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Saturday, 23 November 2013

Blackberry and black pepper vinaigrette

Picking blackberries off brambles is one of the best things about the end of the summer. My family always try to pick as many as possible, and keep them in the freezer for berry treats throughout the winter.

This vinaigrette is a perfect vehicle for frozen berries. Freezing seems to sweeten them, and they are so soft once defrosted that you don’t need to cook them down at all.

This quantity makes enough for one massive salad, or a few smaller ones.

1 cup frozen blackberries (or use fresh if available)
1 tsp grain mustard
1 tsp honey (or agave nectar, or maple syrup)
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

Defrost the blackberries and mash them with a fork. If they are still too lumpy you can use a hand-blender to wiz them up, but it shouldn’t be necessary. A lot of other recipes blend the dressing, giving a uniform purple sauce. I quite like keeping things a bit more rustic though – my way the colour stays darker, and the odd escaped lump of blackberry is always welcome.

Mix the blackberry mush with the mustard, honey, garlic, oil and vinegar. Taste and season with a little salt and a lot of black pepper.

I suppose you could add a bit of fresh tarragon or fresh mint to make it a bit more complex and grown-up if you wanted to.

I used this dressing on a salad of spinach, red onions, puy lentils, goats cheese and pistachios, and it was really good.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

How to make brussel sprouts amazing

I have got to thank Alli for introducing me to this, and adding a new vegetable to my diet.

Before I was introduced to the concept of roasting brussel sprouts like this, I genuinely couldn’t see the point of them, other than wrapping them in empty Ferrero Rocher wrappers and then giving them to annoying people. I also couldn’t understand why everyone seemed to be eating them at this time of year when no-one seems to like them.

Brussel sprouts
Olive oil
Salt – preferably coarsely ground sea salt

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade.

Prepare the sprouts but cutting off a bit of the base and then peeling away their leaves until they look clean and a lot less manky.

Slice the sprouts in half through the base. Put them on a baking sheet or roasting dish (in a single layer), toss them with a glug of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Roast for 15-20 minutes giving the tray a bit of a shake halfway through. When ready they will be brown and crunchy in places, sweet, juicy and unbelievably delicious.

 Serve the sprouts as a side dish, or add them to other roasted veggies to make a warm salad.

Roasted butternut squash and brussel sprout salad with red onion, spinach and toasted pumpkin seeds

You could also fry them with lots of butter and chestnuts, which is very nice too.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Egg stuffed tomatoes

Egg stuffed tomato – sounds so obvious as soon as you say it out loud. This is a really delicious breakfast or brunch dish, and would be perfect if you were cooking for a lot of people as it isn’t much prep and is no-where near as ‘hands-on’ as most other kinds of breakfasty eggs.

This recipe is from The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree, which I described in Interlude number 2 – the cookbooks. This isn’t the one I describe as thigh-quiveringly sensual, but it was very good – in more of a well-behaved Sunday brunch-y kind of way. 


1 large beef tomato per person
1 medium egg per person
1 tsp of your choice of filling – whatever you want really, or happen to find in the fridge. It could be: cheese, crème fraîche, pesto, chill sauce, leftover ratatouille, or even a couple of anchovy fillets.
Salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 200 c.

Using a sharp knife (serrated is easier for tomatoes), cut a little bit of skin of the base of each tomato so that it sits flat. Then cut the top off, creating a lid that will be used for cooking. Scoop out the seeds and middle part of the tomato flesh, creating a large well. Be careful not to go through the base.

Spoon in your choice of filling (I went for pesto, plus a little cheese on top of the egg), and then crack an egg in. Season the egg with salt and pepper, and balance the tomato lid back on top. Place the stuffed tomatoes in a lightly oiled roasting dish and cook for about 20 -25 minutes, until the white is set and the yolk is warm and runny – or however you like it.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Roasted peppers with tomato, anchovy and garlic

I recently went on a kosher Italian cooking course. In Italy. With my Mum. I’m sure that most of us feel pretty accustomed to what we think of as Italian food, but really it is just scratching the surface. What astounded me so much with the food we cooked, and the food we ate over that marvellous week in Umbria, was how such massive, gutsy flavours could be brought out of a few, simple ingredients. All it took was a little olive oil and salt, and a sense of respect, time and place. And probably a little love. The course was run by Silvia Nacamulli, and I highly recommend it. For information on the Italy trip and the classes Silvia runs in London, see her website.

Making pasta at Sismano's Castle, Umbria
I learnt some great techniques and some new flavour combinations during the trip and over the coming few weeks I will be posting some recipes inspired from my time in Italy. This roasted pepper recipe was in my repertoire already (via Delia Smith and my Mum), but it certainly fits of the theme of the trip – simple ingredients, olive oil and salt, and big flavours. Make these for a starter, light meal with salad and crusty bread, or as part of an antipasti, and the flavours will knock your socks off.

Serve approx 1 pepper per person as a starter, scale up as needed. Don’t worry about making too much, they will definitely all get eaten.


Red peppers (My Mum uses the pointy peppers, and while they are definitely a bit sweeter, they don’t hold the other ingredients quite as snugly, which I think really helps with the cooking.)
Smallish tomatoes - not as small as cherry tomatoes, I use medium sized vine tomatoes. Approx 1 and a half per pepper
Sliced garlic – approx 2 slices per pepper half
Anchovies (the kind that come in tins or jars) 1 per pepper half
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 C

Cut the peppers in half, through the stalk if possible (it looks prettier).

Carefully remove all seeds and white pithy bits, and arrange the pepper halves on an oven tray. Quarter the tomatoes and put two or three tomatoes into the middle of each pepper half. Add a couple of slices of garlic to the pepper halves, and one anchovy fillet. Pour approx half a teaspoon of olive oil into the centre of each pepper, and drizzle a little more over the tops (this is considerably less oil than in the original recipe).

Season with peppers with pepper (there is enough salt in the anchovy) and put them in the oven for about 45 minutes. It will smell amazing when they are ready, and the peppers will be soft and sweet, and a little blackened around the edges.