Easy slaw

It’s taken me a long time to be a fan of coleslaw. Scarred by childhood memories of gloopy overly vinegary stuff from tubs and at the other extreme overly wholesome versions with yoghurt and stale nuts, I’ve always approached the dish with caution. But my husband is a big fan and so I thought ‘how hard can it be’ to make a good version…so I tried.

At first I refused to add any extra vinegar, the recipes got a modest thumbs up but the comments ‘too thick’. Then in summer last year there was a twitter conversation about making slaw with chums @josordoni, @roystonandhayes, @lahoguefarm and @cjmsheng each having their views on essential and optional ingredients. Chris from La Hogue was kind enough to tweet us the version he uses in the cafe (all typos his not mine on this one !):

“Ok our *Coleslaw*-carrot,cabbage,onion,good plain mayonaisse >>then dressing of local honey,lemonjuice,womersley vinegar,wholegrain mustard & olive oil -only use a small amount of dressing ;0)”

So since then I’ve been using that a a basic structure but playing with the mix depending on what’s to hand, what its to be served and what flavours I fancy. I’m an inveterate recipe fiddler. The mix immediately got the thumbs up and each batch seems to have been more winning than the last.

The picture above was made as follows (makes enough for 6):

1/2 head spring cabbage, shredded

1/2 head celeriac, sliced finely

1 red onion sliced finely

125g of Stokes mayonnaise (my current favourite mayo)

1 tbsp coriander seeds lightly crushed

1 tbsp Womersley blackberry vinegar

Mix all the vegetables together, add the mayo and coriander and stir in, leave to stand for 30 mins. Pour over the vinegar and stir through.

We served it with venison burgers the first evening and with smoked salmon and Peters Yard crispbread for a light lunch.


cabbage: don’t just stick to the white or red varieties all different sorts will work as will kale or green, you just get a different texture

root veg: carrot is traditional but beetroot is lovely as is parsnip

spices/seasoning: mustard is traditional but I like cumin, chilli, coriander, fennel, onion seeds, poppy seeds depending on what I’m serving it with. Experiment.



Egg and cress

Egg and cress makes me think of summer.

I love it in sandwiches (I know lots of people don’t). Especially on a nice crispy white roll or baguette.

But recently I’ve been flipping through @Scandilicious new book The Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking and there’s quite a few open sandwiches with an eggy theme.

So I decided why not try egg and cress on lovely @PetersYard crispbreads for a quick lunch.


Wow it was fab. Helped of course that I had home grown cress and bantam eggs gifted from a friend.

Perfect with some crunchy breakfast radish on the side.

For a filling lunch for 1 you need:

2-3 bantam or small hens eggs, hardboiled

your favourite mayonnaise, a good dollop

1 tub of cress

3 Peters Yard crispbread or some slices of sourdough or rye bread

Chop the hard boiled eggs in with the mayo , stir in pepper and cress. Pile on bread or crispbreads, garnish with more cress and serve with crispy radish or some tomatoes

Coming together

I love it when things just seem to come together in the right way and its one of the things that I’m starting to love about blogging and tweeting. You swirl around the blogosphere, you play about on Twitter and suddenly a whole bunch of influences collide to make you spot a new dish that resonates for you or triggers fond memories of something you haven’t had in simply too long.


And so it was earlier this week that the influences of Browners’ National British Sandwich fun, Fran39’s watercress post and the #livelocal challenge came together to make me think of a lunch I hadn’t had in probably 10 years (yes really)  – chicken and watercress with mayo on really good bread.

So I plotted a treat, my husband is not a fan of watercress he pulls a face at the very word, the ideal opportunity was to have said sandwich on a day when I was working from home. Mmmmm. I made fresh bread rolls yesterday to have with burgers and I’d found some red watercress in the supermarket and at 11am I was roasting 2 chicken legs with a dousing of lemon and olive oil.

At the appointed lunch hour I moseyed to the kitchen, sliced open a couple of rolls, slathered them with my favourite mayo, piled in freshly roast chicken and topped with watercress, squidged on the top.

