkinson

Here is another Passover (Pesach) dessert recipe, a totally new one that I have only just discovered. I made it on Friday night for the first time (with help from the wonderful Emma) and everyone went mad for it. Hot berries – is there anything better?

I discovered this recipe as I was using this cookbook to score a game of cards that I was playing with my Mum. We always use cookbooks when scoring card games, with a joker to mark the page - whenever a player (usually me) accumulates points, they have to read out the recipe the joker has landed on.

This recipe was found three points in, in the chapter on almonds. It is always very exciting to find a pesach dessert recipe that doesn’t involve separating eggs and whisking egg whites. It sounded so delicious, and easy to make that I wanted to make it straight away. And I am so glad that I did.

The pudding will go a bit cake-y on the top and a bit custardy on the bottom, stained dark blue and purple with berries. It will sink a bit if not serving immediately, but it doesn’t really matter if it does, it is still really delicious. Simon Hopkinson recommends serving it with cream, but I don’t think it needs it.

Serves 5-6, or 4 if everyone wants seconds (which they probably will)


100g butter or margarine (if you need it to be dairy-free), softened – plus a little extra for greasing the dish
350g blueberries – we used 260g blueberries (that was all we had) and then made the weight up with raspberries. I’m sure this recipe would work very well with other berries too.
100g sugar – plus a little extra for sprinkling on top
2 eggs
100g ground almonds
1 tbsp amaretto liqueur – or similar – we used kosher for Passover triple sec


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (170 w/fan)

Grease a wide and shallow baking dish with a bit of butter or margarine. ‘Strew’ with the berries.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (this works well with a spoon too). Then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing them in thoroughly. Fold in the ground almonds and the amaretto (or similar).

Spoon the almond sponge mixture over the fruit in the baking dish. Sprinkle with a little extra sugar and bake for 40-45 minutes, until puffed up and firm on the top.  

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Apple cloud pudding from heaven

From Florence Greenberg’s Jewish Cookbook (first published in 1947)

Happy Passover (Pesach) everyone! Is anybody else really craving a sandwich or a big bowl of pasta right about now?

This is definitely (in my opinion) the best specifically Pesach dessert of all time. I mean, there are other good desserts to have during Pesach, like pavlova and chocolate mousse, but as this one has matzo meal in, it is only really made at Pesach – who would want to cook with matzo meal at other times (except for schnitzels or fried fish)?

I’m posting this recipe now because there are still a few days of Pesach left – I really do urge you to make this if you can. It is seriously wonderful. This pudding is kind of like an apple kugel, but much lighter, and supremely apple-y. If I was Nigella Lawson I would call it a ‘slightly slumped soufflé’.

Serves 4  - could potentially serve more, but everyone will want second helpings


450g cooking apples
3 eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
3 tbsp fine matzo meal
1 tbsp ground almonds
zest and juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 190c

Use a bit of butter or margarine to grease a deep-ish baking dish.

Peel the apples and the grate them – don’t core them first, but rather grate around the core (to save you from grating your fingers off). Mix the grated apple with the lemon juice and zest immediately to stop it from discolouring.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff.

Beat the egg yolks with sugar until pale and creamy. Add the lemony apple, matzo meal, ground almonds, and cinnamon. Mix thoroughly, and then fold in the egg whites (it will look a bit gross at this stage).

Pour the apple mixture into the baking dish, and bake for 1 hour. When it is ready it will look cake-y on the top, and light and wobbly in the middle. It isn’t the prettiest of desserts, but it is so ruddy delicious that no-one will care.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Courgette and lime loaf cake

Adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson.

This is the sixth recipe that I have made from How to be a Domestic Goddess, which is good-going for me (I have a habit of buying cookbooks and not cooking from them at all). Other recipes I have made from the book include chocolate cherry cupcakes (see the recipe here), and burnt-butter cupcakes (which I will write up soon).

I made this cake because I had a lot of courgettes. Or rather, I had some courgettes, and one thing led to another, and they multiplied, considerably (next time I buy two courgettes I will have to separate them). So I have been eating courgettes for days. But I’m not sick of them, because they are brilliant, and as this cake proves, so versatile.

I love the simplicity of an un-iced loaf cake. It seems more acceptable to be eaten throughout the day. Nigella’s original recipe was for a filled and iced cake. When I first made this cake I did make the icing, but even though I reduced the sugar from the original (as I always do with Nigella icing) it was still tooth-achingly sweet, and the wrong consistency. So I decided just to go without, the cake is sweet enough on it’s own and doesn’t need it.

Due to the dampness of the courgettes and the use of oil instead of butter this is a very moist cake – squidgy and delicious. The cake will continue to get more squidgy and delicious each day after it is made.


250g courgettes – this will range from between 1-3 courgettes, depending on how big they are. Weigh before you grate.
60g raisins or sultanas
2 large eggs
125 ml vegetable oil (or other flavourless oil)
150g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
Zest of 1 lime with about 1 tbsp lime juice


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (160 with fan).

