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Monday, 31 December 2007

2-way parsnip

The Christmas Cooking Frenzy has put me off the kitchen for the last few days, but today I feel like I'm back on board.
In our fridge there's an obscene amount of parsnips that needs addressing, due to a Christmas Shopping Frenzy miscommunication. Roasting them is not an option as I have absolutely done my dash with roasted parsnips (at least for the next few weeks anyway).
I have been loosely inspired by the format of the 2-way Peking Duck - where the skin and top layer of meat is served with the pancakes etc, then the rest of carcass taken back to the kitchen to make soup.
My 2-way parsnip consists of chips (like the Tyrrells ones) and a spicy soup.

What you need
10 Parsnips, peeled
sea salt
black pepper in a grinder
sunflower oil
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 small brown onion, diced
1 tablespoon marigold swiss vegetable organic bouillon powder
Pastry brush
fresh coriander

Parsnip chips
Preheat oven to 200c
Using a vegetable peeler, work your way around the fat end of the peeled parsnip taking off about 3-4 slivers at a time. Repeat with the other parsnips.Brush some sunflower oil then grind some black pepper onto a metal baking tray, evenly lay the strips down flat, lightly brush with some more oil and season again with a little bit more pepper and salt. Bake in the oven for around 8 minutes on the top shelf, give them a toss at around 5 minutes with a spatula and return to the oven. When golden remove from oven and cool on some paper towel.

Parsnip soup
Chop what's left of the parsnips into 2-3 cm chunks. Put a full kettle on the boil. Heat a few tablespoons of sunflower oil in a big saucepan over medium heat then fry the onion, curry powder and cumin - when the aroma begins come out of the spices throw in the parsnip chunks and fry for a few minutes, add enough boiling water from the kettle to cover the parsnips. Add stock powder and stir. Bring to boil, cover and turn flame to low. When the parsnips are soft, then blend in the food processor until smooth and serve with some chopped fresh coriander.

Now what I need is ideas on how to cook the 500 brussel sprouts sitting in the fridge.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

bringing home the baked goods

A couple of weeks ago I brought a tray of cupcakes to work. It just so happened that a fellow inmate, Stef D, had baked some muffins on the same day. Naturally, we challenged each other to a bake-off. It took place on Monday and was a joy to behold; a bundle of cooks produced so many baked goods people were getting high on the sugar fumes alone. From Swedish Macaroons and rude gingerbread bodies to mince pies and five types of brownies, the spread was amazing.

My hands down favourite sweet was Stef's version of this Choc-hazelnut Meringue Cake from the BBC's Olive Magazine. Include it in your festive spread on Christmas day (alongside Chew's Leek and Sweet Potato Roulade of course) and the folks will adore you. I took a punt with a few recipes I hadn't tried before, including these nutty Russian balls I nicked from Smitten Kitchen. I used a combination of pecans, hazelnuts and almonds and added a little sweetened condensed milk to the dough because I found it quite dry. The result was a very tasty treat for nut freaks.

With so many sweet nibbles on the bake-off table, we raised over a hundred quid in donations for the homelessness charity, Crisis. Job well done.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

A peculiar panettone

A couple of weeks ago I read an inspiring article in one of the weekend broadsheet magazines about an Italian family dedicated to pumping out panettone. (From memory it was the Saturday Telegraph.) Given panettone is an increasingly favoured festive cake in our house, I salivated as they spoke lovingly of the Casa Corsini mother yeast and the 24 hour hand-to-hand baking process, culminating in a hand tied ribbon around the hand wrapped doughy bundle. Oh the love.

It just so happened this particular panettone is sold in Waitrose so I duly bought one when I saw it in the aisle the other night. It set me back a fiver and tasted alright, though it didn't blow my mind.

So anyway, last night I was reading the Guardian's G2 in bed, paying particular interest to a Cheats' Christmas review of all the supermarket food that may or may not pass for homemade on your table, and they mentioned a Casa Cortini panettone from Waitrose, quietly bagging the crap out of it. A little bit surprised that one broadsheet elevated this particular panettone to the heavens while another dropped it in hades, I went looking for the original article (and the home page for this age old family bread business). Which was when I noticed the spelling discrepancy between the Tele and the G2.

