Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cooks Academy Week 2

Half eaten 'something' of crab
bold Lucy bold bold - I forgot my camera. Today I made a beef and carrot casserole with horseradish cream - that description doesn't really do the dish justice, it was divine, possibly due to the amount of wine that went in there. To go with this we made polenta mash - now don't get me wrong - but this was just gross. If anyone out there has a decent recipe for polenta - please share it with me - it's the one food stuff I am ready to give up on right now, like yesterday would be too soon to eat it again! And I like everything. There were other nice sides knocking around.

I also made a crab starter (it had a fancier name that now escapes me!) Served with avocado and melon balls - 80's tastic. Also made in the class was a smoked mackerel pate - which was delightfully moreish. Will most definitely make this for people sometime soon.

Better to camera phone picture or not
The afternoon was jam packed - choux pastry, chocolate sauce, choux swans, chicken liver pate (butter lordy!) melba toasts, gratin dauphinoise, duck breast, red win jus, and puy lentils. Most of these dishes I have to make tomorrow so prepare yourselves for some seriously yummy pictures - the camera is already in my bag! 

In early to get together time plan and grab a coffee before hitting the kitchen. It was straight into the choux pastry. Quite a strange thing to make due to it resembling scrambled eggs at one point. But you've not gone wrong here - just keep going and you'll eventually get a very shiny and strong dough that really does not want to drop off them beaters - oh no.

Into a  piping bag and onto a tray in well spaced little lumps. Oven time of 25 minutes and don't open that door or they'll flop.

Next my partner and I prepared a aubergine and tomato tower with goats cheese and basil.  A teaspoon of sugar and balsamic to the usual tomato sauce seemed to make all the difference - as well as some wine!
This plate means business

Oh hello enormous profiteroles - I feel like a mini Alice in Wonderland
Then the main course to prepare was duck served on a bed of puy lentil with carmelised shallot and a reduction sauce. This was challenging as most of this was prepared in the last 45 minutes. As well as having to construct the aubergine tower and also pipe the cream into the profiteroles. Extreme multi tasking - I think I only finished 5 minutes late.

Then a massive clean up before getting to eat it - other sides prepared were potato grating and some kind of gratin sweet potato. Both pretty tasty. My duck was a little rare - mainly for fear of overcooking it. Still good to get constructive criticism on your dish. Everyone is finding their way around the kitchen a little better - feel like I'll be pretty damn handy by the end of this course - and if not undoubtedly a little heavier - eek! 

Short and sweet and to the point.

Lost in a sea of fallen souffles - couldn't get this shot fast enough!
Today I made the most delicious dessert of my life - chocolate orange souffles! Divine and light and melty and gooey all at once, heaven!

Amazing meringue with kitchen scene in the back ground
Followed on quickly by what can only be described as a close second in the most amazing dessert I've ever made. Hazelnut and almond roulade with raspberries. Beautiful crispy and gooey meringue hiding toasty little bits of nuts - with raspberries - out of this world.

This course was worth it - just to have made this!
It was a tough decision to choose between them - but I'd have to go with the souffles on wow factor! BAM WOW

Also on the menu were fish cakes - modest in comparison to the other two dishes - but packed with flavour in all the right places. I seriously can't wait to try out some of these recipes on friends and family - they're gonna be so impressed. Did I mention the very large folder we have for the course which is packed full of these amazing recipes.
Best Fish Cakes Ever
I wonder how many times I've used the word 'amazing' and 'delicious' in this post so far? Tomorrow is Thai day - so a break from the butter and cream, phew!

This morning we made one Thai soup, a curry and a salad. Those of you familiar with Thai cooking will know that there is a lot of prep involved and the cooking itself is pretty fast.  
A more relaxed morning resulted, though to get maximum benefit from the class I think we could have prepared some other Thai starter to fill in the time more productively. Maybe because I've cooked quite a bit of Thai food before that I found this morning pretty laid back.
Tom Ka Kai
Red Chicken Curry

The afternoon was a demo from James - a cook in Cornucopia. The afternoon was  a 'Free from' afternoon. He demonstrated how to make some Divine desserts that are suitable for celiacs and vegans. Panna cotta pots with cashew or coconut milk - the coconut was great. A chocolate orange torte with dates and toasted hazelnuts for the base. He also prepared some very tasty tofu and tempeh. The meals were delicious I'd feel happy serving them to anyone. He also showed us how to make cashew milk, how to whip soyaceoliac class as well as a vegetarian class.

Italian Day - ci ci!  