Grate the courgettes unpeeled – not too finely, you want strands, not mush. Put the grated courgette bits into a sieve and leave it sit over the sink while you prep the rest of the ingredients, to allow the excess liquid to drip out.

Beat the eggs, oil and sugar together in a bowl until light and creamed together. Then add in the self-raising flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Mix well, and then add the raisins and grated courgette.

Pour the cake mixture into a lined or greased loaf tin, and bake for 45 minutes, or until it is risen and golden. 

Test to see if the cake is ready by inserting a cocktail stick or skewer into the centre of the cake – it should come out clean.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Roasted butternut squash macaroni cheese

I probably shouldn’t be writing about macaroni cheese in April. With butternut squash, sage and
hazelnuts, this macaroni cheese is definitely a winter dish. Seeing as how the sky has been completely grey for weeks, I think it is ok, even if not legitimately macaroni-cheese weather. Ultimately, all that really matters is that it is completely delicious, perfect comfort food for any time of year.

Macaroni cheese is a special kind of dish. I have spoken to a few people and it seems that macaroni cheese is the one exception to aversions to processed food. When I had my first job and was spending all my money on rent and hair dye, I would sometimes buy Sainsburys Basics Macaroni Cheese for dinner (75p). Feel free to judge me, but at the time it was delicious. Of course homemade is much better, made in the oven not the microwave.

There is less cheese in this recipe than other macaroni cheeses, and also more vegetable, so I would like to think that is somewhat healthy, relatively speaking. The use of butternut squash also makes it pleasingly orange coloured. 

Serves 4


1 medium sized butternut squash – on the smallish side of ‘medium’. Peel and cut into roughly 2cm sized dice.
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt

250g pasta (approx). I actually never make macaroni cheese with macaroni - somehow it always has to be called macaroni cheese though, I guess that ‘conchiglione rigati cheese’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Make sure you choose a pasta type that has a hollowness, or other texture conducive to this kind of sauce.

For the sauce:
1 pint milk
50g butter
50g flour
Handful grated cheddar. Throw in a bit of crumbled blue stilton (or similar) if you have it
A few grinds of fresh nutmeg
¼ tsp English mustard
3 -4 sage leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the topping:
Approx 1 ½ tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tbsp parmesan (or vegetarian equivalent)
1 tbsp toasted hazelnuts (I used the ready-chopped ones for this)
About 2-3 sage leaves, chopped


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Arrange the squash cubes on a baking tray, toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 30-45 minutes, until cooked through and caramelised in parts.

To make the sauce melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir to make a roux. Cook the roux for a minute or two, stirring continuously, to remove any ‘raw’ flour taste. Add the milk about half a ladle-full at a time, stirring continuously to prevent lumps and ensure everything is completely amalgamated.

Once all of the milk has been incorporated, add the nutmeg, sage, cheese, mustard and seasoning (taste to make sure it is seasoned properly). Then take about half of the roasted butternut squash cubes and mash or blend them into the sauce. I used a potato masher for this, which worked really well.

Cook the pasta for about 3 minutes less than packet instructions. Drain it and mix with the cheese-y squash sauce (use a bit of the pasta cooking water if it the sauce is too thick) and the remaining cubes of roasted squash in an oven-safe relatively deep dish. As I was using a ‘stuff-able’ pasta, I used a spoon to wedge some squash cubes into each pasta shell.

Mix together the topping ingredients and scatter them over the top of the macaroni cheese. Bake at approx 200 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until the bake is bubbling and the top is golden and crispy.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Spiced black bean soup

For T.O.M

As I have written before, I have a bit of an obsession with Mexican culture. I have realised since writing that first post that it isn’t just about the gory history and the beautiful art, its about death. Or rather, about life and death – by acknowledging death, life can be really noticed, and appreciated much more. Colours are brighter and more saturated, music is louder and flavours are stronger and more vibrant.

This soup is adapted from Thomasina Miers’ book Mexican Food Made Simple. This is the third recipe I have made from that cookbook, the others being warm corn salsa and ceviche, and I definitely think it is wonderful. Mexican recipes can be tricky, the ingredients aren’t necessarily that easy to get hold of in the UK, and it is quite pig and shellfish focused, not that easy if you are vegetarian or kosher. This book however is really accessible and contains loads of suitable and delicious authentic recipes.

When I first made this soup, known in the book as ‘sopa azteca’, I was completely blown away by how delicious it was – I did not expect something so simple to make to taste so complex. It is rich and deeply savoury – it tastes almost meaty even though it is vegan.

Makes 4 servings


Two 380g cartons cooked black beans – don’t drain
2-4 fresh plum tomatoes, depending on how big they are
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
½ onion, or a whole one if it is smallish, diced
1 tsp chiptle paste
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
juice of 1 lime
salt and black pepper to taste.

