Hoooge Cauli

I’ve just come back from the local farmers market (Wanstead to be specific).

I got a bit carried away and scooped up large quantities of goodies.

Including this hoooge cauli


Which handily has a radiator in the background to allow you to assess the scale of its hoooge-ness

For the record I also bought:

12 rashers of smokey bacon

3 types of sausage (4 of each)

2 pork chops

2 pieces of ribeye

2 lamb chops

1 lamb breast

1 lamb neck fillet

1 piece of pork belly

1 fillet smoked haddock

the hoooge cauli




rainbow chard

a squash

pippin apples


apple and ginger juice

3 quiches

1 slice of poppyseed cake

dozen eggs

ticklemore cheese

berkswell cheese

single gloucester cheese

cumin gouda

Then I staggered home….


Festive menu, part 1

I’m sure everyone has their festive menu’s already sorted. Their shopping list written, deliveries planned, meat ordered and so on. Down to the last detail. So my festive might have come to late. But if you are dithering then read on (and into the remaining parts as they appear) you might find some inspiration. And for those who have everything planned out with military precision well you might find some ideas for surpluses or things to make if you can’t get what you need for your menu on your final dash to the shops.

I cooked this menu last weekend when we had a pre christmas, Christmas dinner with my parents and my brother and sister in law. we’ll all be in different places with other bits of our families on Christmas Day so this was our festive get together complete with tree decorating, silly games, sherry and presents. and of course lots of food.

Here’s the menu:


Selection of smoked and cured salmon
Terrine of Lancashire cheeses (recipe to follow)


Slow roast shoulder of pork served with two stuffings (Chestnut Stuffing recipe to follow)
Roast root vegetables
Roast potatoes
Sprout and peas
Lashing of ‘jus’ from the meat


Sticky ginger pudding
Clementine sorbet (recipe to follow)
Jersey cream

And in the spirit of making things easy for the chef so everyone could spend time chatting rather than sweating over hot stoves lots of it was ‘cheaty’ so bought in but from top quality suppliers. And some of it was very easy to make in advance.

Here’s where I sourced things from:

Salmon: Forman & Sons London Cure smoked Salmon and 3 gravadlax cures

Lancashire cheeses for the terrine (recipe to follow): Butlers Cheeses

Crispbread: Peters Yard (of course!)

Pork shoulder : Anna’s Happy Trotters

Sticky Ginger Pudding: Cartmel Village Shop

So that’s it delicious food from good suppliers making the menu easier but still delicious. Watch out for the recipes coming soon.

The fat of the land

This post was originally published in early November in Francois Murat Design newsletter. Although the apple season is pretty much at an end now many varieties store well so this is still a lovely dish to make over the coming cold months……

Autumn is well and truly here, the nights are drawing in, the weather is cooling day by day. Many of the fruits and vegetables are harvested. Those that can be have been turned into preserves of various kinds or carefully stored away to be used over the winter months.

Apples are still with us and there are varieties that are still being harvested during November but the main crop has been taking place throughout October and celebrated with Apple Day events across the country. Apple Day was started 20 years ago by Common Ground to help save and celebrate the huge range of English apples that were being lost bit by bit. In that time much progress has been made and varieties that were almost lost have been reintroduced. If you care about British food though there is still plenty to be done and attending an Apple Day event can be great fun for all the family with a chance to buy apples, press your own juices or simply learn more about orchards and the variety available. If you missed out this year then put a little reminder in your diary now to seek out apple events next October, and in the meantime support the growers by searching out interesting varieties or even sponsoring a tree at a community orchard project.

Autumn is not only a time for preserving fruit and vegetables its also the time when, traditionally, meat would be preserved in a variety of ways to see the household through winter and save on animal feeding costs. This is particularly true of the pig. In ‘Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery’ Jane Grigson says:

It could be said that European civilization – and Chinese civilization too – has been founded on the pig.’