Some Impressive Pasta Skills
We start off with tiramisu. A dessert that I always thought was merely an assembly of some ingredients coffee and cream is actually more complex than that. And involves sugar boiling. This process has some interesting stages with odd names - short line, long line, soft ball and hard ball. All of these to do with how the syrup falls from the spoon. Practice will make perfect. Add the syrup at 'soft ball' stage to whipped fluffy egg yolks. Mix lots. Then add in cream cheese, then mascarpone, then wiped double cream! Woo hoo dairy overload - oh and there was marsala in there somewhere.

Dip your biscuits in coffee mixed with rum and more marsala. Layer this with your magic dairy concoction with a little dusting of cocoa powder on between. This is the boyfriends favourite dessert - he'll be delighted with the leftovers this evening.

We were shown how to make pasta on Wednesday think I've forgotten how since then, but no my notes remind me. 00 flour and eggs dash of olive oil - that's it. Mix in well, then knead like mad for 10 minutes./ I've learnt there is a stance for kneading - spread your weight and get your whole body weight behind it. Tutor will notice if you're not giving it socks so get your back into it. After kneading it well - give it a wee rest in the fridge while you prepare your yummy filling, pesto, tomatoe sauce or whatever you need to put with it.

I made ravioli with ricotta, sun dried tomato and parma ham filling. Rolling out the pasta is fun - but most defiantly a two person  job. Free pasta also cooks in a flash. Another group in the class made wafer thin tagliatelle and it cooked in one minute - my raviolis took about 5/6 minutes. A nice subtle colour arrangement on my plate got me some good comments for presentation - and good feedback on taste so happy days.

Not my dish! Amazing melt in your mouth tagitelle

Mine - yup I made this! Hurray
My tiramisu was kinda ugly so no photos I'm afraid (bold Lucy bold)

The afternoon demo included risotto Milanese which is made with saffron giving it a great colour and taste. There was also a rich and dark French onion soup with chessey gruyere croutons. Our lovely dessert and pastry tutor showed us how to make an incredible Normandy Apple Tart. The swirls of apple making a rose in the centre of the tart - fab! Sampled warm with a creme anglais - amazing. That does mean that today I ate three dessert lucking I'm doing a 5k run tomorrow then, though I should prob do 3!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tom Kha Gai

Tom Yum yum

Real Tom Yum or Tom Kha Gai soups are supposed to use galangal ( a type of ginger) and Kaffir lime leaves. I didn't have either of these things, however, I did use tamarind and lemongrass and various other delicious things, and I think I got a really good flavour from this makey-uppy version of the Thai classic. It was also really really quick and nice and filling. I'm not sure about the authenticity of using potatoes but I know they are used in some Thai cooking (like in Massaman curry) so its not that off the wall!

1 litre good chicken stock
1 dessert spoon tamarind paste
1 tin coconut milk
1 stalk lemon grass (bashed with a rolling pin to release the oils)
2 red chilies (de seeded and chopped)
about 4 c0riander roots (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 inch piece of ginger (finely grated)
2 dessert spoons of fish or oyster sauce
1 dessert spoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 large chicken fillet (thinly sliced)
about 6 small new potatoes (sliced)
about 8 cherry tomatoes
mangetout or broccoli or green beans or whatever green vegetable you have
1 lime
a handful coriander leaves

Start by adding the tamarind to the hot stock and stirring well. Drain through a sieve so any of the solid bits of tamarind don't go into the dish. Put the stock in a pot with the coconut milk and add the chillies, garlic, ginger, coriander roots, lemongrass, 2 0r 3 kaffir lime leaves if you have them (I didn't), the soy and oyster sauce, the sugar, potatoes and chicken. Bring all of this up to simmer and cook for about 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute, then add the green veg and cook for two minutes. Test the chicken and potatoes but they should be well cooked by now if they were sliced thinly. Take the soup off the heat. Roll the lime firmly on a table top to release the juices and make it easier to squeeze. Then cut it in half and squeeze all of the juice into the pot. Remove the lemongrass stalk. Roughly tear up the coriander leaves and add to the pot. Serve immediately

You can vary the vegetables you use, spring onions and mushrooms could go in at the end, but I think it is important to use tomatoes. So satisfying and delicious!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cooks Academy Week 1

Greeted at the door by the offer of fresh scones and coffee. I am handed an enormous folder - which contains all the recipes we'll be cooking over the next four weeks, as well as general information on techniques and flavours etc. This looks like it may well be the only cook book I'll ever need. I have a quick leaf through

The premises is large, spacious and flooded with light. We're provided with lockers for the duration of the course, which is a great thing as I don't fancy cycling more than I have to with a bag full of knives!

Once everyone has arrived we are introduced to our main tutor. She has a huge range of experience in different cheffing positions, private cheffing, catering and teaching. She studied in the Cordon Blue School in London.