After a fruitless web search I was reminded why I never became a hack in the first place and, frankly, that this story has no point. That said, the panettone IS the cake for christmas this year. I read it in a magazine.

Better than turkey

A long afternoon of farting into couch cushions is as much a part of Christmas as carol singing and mistletoe. So if you want to cut down on your emissions this year, do away with the traditional Nut Roast and try this festive recipe instead.
This roulade is for those who don't mind a little lacto-ovo action and it's a little complicated to make, but the vegetarian at your Christmas table will love you for it.
In past years, I have followed this ABC Delicious magazine recipe word for word. This year I’m feeling pretty confident and I’m going to add a few yule tide-esque trimmings of my own - and I’m trialling it before the big day next week so I don’t poison my boyfriend’s family.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, finely chopped
60g butter
1/3 cup plain flour
300 ml soy milk (or cow's milk if you prefer it)
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Sweet potato filling
500g sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped
15g butter
100ml light cream or 2 tablespoons Tofutti cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
handful of roughly chopped walnuts

Chestnut cranberry stuffing

30g unsalted butter
1 brown onion, finely diced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 cup fresh brown breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chopped and peeled whole roasted chestnuts (I used the vacuum-pack sealed Merchant Gourmet ones)
a child's handful of chopped fresh sage
a child's handful chopped flat leaf parsley
a few sprigs of thyme, with stalks removed

1. The night before, place cranberries in a bowl and cover with port - set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 180°C.

3. Grease and line a Swiss roll pan (I used one that was about 33x22 - but if you have one about 39x26 - it would be better)

To make roulade, heat the oil in a frying pan over low-medium heat.

5. Add the leek and cook gently for five minutes until soft.

6. In a saucepan, heat butter. When it has melted, add the flour and cook 1 - 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the milk, a little at a time, whisking until milk is combined and sauce has thickened. Remove from heat, beat in egg yolks one at a time, then season with salt and pepper.

7. In a clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Add 1/4 of the egg whites to the mixture in the saucepan and mix lightly. Fold in leeks and cheddar until just combined then gently fold in remaining egg whites, being careful not to lose all the air you've put into the eggs.

8. Pour into the prepared Swiss roll pan and bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden.

For the filling, steam or microwave sweet potato until tender. Drain and mash with butter, cream and nutmeg. Season to taste and set aside.

10. To make stuffing, melt butter in frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, cook for five minutes or until soft. Add garlic, cranberries and breadcrumbs and cook for further 3 - 4 minutes. Stir in herbs and season with salt and pepper.When roulade is cooked, place clean tea towel on the workbench and sprinkle with Parmesan. Turn the roulade out onto the tea towel and peel off baking paper. Allow to cool for 2 minutes, then spread the sweet potato over the roulade except for 2 inches across the far edge. Distribute walnuts evenly over the surface.

11. Sprinkle the stuffing over the sweet potato putting most of it on the edge closer to you, then (this bit is a little tricky...) using the edge of the tea towel, carefully roll up the roulade like a sushi roll, finishing with the seam down. This takes a little practice so don't worry if it cracks or isn't perfect - it's not worth razzing out over.

12. Using the tea towel and a spatula, carefully transfer it back onto the Swiss roll pan (you may need the help of a trusty assistant) and bake at 180 for about 15 minutes

13. Slice and serve warm with all the Christmas sides.

You can make this the day before. Wrap in tin foil and heat through when needed. You may want to make an extra one because in my experience, meat-eaters have finished this off leaving me without seconds.