And tucked in. Heaven in a bun.

National British Sandwich Week

Apparently, according to Jonathan (aka @Browners) who writes a Sandwichist slot, its National British Sandwich Week this week. Right. Yes. You already knew that didn’t you?

Anyway Mr Browners is fed up with pre-packed sandwiches and I’m fed-up with look-a-like Pret’s all over the place. Pret was good once (honestly) back in the days when it was just starting and only had a few stores, it was a revelation as well as independent. Like many good things they expanded and expanded then they needed big corporate money. I guess there might a place for that kind of thing when you visit a town you know nothing about and are desperate to eat and have no time to find real recommendations – it makes acceptable food on such occasions, but day to day it get a little dull.

But there are LOADS of independent sandwich shops out there (some good, some bad) plus you could always try your hand at making something yourself. Browners asked for people to go in search of great sandwiches – so we did.

I decided to do not just one but two sandwiches. One from a shop, one homemade.

First up the shop one. Its from Caradell in Red Lion Street, WC2. Caradell is a nice little deli close by where I used to work so I’ve been there often but having moved on job wise I’d not been in nearly a year – time to try it again. What I always liked about the place is that its busy, service is fast, the sandwiches are made to order and, most of all, pretty much everything is a variation on the classic ham and cheese. Well that might not be quite right but in my view you can’t easily beat ham (or salami, or chorizo, or jamon etc etc) and cheese so maybe I just home in on those choices. On this occasion I went for proper British cooked ham off the bone with Emmenthal (no British cheeses in sight boooooo) with Cumberland Sauce – on bloomer of course. 

As you can see its pretty chunky and not for the delicate – its quite hard to eat (all their sandwiches are packed full of filling). It was a great combo but I’d prefer there to be some British cheese as an option. The Cumberland Sauce was nice and tangy, so good stuff all round. At £4.60 its pricey (but it is big and its quality ingredients) and in my view worth it.  I can also vouch that their other ham/cheese variations are also excellent.

And on to today when I decided to rustle up a quick sandwich myself. I went for all English using Village Bakery Pain de Campagne (sourdough), Hawkston cheese from Suffolk (a bit like mild Lancashire), glass grown tomatoes from the Isle of Wight (via Waitrose) and some Stokes Lemon Mayonnaise. Yum – and probably not £4.60!

G20 antics

Police and protesters; they’re ranged up against each other outside the Bank of England spoiling for a fight about something, anything, important or otherwise.

Meanwhile over at ‘Word of Mouth’ (The Guardian’s food blog) the real action is already underway with journalists praising Jamie O’s menu for tonight’s exclusive dinner at No.10 and the posting populace getting very het-up about seasonality, authenticity, diversity and why oh why its Saint Jamie in the limelight again. 

So lets just try to take a balanced look at things (because I’m sure Gordon and Barack will be aiming for balance today and tomorrow, if not dietary then economically at least).  

The brief: 

Mr Oliver has apparently been given a brief to create a menu that showcases the best of seasonal British food and cooking including finding things to represent each of the parts of the United Kingdom. Now some of you may think that ‘best’ ‘British’ and ‘food/cooking’ in the same sentence is something of an oxymoron and that St Jamie is a fool to have accepted the gig. But as we know from past form there is nothing like a challenge to get Jamie’s enthusiasm racing away with him and him saying ‘YES’ before anyone has any chance of stopping him. Even the imminent arrival of his third child is not enough to stop Jamie pouncing on this chance.

Remember it’s a BIG BIG GIG. 

So as we proceed through this analysis of the menu lets remember the brief is ‘BEST SEASONAL BRITISH’ cooked for people from 20 different nations with all the restrictions that entails. Because if you were on The Apprentice doing this and you junked the brief straight off Mr Sugar would be firing you right back to where you came from in no time.