We have a chat amongst ourselves and then are introduced to the group by the person we are sitting beside. It appears a very evenly diverse group in terms of ages, genders and levels of experience. An amount of people looking to get a start on a career, others already working in the food industry and others looking to improve their home cooking skills. 17 people in total are attending the course

We have a quick safety and hygiene lecture. All common sense but well worth repeating.

Then it's off to the kitchen for some cooking. We are paired off and take to our fantastically equipped stations. Each station has four gas rings and two induction hobs. There is plenty of worktop space. Sinks are located all together behind you. Supplies are all along one side of the room.

Each group made one soup and two types of bread. But between the whole class we made 4 different breads and 5 different soups. We brought our dishes when finished for marking by our tutor - I think she liked ours.

For the duration of this course - I hope to share some photos with you of what I have prepared. I however won't be sharing the exact recipes as those really belong to the Cooks Academy. My mushroom soup was amazing - there was a huge variety of mushrooms to choose from a  great indication of the quality ingredients that we will get to work with over the next few weeks.

After our dishes were marked we all sat down to have lunch and were then able to try out our classmates soups and breads - which was good to have a taste of every ones work.

After lunch and a good strong coffee - we sat down for the afternoon demo. This demo included shortcrust pastry, quiche Lorraine, raspberry jam and pears in red wine and ginger. There was great banter between the class and teachers. Some experienced cooks in the class so it's good to also learn from them too.

Sadly bold me took very few photos today - maybe tomorrow I'll be feeling braver and get a few decent snaps of the finished product - now to bed I 'm very tired!


Ok I was lying about being tired after day 1  - I went for a run after and all. This evening I'm proper knackered, no extra exercise that's for sure.

This morning we made some of the food that had been demo'ed to us the previous afternoon. So quickly we got into knocking up some short crust pastry. I tried to will my hands to be good cold pastry hands. I think this might have worked as my pastry didn't get  greasy before I put it in the fridge to chill.

Then it was onto making a batch of raspberry jam. Careful watching to ensure that it didn't stick to the bottom of the pan - but not over stirring to induce super fast crystalising of the sugar. Pushing on the chilled plate didn't work for me - but my jam still set.

Then time to roll out the pastry into it's tart case. Learned a handy trick of rolling the pastry over the rolling pin to transport it over the case. Much easier than trying to pick it up with your hands - it always tears.

Then back into the fridge with it.

Jarring up in jam in sterilised jars.

Then onto making the filling for my tart. Courgette, potato, tomato, basil and spring onions - not forgetting the eggs and cream of course.

Blind bake the case.

Then weigh out ingredients for scones.

Then assemble the tart and pop in the oven.

Mix up scones and roll out.

Pop in other oven.

Look at tart - not cooking

Check it again 10 mins later

Scones cooked

Check tarts- still nothing doing - hmmmm oh oven not working. Transfer to other oven - slight panic running way overtime

eek wash up - everyone else is finished and eating - ahhhh starving, wash more - ahhh egg won't come off.

Get tart marked - needs more salt - ok that's grand
Can I eat it now? Yes



Afternoon demo involved the gutting and filleting of a sea bass, general fish talk. Sauces for fish. Making a Victoria sponge. Making a lemon beurre blanc. And a white loaf made with live yeast.

A great tip for the perfect Victoria Sponge  - is to weigh the eggs first and then use the same amount of butter, self raising flour and sugar to make the mixture. We all got to sample this after - with some cream and the jam we made earlier - it was amazing. Forgotten how good cakes could be as I don't really eat them that much. That's sure to change over the next couple of weeks - mmmmmmmm

Now I really must sleep!


Hurray finally got to take some photos. Must mean I'm getting into the swing of things. Arrived a little late to write out my time plan - so I cheated and used our tutors one. First up was a white loaf made using live yeast. I'd never seen live yeast before - it comes in a big block a  little resembling clay - it is flaky however and a little springy.

When using live yeast you need to mix it in with some warm water before adding into your flour. I was taught the proper stance and technique for kneading. You really have to attack that bread. After 15 or more minutes of kneading was dough was ready - and off it went to have it's first proving.

Then it was onto filleting a whole sea bass, now I have to admit this took me ages. Partly I think because of my super sharp filleting knife and my fear of slicing my hand off. Also I really wanted to get it right. And I did - when I ate the fish there was not one single bone - not one - woo hoo victory is mine. The beautifully filleted fish went into the fridge while we prepared accompaniments.

I made this - honest! Isn't it awesome
The bread was knocked back and shaped - it had risen loads I was very happy. I chose to make a party brot - a German bread covering each section in different seeds.

Sea Bass with lemon beurre blanc and zero bones - success
After it was time to start on the lemon beurre blanc. Now I won't lie to you this sauce appears to be made of 98% butter. 1% lemon juice and 1% infused vinegar. Despite this it's time consuming to make - making sure the pan doesn't get hotter than your hand can touch, adding the butter little bit by little bit. The finished sauce is very tasty - but I'm not sure it's worth it!