Garnishes: (optional – it is very nice on its own too)
Tortilla chips, broken up
Feta or goats cheese, crumbled
Tomato salsa
Sour cream
Diced avocado (tossed with lime juice to stop it discolouring)


First you need to toast the tomatoes and garlic. Heat a frying pan (no oil needed) and when its really hot, add the tomatoes and garlic cloves. Let them blacken on all sides (charred splotches is fine, don’t worry about blackening them completely) and remove. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and roughly chop. Don’t worry if you can’t get all the skin off the tomatoes.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the diced onion and sauté for about 5 minutes until translucent. Then add the garlic, tomatoes and chipotle paste, and fry off for about a minute before adding the beans with their water, stock and lime juice.

Let the soup simmer for 20 minutes, blend, and season to taste. Serve on its own, or with some of the garnishes suggested above.

Sorry again about the lack of photo – have a poem instead.

Christine M. Strickland

Frida Kahlo has come to dinner,
Late, as usual, a little drunk, as usual,
Scattering fag ash like confetti,
Partnered by her perpetual pain
Whose grim claws she wears as lightly
As the ribbons on her dress.
Undefeated, her thirst for life unquenched,
There is more energy in her hair
Than in my entire body.
The brass band of her beads and bangles
Transforms her limping steps
Into a fiesta dance, all rainbow skirts
And flashing teeth and eyes.
Frida Kahlo has come to dinner,
Though eating frankly bores her,
Gets in the way of talking, drinking,
Smoking, making love.
Aware of this I give her tiny pastries
Olives, nuts, morsels of spiced meat;
Fuel for her flame, swallowed without tasting.
Frida Kahlo has come to dinner
And the carnival never stops.
Her long hands are two kites,
Trailing coloured tails of laughter,
Sketching, in the smoky air between us,
Whole galleries of portraits.
Frida Kahlo has been to dinner
And is now gone, taking the party with her,
Leaving this withered Puritan
Faded, dusty, unbearably alone.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Roasted leeks with walnuts, yogurt and tarragon

Because she is wonderful, when my flatmate Shana came back from her last trip to the States, she brought back some cooking magazines for me to flick through, and I found ideas that inspired this recipe. American cooking magazines are so much fun, British ones look like dowdy sensible aunties in comparison.

I had never cooked leeks in this way before. They had always been a hidden ingredient in something else, and never the main element of a dish. This recipe really makes leeks shine, they are sweet and oniony and delicious.

This would make a brilliant starter or side for two people (increase quantities as needed)


3 leeks
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt
15g walnuts
75g natural yogurt
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
Approx. 2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon


Preheat your oven to 180 degrees

Clean and trim the leeks, and cut them in half lengthways. A clever thing to do (which of course I forgot), would be to keep the stem of the leek, to stop them falling apart when you cut them open.

Arrange the leeks on a baking tray, drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast them for 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally, until softened with some delicious roasty dark bits.

While the leeks are roasting, toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan (or put them in the oven), until they are fragrant and a bit charred in places. Let them cool and brush off any burnt skin with your fingers. Toasting really transforms the flavour of the walnuts so don’t miss this step out. Crumble up a few of them for the artful garnish later.

Make the yogurt dressing by mixing together the yogurt with 2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest, tarragon and a pinch of salt. Save a little of the tarragon for the artful garnish later.

To serve, arrange the luscious, roasted leeks on a serving plate, and use a grater to grate some of the toasted walnuts all over them. This might seem a bit odd, but it works really well.* Drizzle with the yogurt dressing and garnish with the reserved artful garnishes - tarragon, and crumbled walnuts.

*It was a bit of a revelation actually, as it is so hard to find vegetarian parmesan. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Homemade labneh with parsley and pistachios

Someone once said ‘blessed are the cheesemakers’ and I think they had a point.*

When I was in Italy in the autumn we went to visit an artisan cheese factory somewhere in Umbria. It was all a bit stinky and damp, but the cheese was phenomenal.

Here is a way to make the super delicious Middle-Eastern yogurt-cheese labneh. It is also a bit damp, but not stinky. Much much love to Shana for showing me the way, and for the use of the genuine Australian cheesecloth.

To make approximately 500g of labneh you will need:

1 kg natural yogurt (low fat is fine)
A big bowl

To make the labneh exciting and delicious you will need:

Extra virgin olive oil
½ clove garlic, crushed (optional)
Big handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
Handful pistachios, chopped
1 tsp sumac
Lemon juice

Fold the cheesecloth in half and drape it over the big bowl. Pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth, gather the edges together, and knot or tie with elastic bands. Liquid will immediately start seeping through the cheesecloth. Hang the ball of yogurt so that it can drip freely, and leave overnight. 

Note the ingenious use of cupboard handle to hang cheesecloth
The following morning, untie the cheesecloth and scrape the thickened yogurt-cheese into a container.  Add a generous pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil, and mix well. At this stage you could also add a bit of garlic if using, some sumac, or any other nice spice. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Before serving, stir through some fresh parsley and sumac, and scatter with the pistachios, and some more parsley. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.

You could also roll the labneh into balls, roll the balls in za’atar or chilli flakes, and store in the fridge in olive oil, which is very nice too.

*Because cheese is amazing. I'm not saying that I am especially blessed by making labneh.