Happy Christmas!!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Eggs in purgatory ... tagine style

Eggs, tomatoes and smoked paprika all cooked in my latest kitchen acquisition, the tagine.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Stew it over

Life can get pretty busy, which leaves little time for the kitchen. Just look at the cooking section in any bookstore and it's all express this, fast that.
In this day and age it is difficult to dedicate yourself to proper slow cooking. Preparation times are shorter, most people would rather reach for the freezer drawer than sit around shelling peas, and just check out how large the pre-cut vegetable section is at supermarket.
The kind of cooking that takes patience, and forces you to come into line with the seasons, is rare. When I begin to feel a proper chill in the air I know it's chestnut time, and this means I can make one of my favourite family recipes of all time... Chestnut and shittake mushroom stew.

1. When choosing your chestnuts go for shiny ones that are heavy for their weight and don't yield when given a good squeeze. There is nothing worse than getting a bad batch. Once picked, they disintegrate quickly so peel them soon after purchase or store them in the fridge to prolong freshness.
2. Chestnuts are a royal pain in the arse to peel. I usually enjoy this dish whilst nursing scorched thumbs, but it's worth it.
3. NEVER attempt to peel chestnuts in a hurry, it will result in a great deal of cursing and swearing. Put on your favourite podcast and it will soon become a pleasure, not a chore (I did mine whilst bopping along to Diddy Wah's 1977 mixtape)
4. The peeled nuts can be stored in the freezer for when you need them.


What you need
1 small can of chinese water chestnuts, drained and chopped in thirds
2 big handfuls of dried shittake mushrooms
2 big handfuls of chestnuts
dark mushroom soy sauce
1 tablespoon of marigold vegetable bouillon powder
2-3 star anise pods
1 teaspoon of 5 spice power
sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon cornflower mixed with a little cold water

The do
THE DAY BEFORE: Place the mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. They will float, so put a small plate over the top to keep them submerged.

With a small sharp knife, very carefully score a deep cross into one side of each chestnut. Throw three at a time into a small saucepan of simmering water for around 10-15 minutes, fish them out with a slotted spoon and throw another three (or more if you are a fast peeler) into the water.
Peel away the tough brown shell and downy inner skin, this is easy if done while the nut is still hot or warm. If they are left to cool down you will find it extremely difficult. Repeat. When the nuts are all done, drain the mushroom water into a jug. Trim the stems off and cut into two. Put a big heavy saucepan on medium heat and throw in a few lugs of oil.
Fry the garlic, 5 spice, water chestnuts, chestnuts, mushrooms then after a minute add a lug of mushroom soy. Fry for a few more minutes then add the mushroom water, stock powder and star anise. The liquid should just cover the ingredients, if not, top up with boiling water. Bring to boil, then simmer with the lid on until chestnuts are soft, stir gently every now and then, taking care not to break up the chestnuts. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed.
Add cornflower mixture, stir, and simmer with the lid off for another 10 minutes.
Fish out the star anise, drizzle sesame oil over the top and serve with brown rice and steamed pak choy or bok choy.

* Any Chinese grocer should have all the ingredients for this dish. I was recently overjoyed at discovering Thai-An Grocery in Chapel market, near Angel station. It sure beats pack-horsing all my goodies on the bus from Chinatown.

Monday, 10 December 2007

part two: the Tim Tam travesty

Holy crap, it's an international phenomenon. After reading of Adam's Kit Kat malfunction here on Lily & Chew, LC sent us news of a similar state of affairs in Melbourne. This time it appears workers at the Arnott's factory have been struggling to hit their Tim Tam moulds. (No, the obvious similarities in the aliterative word patterns of the two biscuit treats in question have not been lost on us.)

It is worth stating for readers unfamiliar with the Tim Tam that 35 million packets of this tasty chocolatey biscuit treat are sold in Australia annually -- that's nearly two packets per Australian. According to Wikipedia, the biscuit was named after the winning horse in the 1958 Kentucky Derby. While there have been many variations produced since the first Tim Tam was sold in 1964, the basic formula of a cream centre sandwiched between two biscuits and smothered in chocolate has remained constant. Until recently, that is.