Of course there are plenty who don’t eat pork and they would disagree with Grigson’s statement and her subsequent analysis. But for many it has been staple of cooking for centuries and the tradition of the autumn pig slaughter and subsequent preserving is well documented. Bacon is also often cited as the meat that vegetarian converts most miss but I’m not sure there is any real data to back this claim up. For those with strong constitutions I highly recommend Jeffrey Steingarten’s essay ‘It takes a Village to Kill a Pig’, not for the faint hearted, but fascinating not least because it was first published in American Vogue, not the sort of place you imagine happening on a detailed account of traditional pig slaughter in a Basque village. Preserving meat is not something I’ve tried although there are now quite few books and courses around on preserving the bounty of the pig and I know of a number of people who make their own sausages, bacon and salami at home. I’d recommend reading Tim Hayward (of The Guardian’s Word of Mouth) articles as a good starting point.

Now of course we can eat pork (and other meat) all year round if we want to. Whether it tastes its best or has been reared in a sustainable manner is of course open to much debate. It seems to make sense to eat less meat, reared in the best way possible and used sensibly. We can learn a lot from the seasons and the way people used to cook though of course we can’t go back to how they lived (and I doubt we would want to) but we can think more carefully about what we eat and when we eat it.

So eating pork at this time of year makes sense seasonally and pairing it with apples has a long heritage. Roast pork and apple sauce is a classic British dish with the apple sauce cutting through the sweet fattiness of the pork. That’s the point of this combination the apple provides a counterpoint to the meat, so often missed with over sweetened commercial sauces. Apple jelly is wonderful with sausages, either on the side or as a glaze to create extra sticky sausages. If you don’t have your own apple jelly to hand then try one with a little kick of chilli for some added interest (Jules & Sharpies Sage & Apple Jelly is my current favourite) track down something local to you and support a local food business.

There’s a recipe I’ve been cooking for years that sprang to mind (from an early Delia Smith book) after I’d been to an Apple Day event at Copped Hall in Essex recently. I think it’s the first dish I cooked entirely on my own at home but I wanted to do it a bit differently this time and make it into an almost one-pot dish. It’s simple, pretty quick and of course tasty.

Creamy pork, apples, cider and potatoes

For 2 people you need:

  • 2 large pork chops on the bone
  • 1 onion, sliced into rings
  • 1 apple, I used an Egremont russet (my favourite apple just sharp enough and good firm flesh), cored and sliced but not peeled
  • ½ bottle cider, I used Aspalls Organic
  • small handful of fresh sage (about a tbsp when chopped)
  • ½ tub crème fraiche (100g)
  • 3-4 large potatoes cut into thin slices
  • salt & pepper
  • butter

What to do….

  1. Pre heat the oven to 190C/R5
  2. Put some butter in a frying pan and brown the chops, place then in a shallow casserole dish.
  3. If needed add a little extra butter and soften the onions for about 5 minutes over a low heat, add them to the pork chops.
  4. Fry the apple slices quickly and add to the casserole.
  5. Add the cider to the frying pan and bring to simmering then pour over the chops.
  6. Sprinkle the casserole with the chopped sage and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Add the crème fraiche and stir into the liquid
  8. Add the potato slices pushing them down into the creamy liquid.
  9. Cover and cook for 20 minutes then remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes.

The chops will be cooked but remain juicy, the potatoes will have absorbed some of the creamy liquid and cooked rather like daupinoise. Serve with a lightly steamed autumn vegetable to balance the creaminess, we had red cabbage.

Burgers, three ways

When the Beyond Baked Beans team asked if I’d do a recipe that would appeal to students for their blog I was pleased but stumped. It’s a long time since I was a student and I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to get through Uni without having to cook much more than the odd slice of cheese on toast and the very occasional chilli. This isn’t because I lived at home rather its because I lived in college all three years and the college catering seemed to be modelling itself on a pretty reasonable hotel. And then each time I came up with an idea another faster more organised blogger had pipped me to the post. And so it is that I thought of burgers, something so easy to make I’d almost missed it….here’s the post I did for Beyond Baked Beans so that you too, as well as all those lucky students, can create your own delicious burgers.

