In season: more asparagus

A few weeks ago I treated myself to a ‘Tarte Maison‘ tin from John Lewis. Its a lovely thing, 3 times as long as its wide and calling out to have something pretty made in it. Initially I’d intended to make a rhubarb tart that I’d seen Jonathan (aka @Browners), over at ‘Around Britain with a Paunch‘ mention on Twitter. I’ve not got to the rhubarb tart yet – mainly because we don’t eat that many desserts so it just hasn’t happened.

But this weekend I thought it would be nice to do something a little bit different with asparagus that still let it shine and played to its best qualities but moved away from simple steaming and dressing (much as I love it just steamed).

The tart tin seemed just the thing to show off the asparagus.

It was quick and easy:

1. Steam 10 asparagus spears until tender and then immediately plunge them into cold water so they retain their vibrant green colour. Cut each spear in half so you have a bottom end and an end with the tip on.
2. Grease the tart tin and then line with four layers of filo pastry (I needed 8 sheets which overlapped in the middle). Pour in baking beans and blind bake for 7 minutes at Gas 6/200C/400F. Remove from oven and careful remove the baking beans. Allow to cool slightly.
3. Lay the bottoms of the asparagus spears in the pastry case. Add soft goats cheese cut into small pieces (I used 100g of Pants y Gawn). Pour in beaten and seasoned eggs (it took 6 medium eggs).
4. Lay the tops of asaparagus spears on the eggy mix. Bake 20 minutes at Gas 6 until the mixture is firm. Allow to cool, admire, slice and serve.

Under the bonnet: Sourdough progress

On Sunday Monday I finally decided to make a sourdough starter. It takes FOUR weeks of patient waiting and ‘feeding’ before you get to make a loaf.


I’m not a patient person so each time I pass I have to try very hard to resist taking a peek to see what’s happening under the lid. Sometimes I just manage to leave it alone others I succumb. So I thought I’d share these peeks with you so you too can live the joys and worries of making sourdough.

I’ll keep updating this post so come back if you want to see what’s a foot – or follow me on Twitter to hear the latest. As I add new pictures they’ll be right here so you’ll need to scroll down if you want to watch the full process.

Update 6 (above): Well the yeasty foam is disappearing day by day to reveal the pinky brown cloudy liquid – nice. The smell is just as bad each time I lift the lid – so I’m mostly staying away. Feeding commences Friday 8.00am BST so have stocked up on flour and am ready to enter phase 2 with my sourdough – can hardly wait. Date/time: 13 May 2009 2.00pm BST

Update 5 (above): its now been just over a week since I made the sourdough thing (yes its a thing). I tried not to peek too much this weekend as we had guests and I imagined they might not want to feel like they were visiting an unattended football teams sock laundry pile! Anyway today the starter is looking rather sad. Its getting a bit of the promised pink tinge but the thick yeasty foam is collapsing and glimpses of dirty looking liquid can be seen below. Ugh. Only a few more days before the phase 2 feeding ritual commences….Date/time: 11 May 23.00 BST

Update 4 (above): just clocked through 100 hours of bubbling (and waiting). Its getting smellier but so far this isn’t creeping out to fill the kitchen (a good fitting lid is clearly essential). Here’s more of a close up on all that home grown yeasty-ness. Date/time: 9 May 2009 9.30am BST

Update 3: We are now 3 1/2 days in and its smelling like a VERY ripe cheese (but still only if you lift the lid). It doesn’t look much different from yesterday so I decide to prod it with a spoon. I can tell its liquidy underneath with a thick sticky stretchy topping. Still yellow-ish coloured. This is where may patience is going to be tested severely I think…..Date/time: 8 May 2009 8.00am BST

Update 2: At 60 hours its going a bit crazy, lots of bubbling, bit more smelly and I’m worried its going to break free from the bowl: Date and time 7 May 2009 9.30am BST


First up: 36 hours old, yellowy colour, flour has settled to bottom, slightly tangy smell starting to develop (but only if you lift the lid): Date and time 6 May 2009 9.15am BST

Tweeting and eating, chilli

Some of you might have noticed that lately I’ve joined up on Twitter and I’ve been having fun seeing what its all about and chatting to like minded foodies, finding their blogs, seeing what people have to say. There’s certainly plenty of food talk going on in the Twitter-sphere.