Earlier this year, LC's regular Friday afternoon tea fell to pieces as she tucked into her beloved Tim Tams with her work mates at SB only to find something quite unexpected. Here is the account posted to Arnott's of what followed:

Good aftenoon,

I never thought I would see the day that I'd find reason to compose this feedback to you over a Tim Tam, however...

At our workplace, we have just bought and gleefully begun consuming our beloved Friday afternoon Tim Tam fix. To our surprise, we've found several of the TTs to be without their cream centres!

These biscuits did seem to have a slightly different external appearance ... then once bitten in to there was a slight hollow where the cream normally is, and just, really, biscuit-on-biscuit action.

This particularly caused tears for one team member who broke a week-long wheat-free existence, for the love of the Tim Tam. She's a trifle upset that she'd lost her healthy high ground for little more than the wheat based portion of the TT, if you follow our drift!

I'm sure you can understand our compulsion to inform you of this immediately. After all, if we can't rely on Tim Tams in this world, I ask you - what is there left?

Here's the kicker. For their troubles, the gang at SB were sent $5... redeemable as a Coles voucher! That is TIGHT (about £2.20 worth of groceries at Tesco.) Thankfully, there was a special on Tim Tams in Coles Richmond that week so they were able to buy two replacement packets with their coupon.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Kit Kat Freak

It's amazing, you can live with someone for years, you think you know everything there is to know about them and then, boom, like a bolt out of the blue you discover they've had a favourite lunch snack all their life and you had no idea. This happened recently when adam came home from work one day banging on and on about a run in with a crazy Kit Kat. I can't possibly do the story that followed justice so I'll let him explain what happened...

I love Kit Kats and I have one as an after lunch snack pretty much everyday. This is in neat harmony with the history of the bar which, according to Wikipedia, "...was developed after a worker at the Rowntree's factory in York put a suggestion in the suggestion box for a snack that a 'man could have in his lunch box for work'." The real coincidence is that Kit Kats take their name from an 18th century literary club, the Kit-Cat Club, named after Christopher Catling the keeper of the pie-house in Shire Lane, by Temple Bar, where the club originally met. Where I buy my Kit Kats is freakishly close to being in that exact location. However, even knowing these facts couldn't have prepared me for what I experienced when I bit into a Kit Kat a couple of weeks ago on an otherwise normal day. Expecting the usual crunch of chocolate covered wafer, I was stunned when I realised that in my mouth, and in my hand, was a bar of solid chocolate.

With a telephone right in front of me, and vague tales of boxes of product being delivered as compensation floating around my head, there was only one thing to do. I called Nestle to complain. If I'd wanted a plain chocolate bar I would have bought one after all, and not one made of Kit Kat chocolate. The man I spoke with was very affable and he explained to me that I probably had no idea of the scale of the production of Kit Kats. Being that they are the UK's number one chocolate bar and number one biscuit, he was probably right. I confess, I'd never put much thought to it. Apparently, giant sheets of wafer drop into a mould which is then filled with liquid chocolate. Occasionally the wafer doesn't land exactly in the correct spot and some areas of the mould gets filled entirely with chocolate, which must be what happened to mine. It is the job of workers at the factory to spot this and make sure any mutant Kit Kats get destroyed. After quizzing me for some numbers on the wrapper, he said he'd send me a cheque. A few days later I was bemused when a cheque arrived in the post, for £3!

Kit Kat Letter

£3 is not quite as good as a big box of Kit Kats but, hell, it's better than a kick in the teeth.

Kit Kat Cheque

If you have time, check out the Kit Kat Palace to find out all the crazy Kit Kat flavours they have in Japan. Anyone for Green Tea Kit Kats?

Saturday, 1 December 2007

blueberry and rose, gimme some of those

There is no humanity. On Saturday Australia's future was full of promise. This week I discover Bindi Irwin has released a rap song. I cry for our fair land, I really do. Closer to home, I suffered my own personal setback last weekend after a footpath flew into my face and took out my chin. The damage: a couple of hours in A&E and three stitches. Klutz. Desperately in need of fluffy loveliness, I duly baked a batch of blueberry and lemon cakes with rose icing.