Everyone loves burgers (well everyone who loves meat). Homemade ones are brilliant, once you’ve tried them you’ll never want to buy ready made again, because there is no point. They are really simple to make and they taste so much better.

You can mince the meat yourself but I’m guessing if you have a mincer you probably don’t need me to tell you about making your own burgers….

You should allow between 150g-250g of meat per person depending on whether you like small, medium or really quite large burgers. I find that 3 burgers from 500g is about right if you’ve got toppings and side dishes. Its also important that you go for the 20% fat mince, less fat and your burger just won’t be as juicy and tasty, burgers are not the place to be exercising fat content control. Get the best mince you can find it does make a real difference to the taste.

This is a kind of design your own burger recipe…..

Ingredients (for 3 people):

500g of mince (beef, lamb or pork)

1tsp to 1tbsp of herbs or spices to complement your chosen meat (see below for my favourite combinations)

salt and pepper

3 white buns or rolls, again the nicest you can find

cooking oil

condiments: mayo/ketchup/tomato/mushrooms/sliced cheese/bacon/lettuce/onion as suits you and the burger

sides: chips, coleslaw, salad etc


Break the mince up in a bowl, add salt and pepper and mix in. You can leave your burgers plain but I like to add some spices or herbs: add your herb/spice of choice, mix in and leave for 30mins to 1 hour for the flavours to mingle and then form the meat into three equal patties with your hands. You just need to squash and shape it and it will hold together fine. Aim for about 2cm thick and don’t worry if its not perfectly flat.

Pour some cooking oil onto a plate and coat each burger with oil by putting it on the plate and moving it about a bit on each side (don’t worry about the edges, just the flat surfaces).

Heat your chosen pan, a griddle plan will give you nice seared lines but a frying pan is fine. You don’t need any oil in the pan as you’ve already oiled the burger. When the pan is nice and hot put the burgers in. Turn the heat down about ¼ – ½ way. Leave the burgers alone to cook. After about 2-3 minutes they will be ready to flip and they will come away from the pan easily. Turn them over and leave again. This will give you medium-rare/medium burgers; cook for longer if you wish.

Serve on the buns with the condiments and side dishes of your choice.

Good spice/herb combinations are (picking just one usually works best). Use 1 tsp of spices (ready or freshly ground) or dried herbs and up to 1 tbsp of fresh chopped herbs:

Beef: chilli flakes or fresh chilli, coriander seeds or leaves, English mustard powder

Lamb: cumin seeds, coriander seeds, mint, oregano, rosemary

Pork: sage, smoky paprika

Think about how different cuisines spice their food and you’ll find plenty more options.

Can I cook Chile Verde?

Tomatillos. anytime
Tomatillos. anytime

And can Karen cook asparagus tart?

Asparagus spears, early evening
Asparagus spears, early evening

It’s a kind of recipes at dawn this, Chile Verde vs. asparagus tart, one blogger pitched against another. Masterchef without the cameras, or the publicity, or the random commentary, or the…….well almost any of it. Just a bit of fun.

You might remember back in early May I was ‘adopted’ by Karen over at ‘Karen Cooks’. We did a blogo-interview of each other to introduce our very different worlds and in the meantime I’ve been asking Karen lots of questions about food and blogging and incorporating things I’m learning into my blog. Anyway, we thought it might be fun to have a cook-off: each pick a recipe from the others blog that would be a bit challenging and new and then cook and blog it. We agreed that we mustn’t pick something too easy but also we aren’t to email back and forth to ask for guidance if we get stuck, we’ve got to make our own judgements on how to substitute things. No winner, no loser just some fun.

But as soon as you start to think about it there’s lots of hurdles and tests.