The menu:

You’ve probably seen it already but lets see if and how it sticks to the brief:


Baked Scottish Salmon with Seashore Vegetables, Broad Beans, Herb Garden Salad, Mayonnaise and Wild Garlic-scented Irish Soda bread
Vegetarian option is Childwickbury Goat’s Cheese with Roast Shallots, Seashore Vegetables, Herb Green Salad and Wild Garlic-scented Irish Soda Bread (no mayo)


Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Welsh Lamb, very first of the season Jersey Royals, first of the season Asparagus and Wild St George Mushrooms. Mint Sauce and Gravy
Vegetarian option is Lovage & Potato Dumplings with first of the season Asparagus and Wild St George Mushrooms


Hot Bakewell Tart with Home-made Custard

A quick look in any seasonal cooking book or any of the various online seasonality resources will show you that Jamie is potentially quite restricted in some areas e.g. fruit = pretty much nothing, meat = wild pigeon!. And once he has to factor in a whole range of dietary requirements the options get cut further. So lets just be clear here: the guy has to create something uniquely (and identifiably) British and WOW that fits with a plethora of dietary restrictions and a rather thin set of seasonal choices.

So his only option is to get top notch ingredients and try to make them sing.


Salmon: in season, very recognisably British, represents Scotland (still part of the UK last time I looked despite the best efforts of may a Scotsman and woman). Obvious choice but shellfish is probably a no no and many might squeal at eel.

Seashore Veg: identified on most sites as sea kale and samphire. Well he’s on the mark with sea kale but I’m a bit doubtful about the possibility of samphire – it’s a shade early for that really but he can hardly have had it grown in a poly tunnel so he must know a secret source. I have seen it growing on the mud flats of Maldon fairly early in previous years so its not impossible. And its very British.

Broad beans: pretty British, very early so these have got to come from under glass, possibly from somewhere like the Isle of Wight or Channel Islands. And before we all go off on one about producing things early under glass lets just remember that they’ve been doing it since way back in the 1500’s – what do you think they used Chelsea for before they built posh houses and football clubs on it!

Herb garden salad: definitely seasonal, not especially British but that will depend on the actual herbs selected and what’s available. Hopefully he’ll have some sorrel or watercress or early spinach in there.

Mayonnaise: not reknowned for being particularly British but it is tasty and we could make a slightly weak argument about it allegedly being brought back from Mahon in Minorca after Richelieu defeated the British there in 1756 (bit tenuous though). I think he should have plumped for a dressing made with rapeseed oil and a herb or fruit vinegar.

Wild garlic soda bread: wild garlic is definitely in season and grows across much of the UK; and soda bread is found both North and South of the border in Ireland so it fits (regardless of your politics on the UK/Irish matter).

Vegetarians: sadly its goats cheese again for them it seems (a stock answer to ‘oh dear how do I cope with the veggie people’) but since good goats cheese is so lovely and a staple of the British food scene these days I’d be happy to opt for this and they get to have the same supporting vegetables.

Main: This is a tough one to call. The options are limited and some of the things on the menu are VERY early in the season. I imagine there’s been a lots of frantic sourcing going on to get some of this stuff but the choices are all well known British options and show the range of possibilities from across the UK

Lamb: of course it is now April! Its a bit early in the season but not impossible to get lamb that’s mature enough – I suspect since its being slow roasted it’ll be close to 1 year old rather than new season. Pretty tough call to find another option when pork and beef are probably both of the menu due to dietary restrictions and everyone would simply roll their eyes if its was chicken being served up.

Jersey Royals: if they are ready I say bring them on, fantastic.

Asparagus: after the cool winter I’m doubtful this is really in season yet but he must have managed to get its somewhere – I love asparagus so I’m quite jealous.

Vegetarians: good to see that the supporting notes are the same as for the meat option, veggies are so often just palmed off with a totally different mushed up irrelevant dish whereas this references back and adds lovage which will be in season.