The base recipe for this is lifted from the Guardian Guide to Baking. They call it 'the easiest cake in the world', totally ludicrous if you are familiar with my nan's Frankie's Cake, which I doubt, so believe me when I tell you it has nothing as fancy as sour cream or even butter in it. Incidentally, if the amount of butter in this recipe freaks you out, when I plumped the quantities with blueberries it made me a decent sized cake (18 cm round) as well as eight cupcakes. (The recipe recommends a 20cm round tin.) So unless you are planning on a heaving solo face stuffing, a lot of butter goes a long way.

What you need for a blueberry and lemon split-chin-on-the-mend cake
200g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
2 large eggs
200g sour cream
300g plain flour
3 level tsp baking powder
grated peel of one lemon
one tub of blueberries
Squeeze of lemon juice

And for the rose petal icing
50g icing sugar
100g cream cheese
rose essence
A little butter
candied rose petals and sparkly pink bits for decorating
Squeeze of lemon juice

Making it
Butter and line the base of your tin with non-stick baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the lemon rind and eggs, one at a time, and beat well till combined. Beat the sour cream and lemon juice into the mixture then sift in the flour and baking powder and beat it through. When it's all mixed, fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the mixture into the tin or cupcake tray, heat the oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted) and bake for 45 minutes to an hour (15-20 mins for cupcakes) or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Cool the cake while you make the icing. Beat the cream cheese, icing sugar, squeeze of citrus, a few drops of rose essence and butter together (it may help to sit the bowl over hot water so everything mixes properly) till smooth. Slide over your cooled cake and sprinkle with lovely bits. Best served with fresh peppermint tea and a peachy grin.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Expect the unexpected

Last Sunday we went to the farmer's market and then went home to cook lunch for what Carters told me would be a few people. With celeriac and butternut squash in abundance, I decided to make Lily's Celeriac soup and a roast butternut and sage risotto. Whilst making the soup, I noticed the doorbell buzzing a few more times than I had anticipated and we soon had more guests than chairs.

Mental note: always press Carters for details

I decided to change my risotto plans (bulk risotto always seems to end up gluey), and after a quick scrounge around in our overstuffed pantry, made a salad with Orzo pasta instead.


What you need
2 small butternut squash de-seeded and cut into cubes (I left the skin on but you might prefer to remove it)
3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
a few handfuls of baby spinach leaves
good olive oil
feta, cubed
6-7 cloves of garlic
walnuts, roughly chopped

The do
Throw the cubed butternut squash into a baking dish with few sprigs of thyme, the garlic (whole, unpeeled) and a good splash of olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake at about 200 degrees Celsius until the cubes are soft and golden.
Boil the pasta and drain.
Using your fingers squeeze out the baked garlic from their skins into a big salad bowl. Toss with the drained pasta, butternut squash, celery, feta, walnuts and spinach. Dress with a liberal amount of good olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Take your apron off, pour yourself a glass wine and join in the party. We all had a lovely afternoon (except for the kitten who struggled with her first encounter with a boisterous child), great food, great booze and great conversation. That's what it's all about, innit?

Saturday, 24 November 2007

The sweet taste of defeat

Nice call with the bubbly Chew. No more Mister Evil! Woohoo! What a thrill to lie in bed this morning, watching and listening as the old dog was given a fine kicking, never to be Australia's big boss man again. Even my recently apathetic heart danced with a lovely, sweet, sugary, jam and cream sort of joy. Which segues nicely into a much more appealing topic: high tea. My little sister visited in August and it became a sort of unofficial high tea tour of London. I've never come across someone so obsessed with a daily 3pm scone.

First stop, the very conventional Kensington Palace as I'd read many an enthusiastic review of the Orangery. Their scones were nice enough - generously proportioned, heavy, not overly dry, with a big glob of strawberry jam and thick cream. The fresh mint tea was also super but the atmosphere was stifling and glum... a blue rinse would have looked positively lively in this joint. Still, the post-scone stroll through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park made the location pretty choice.