Yesterday there emerged a series of tweets about making chilli. Now I love chilli but I haven’t made any for a good few months and as it was damp, drizzly day I decided maybe chilli was what was needed. We tweeted a bit about whether beans are authentic or not, which chilli peppers were good and on. Beans apparently aren’t ‘authentic’ although surely its hard to determine what is ‘authentic’ in a dish as mixed up as chilli is – do you want Mexican style, American style, Tex-mex, Heston Blumenthal style?! 

Last time I cooked chilli I used Hugh F-W’s recipe form his Meat Book. Its good. Very good. It’s a little different to your usual recipe calling for beef, pork and chorizo sausage (and beans) but I liked it. Never one to stick with something tried and tested I decided it was time for someone else’s recipe with, inevitably, a few of my own additions and subtractions; a recipe is a starting point not a checklist, discuss.

So with thanks to Dan (EssexEating) at for pointing me to the Jamie Oliver recipe and Lizzie (hollowlegs) at for suggesting the chipotle and the beer, here is what I did. 


You need (adapted from Jamie Oliver – Happy days with the Naked Chef) – n.b. I did double this quantity but I like making a mountain of the stuff to freeze some: 

2 onions, chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, chopped
rapeseed oil (or olive – I used rapeseed)
2 tsp chilli powder – your favourite type and strength
1 fresh chilli chopped – I didn’t have this so used chipotle paste
1 heaped tsp crushed cumin seeds (or ground cumin if you don’t have seeds)
salt, pepper
1lb chuck steak (chopped small or minced) or best (organic if you can) minced beef (please not the ‘extra lean’ stuff though – you’ll lose out taste wise)
2 x 400g tins of plum or chopped tomatoes
½ stick cinnamon
2 x 400g tins red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (or of course use dried ones that you have soaked and pre cooked – about a million times cheaper probably)
about 300ml Mexican beer (in my case it was Peruvian – I didn’t want a whole case of Corona on my hands and there were no single bottles at the supermarket)

I had wanted to add smoked scotch bonnet peppers (not in Jamie) but as this was a late plan the local supermarket didn’t extend to that. Also Jamie adds 200g of ‘blitzed’ sun dried tomatoes – I didn’t do this, husband not a fan of sundried tomatoes. Also the beer is not in the Jamie recipe, but as I said a recipe is starting point in my view.

What to do:

  • Sauté the chopped onion and garlic in the oil until soft and translucent (about 5-10 mins).
  • Add chilli powder, fresh chilli (or chipotle paste in my case), cumin, salt, pepper and cook for about 1 minute (mmmm the spice aromas smell good).
  • Add the meat and cook until browned (about 10 minutes). Its at this point Jamie adds the sun dried toms – I didn’t.
  • Add the tinned toms, cinnamon and the beer (Jamie adds a wine glass of water).
  • Bring to boil, turn down so it’s just simmering, cover and cook for 1 ½ hours. Add the beans 30 minutes before the end. I had to uncover it for the last half hour, as it seemed too liquidy – do as you think best.

Serve with rice, guacamole, sour cream with fresh coriander and lime, cornbread or whatever your favourite trimmings are. Plus of course cold beer or a chewy red wine.

It was very different from the Hugh recipe but just as tasty – the chipotle added a nice smokiness, I think I went a bit light on the overall heat factor so would add more chilli powder or chilli’s next time or stronger ones. Eating it the same day is never the best thing with chilli, it seems to mature nicely if it’s left for at least a day – but its still good the day its cooked just not as good. And it always freezes well.