Dessert: oh dear this is where the controversy really warms up. For a start most people say the real thing is Bakewell Pudding and it’s pretty easy to search out bucket loads of supporting evidence for that assertion. But many of the same sources also suggestion that Bakewell Tart is not such the chav newcomer most of us would have and recipes can be traced back at least to the mid 1800s for dishes that are more tart like less pudding and indeed tarts akin to Bakewell have a heritage going back further across most of the UK. So, as long as St J isn’t just opening a pack of Mr Kipling’s then I’m sure things will be okay. Pudding, dessert, whatever you want to call it there must have been lots of options to consider. I think he’s slightly lost the seasonal plot though here as he could have done something interesting with new seasons rhubarb (like the a wonderful dish I tasted at Northcote Manor in Lancashire earlier this year of Rhubarb Carpaccio, Custard Crumble Parfait, Rhubarb Granita which was real wow), even a simple fruit fool would have done the trick I think (and stopped the arguing about tarts and puddings).

So overall has he met the brief?

Well I’d say he’s well over 90% of the way there with this menu, plus its relatively simple and accessible and crucially for him straightforward to prepare. It’s a meant to be a working dinner not an off the scale gastronomic experience. I can quite imagine that St Jamie will pull it off again and by tomorrow when those who tasted comment we’ll be hearing about how great it was. And if not, well then I’ll eat my words or at the very least some seasonal British food.

Think you can do better? Look out for tomorrow’s post to join in the debate and have the chance to create your own G20 menu moment and also find out some useful resources on British food.


Just for the record

Those who have been following carefully might wonder where the very last of the roast chicken went.

You’ll be please to know that the cat didn’t get it but instead it ended up as a quick lunch in a fresh white lovely soft floury roll with lemon mayonnaise (or salad cream for one of us) and tomato. It was breast meat – perfect.

So in these credit crunch times lets see whether overall we got value from the chicken. We had 4 meals (for 2 people each time) using the meat (roast, curry, pie, sandwich) and about 5 pints of stock, which will make 10 potions of soup or risotto or whatever. The chicken cost £11.32 – you can do the maths anyway you want but that means it cost £1.42 per portion if you ignore the stock and 63p if you don’t.

Not bad going whatever angle you peer at it from.

The dangers of dreaming of burgers

Sometimes you just NEED to have a burger in a bun for your supper. Well yesterday that was me.

A quick search in the freezer revealed some organic beef burgers that seemed to fit the bill – each quite small so it wouldn’t count as sheer greed but only mild gluttony to have two. 

So out they came to be defrosted during the day and sit winking at me from the counter each time I passed. I thought carefully about what condiments and sides should accompany them to add to the experience.  I spooled through ideas in my head remembering previous winning combinations and all the while the anticipation was building.

At last I settled on an ‘open burger’  – only 1 bun between two burgers so there would be no ‘lid’. Off I set to get some buns, choice was limited and I had to settle for wholemeal floured rolls (perhaps at this point I should have spotted that things might be about to go wrong but no I continued to think I was building the dream burger I craved).

Back home the burgers were cooked on very hot chargrill pan for about 5 minutes per side, each of the two sides of the bun was given a different treatment – one had mayo, one ketchup (find both of them at the Stokes brand of Essfoods) – and the side orders of saute portobello mushrooms and grilled baby plum tomatoes duly prepared. Then the whole things was rapidly assembled and whisked to the table to be greedily devoured.  

But something had gone wrong – perhaps not very wrong – after all I still managed to eat everything but some how it just didn’t cut it. The bread was tasteless and dry, the burger tasteless and kind of watery – its texture was fine but there was just nothing to the whole thing – no zing, no nice beefy flavour, no soft but fresh tasting bread effect. To be fair the mayo and the ketchup and the sides were great but instead of supporting a strong main act they were left to hold up the whole show on their own!

So the problem – well I can only think that the burgers didn’t stand up to the freezing very well on this occasion.  I’ve had the same burgers before both fresh and defrosted and they have been pretty good – not as good as if you made them yourself but there isn’t always time for that kind of thing.  And as for the buns well maybe wholemeal just doesn’t work with burgers – I love wholemeal bread but it doesn’t seem to do it on the burger front.

Or just perhaps, the fact I had been dreaming of perfect burgers all day meant nothing would live up to the expectation!