At the opposite end of the scale was Sketch Gallery, a Mayfair mash up of art, design, dining, drinking and intergalactic toilet pods. We took tea in the Parlour and I couldn't bring myself to scone it when there were so many delicious looking cakes on offer. I chose some sort of blueberry macaroon thingy. Absolutely divine, as was the pretty china it arrived on. And, if choosing just one sweet proves too difficult, Sketch will do up a pretty little take-home box of laters for you.

Finally to Trafalger Square and the National Portrait Gallery's roof-top restaurant. Its view takes in all London's heavy hitters, like Nelson's Column, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and London Eye, which is just as well because you'll need something to feast on while you try and make the two miniature scones on your plate last more than two bites. More ridiculous is the fact that each comes with its own teeny weeny pot of jam. My tip is to bypass the dough in favour of a glass of wine.

Celebrating the Ruddslide

...and back in London, a domestic cat eyes off some veggie sausages.

Friday, 23 November 2007

the blood thirsty vegetarian

I'm a little out of the groove here at Lily & Chew HQ so excuse me if I step back to October for a tick. Adam and I went to Tanzania and were lucky enough to stumble across this feast in progress. Watching (and listening to) this lion rip the skin off a zebra then clean and crunch its bones near dry is one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Lazing on a gingery afternoon

It is Sunday morning and the plan is to meet Lily for lunch on Columbia Rd. Only problem is, it is very cold, dark, wet and windy and I don't really feel like leaving the house.

As if on cue, I receive a text message from Lily:
I'm not sure I can make it out today

me: I was thinking the same thing. That's fine. I'm all roasty toasty reading Xmas recipes in the food monthly.

L: Me too!

So onto plan B. With a whole afternoon to myself I decide to have another crack at baking. My tendency to freestyle when following a recipe is usually a good thing with savoury dishes, but almost always spells disaster in the land of cake. I'm going to try really hard with this one and resist the urge to meddle.
I've chosen to bake the double ginger cake from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries (a book that all self respecting food lovers should own) But if you are waiting for it to turn up in your Christmas stocking this year, here is the recipe

The cake turned out springy, wonderfully moist without that greasy, fatty feeling. And above all it is really, really, really gingery (just between you and me, I threw in a few extra teaspoons of ground ginger and used soy milk. I just couldn't help myself). To keep with the ginger theme, I decided make ginger milk tea, which I first tried when I was in Singapore. It partners beautifully with this cake.
Mmmmmm. Soooo warm. Thanks Nigel.

Indian/Singaporean ginger tea
This is a simple variation on normal black tea, it has a lovely gingery kick to it and it also settles the stomach.
Using a mandolin or a sharp knife slice a few slivers of ginger into a mug or teapot, I used about five slices for a a mug but you might want more or less depending on how you like it.
Make tea as you would normally, leave it to brew a little longer to allow the ginger to infuse. Add milk or soy milk, and sugar if you like it.

Friday, 16 November 2007

If it's good enough for a drunk woman

Some of my best cooking has happened while drunk. It's a crying shame when I wake up with a sweet memory of the tastiest early morning supper ever but no recollection of how it happened or what it was. So after returning from Ben and Kara's going-away bash a couple of Sundays ago I made a determined effort to record the meal that followed. I even left clues for myself, like a smashed plate, crumbs in my hair, a fridge ajar and half a blog post that I have only just found again. This really was bloody delicious (I think.)

What you need for a Smashed Bread and Caper Bake sort of thing
Whatever's in the kitchen (in my case baby potatoes, avocado and tomato)
A couple of eggs

How you make it
Pour yourself yet another glass of white wine. Finely chop the onion and soften it in a pan with the capers (if you accidentally tip your wine into the pan at this point it can only be a good thing for you and your dinner). Preheat your oven to 200. Oil a porcelain baking dish well and line it with bread. Top the bread with your stuff -- in this case, sliced avocado, halved par-boiled potatoes and slices of tomato mixed with the cooked onion. Break the egg over it all then top with crumbled or grated cheese. Bake for around 20 minutes (so the egg white isn't gelatinous anymore) then grill to brown the cheese. Serve drunk.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Bonfire night

Over the weekend, I trekked out to Wells in Somerset to attend Joseph's 2nd birthday party, part of which involved many fireworks, a bonfire and a lot of food.

Sitting in front of the outdoor fire with my face roasting and my back freezing, I was reminded of my first bonfire cooking experience on a school trip when I was 10. We were ordered to hunt around in the dark for a stick, shove some damper dough on the end and then cook it over the fire. Admittedly, I was more concerned about the hygiene of the stick (an animal could have peed on it!) but once we chowed down on those hot dampers with some honey and butter I soon forgot all about bugs, dirt and animal pee.

So back to the weekend. Carter's sister, Coo, put on a delicious spread - hearty tomato lentil soup, vegetarian sausages and baked potatoes. Perfect bonfire fare.
A few of the potatoes from the oven were a little underdone, so we wrapped a few up in some tin foil with a generous chunk of butter, a good sprinkling of mixed herbs, salt and pepper.

(TIP: When wrapping the potato, gather the tin foil at the top and twist, so it looks like a Hershey's kiss chocolate - this will make it easier to pick up after you have kicked it out of the fire.)
We then placed the wrapped potatoes on the embers on the outskirts of the fire, forgot about them ... then removed them after a few glasses of Cava and half a dozen fireworks.
The end result is a delicious soft, fluffy potato encased in a crunchy smokey skin.

Instead of mixed herbs you could also try a crushed clove of garlic, or fresh herbs if you have some. But it will always taste better with the smell of gunpowder lingering in the air.

ps. I would like to add that I am also a bit shit. I have to post more often. So that's my new years resolution ... six weeks early.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Acting the goat

I'm shit, I know. For far too long I've left Chew to battle blog empathy on her own in the dandelion leaf wilderness and I haven't got a great excuse beyond failing to multitask. But more on that laters.

First, to regain some semblance of continuity, there's one more thing to say about Paris. True, the socialist city will never win Vegan Friendly Town of the Year award, but there is one vego plate you should be able to ask for, sans menu, in any Parisienne restaurant without anyone spitting with disgust into your souffle. And so to my re-entry into everything Lily & Chew -- a variation on the formidable chevre salad. (It's a lowly place to crawl back from but I've got to start somewhere...)

What you need for a toasty chevre salad
100g wheel of goat's cheese (I cut mine in half to make wheels for two)
Baby spinach leaves
Grainy bread (sliced thickly for toast)
Baby potatoes
A few fresh sage leaves
1 boiled egg for each plate
Dressing (for me - red wine vinegar, olive oil, S&P)

Making it
Boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes then drain and toss them in some olive oil, torn sage leaves and sea salt. Roast for 15 minutes (or until the potatoes are golden and the sage crispy). Build the spinach, with wedges of tomato and boiled egg, on plates. Toast one side of bread under a grill then turn over and toast the other side very lightly before placing the chevre wheels on top. Grill until the cheese is melting, golden and a little bubbly (careful not to burn your toast). Scatter the roast potatoes and crispy sage around your salad then top with the chevre toast. Dress it up and dig in.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

But I still haven't found the squash I'm looking for

Back in my native Australia, one of my favourite vegetables, the squash, takes the form of a little UFO shaped disc that would sit in the palm of your hand with lots of room to spare. It cooks and tastes much like a bitter courgette and it always brightens up your plate nicely.

Last Sunday at the farmer's market I got very excited when I saw something that resembled the squash from my homeland. When I got it back to the kitchen and cut it open I discovered it was more like a small pumpkin.
Goddamn mutton dressed as lamb!
Oh well, time for a change of plan.

This is a fantastic side dish for autumn as it reflects the colours of the season.

What you need
beans - I used three different varieties, green, purple and yellow
2 hand-sized squash or 1 butternut pumpkin/squash
a small handful of walnuts
1 tablespoon of honey dissolved in a tiny bit of boiling water
olive oil

The do
De-seed and chop the squash into chunks - if you are using the normal squash you will need to remove the skin (when roasting butternut squash I always leave the skin on). Throw into a baking tray with some olive oil and bake in a medium oven until soft.
Cut the beans into thirds. Don't get precious about top and tailing the beens. I leave them all on, mostly because I like how the ends look like little elves shoes.
Boil a kettle.
Place the beans into a big bowl. Cover the beans in boiling water and cover with a plate. Allow to sit until they are cooked to your liking. I like them a little raw so you may want to leave them for longer or even boil them over the stove for a bit.
Once you are happy with the beans, flush them with cold water and throw them into the baking tray with the pumpkin. Add walnuts and pour the honey mixture over the top and drizzle a little more oil into the tray, toss and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and serve.

France: they hate vegetarians Part 2

After spending a week in drizzly Paris, we high-tailed it out of there in style with first class train seats to the picturesque, but touristy, seaside town of La Rochelle.
In terms of eating out, we experienced more of the same disappointment. But it's hard to be grumpy when the sun is shining. After perusing a popular strip of restaurants looking at each menu board - not a single one had a vegetarian dish on it - we asked a man setting up tables outside a tapas place if he knew of any restaurants that might be vegetarian friendly. His reply was "not in this town".
After some wandering around, we found a cute little restaurant near the market serving simple fare such as galettes, tarts and salads. Holding a menu and being able to choose a range of things from it was quite a refreshing change.

We decided to stop off at the market the next day and gather some provisions for a day trip to Ile d'aix.

What greeted us was every food lover's fantasy: a bustling market full of fresh seasonal produce. The stallholders were friendly, chirpy and above all, helpful. Considering that the only greenery that we had laid eyes upon was the mould on cheese that was given to us at Aux Lyonnais, oh, and the 'salad' (a.k.a bowl of dandelion leaves), we went a little crazy and by the time our tasting and buying frenzy was over, our shopping bag was full delicious goodies which included:

from the fruit and veg stall:
strawberries fragrant and sweeeeeeeeet
cherry tomatoes on the vine
butter lettuce
flat white peaches
the shape of a Breton beret and possibly my favourite fruit. Fleshy, juicy and sweet - and very, very ergonomic.

from the cheese man:
2-year-old Comte cheese
an outstanding cheese. It has an Emmental vibe with a waxy texture and a hint of sweetness and nuttiness. I hadn't tried one this old before.
a small wheel of goat's cheese mild with a delicate soft texture and a very slight sour edge.

from the baker:
brioche buttery, crumbly and soft
paprika and Parmesan biscuits like a cross between a Carr's cheesy melt cracker and a scone. Full of buttery cheesy goodness
grainy baguette

We took the boat to Ile d'Aix, via Fort Boyard, and hired bikes to find a nice beach to sit on and chow down on our very successful market haul.


Back in London it's easy to write off bought sandwiches as a lunchtime option because, well...they're horrible. Nasty preservative-packed stale bread buttered within an inch of its life bracketing some sort of filling which is unrecognisable because of all the sandwich filler they have slapped on it.
Remember the good old lettuce, tomato and cheese combination? Sounds boring - but with quality ingredients it's a taste sensation. Wherever you are - picnic, work or Ile d'Aix, it's dead simple and takes two seconds to prepare.

What you need
Swiss army knife
cherry tomatoes

The do
Split the baguette lengthways. Fill with lettuce, halved cherry tomatoes and Comte. Grind some black pepper if you have it.
Tip If you are making this for later, lay the lettuce and cheese on the outer layers so the tomato doesn't touch the bread and make it soggy.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

(I wish) everyday was like Sunday

These are a few of my favourite things...


I purchased this little friendly-faced gadget in France. It crushes nuts so efficiently it's enough to make a bloke squeamish. Easy to clean AND comes in my favourite colour.