Country Loaf
My wonderfully sea bass was then over cooked by me - boo and served with slightly too salty spinach - that's the critique. I ate it though and it was wonderful - I would be delighted to get that in a restaurant. And well I'll let the photo of my bread speak for itself.

Some of the other loaves baked by the class
Then there was afternoon demos and I'm not writing about it cause I'm too tired. It did involve various way of jointing a chicken - which is going to  be really useful. BAM night night

Very challenging to extract myself from bed this morning

First things first - a whole chicken to joint. This is going to be so useful in the future oh yeah. You can prob buy a whole chicken cheaper than you can a few breasts. We put the carcasses and  wing tips into the oven to roast so that they could be made into brown stock.

Now the menu for today made me a bit unsure if I would actually learn anything apart from the chicken jointing. The other items were banana bread, cauliflower cheese, gravy and roast potatoes and chicken. All of these I have many many times before and using pretty similar techniques to the ones we were to use.

Now I'm not sure if it's one or a  combination of all the below factors
1) Using more butter and cream
2) Seasoning a bit more
3) Paying a lot more attention
4) Having an amazing kitchen and equipment to work with
5) Getting good advice as you go along
6) Not substituting any parts of recipe and following it exactly
7) Cooking and not thinking of anything else but the food
8) More careful planning and preparation
or lastly
9) Having constructive criticism of each dish. You'll never hear friends or family telling you that your skin wasn't crispy enough or that it all needed better plating up (or maybe my friends and family know how badly I take criticism and decide it's not worth it - haha either way I don't care!)

Now  the end result of today was the best roast chicken and gravy and cauliflower cheese I've ever made - you can't say better than that
Not an amazing shot of a very yummy chicken
Oh my banana bread was good too - just not a huge banana bread fan is all. The cupcakes looked fab - two words piping bag!

Banana Bread - plain and simple
I sustained some deep and lasting physcological damage when as a little girl in first class in school was cruelly denied by my parents the opportunity at playing mini little bride and receiving my first communion! 'What do you mean we're not Catholic and I'm not baptised?' I said. Look at all of those glitter and sequins and tulle and veils and shiny shiny shoes, ppllleeaasseeeee! This have resolved me to get married 'Big Fat Gypsy Wedding Style' I may console myself by making these piping bag meringues and basing styles of wedding dress upon them, until my big day!
Insert my face on top and that's me on my wedding day!

Perfect meringues from the piping bag were first up on the menu for today - I'd never used one of these bags before - once you use your lower hand to direct the movement and the upper hand to apply even pressure then you'll get a decent result. I'd like a bit more practice but this could prove a little wasteful of egg whites. May I could practice with some icing. The whole process was a lot easier and less messy than I expected.

Yum in an understatement for this!
Next up was loin of pork wrapped in proscuttio and stuffed with pears and spinach. Good skills in cutting and hammering of meat and how to roll and wrap things. Yup that's it pretty much. Fry it then in the oven for 15 mins. To go with it a white wine and reduction stock made with brown stock made the previous day. This was amazing - I was very happy with myself.  
Also made a nice apricot and orange coulis to go with the meringues and toasted hazelnuts.

The afternoon was spent learning industry standard health and safety. HACCP. Now I am in complete awe of how anyone runs a food business and complies with this strict and stringent codes of practice, invented by NASA to keep astronauts from getting food poisoning in space. I understand that they're completely necessary, puts paid to a few business plans I had - sure I'll find a way to make it work

Week one over and out - congratulations if you read this far - I'll post you a meringue!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chicken Savoyarde

This is another recipe I cooked over Christmas in the Peak District in Yorkshire. It's from Tasamin Day-Lewis cook book 'Supper for a Song'. I did find the title of the book slightly misleading as the ingredients for this recipe can testify. The emphasis of the book is more towards using up leftovers - or making more then one meal using the same ingredient. She has some great ideas for leftover mash - mmmm mash. Tamasin does make the very good point that often cheap ingredients are a false economy - both for you and for the farmers and animals involved. You can't make a silk purse from a velour bag you got in Penny's, so the saying goes! 

I followed the recipe faithfully - so here's the link to Tamasins version. It's a wonderful rich dish and if you like Spaghetti carbonara - you're sure to be pretty fond of this too.

In other VERY exciting news, I'm off to the Cooks Academy for four weeks starting in the morning. I hope I can sleep. I'm hoping to be able to write a few posts about my time in the school - and if you're on twitter I shall be tweeting regularly about my progress.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Honey baked figs and pears with orange and cardomom

Figgy pudding

I made this for dessert after following the mushroom soup and squid pasta, it was nice and light after all that food! I really just made this up on the spot, the cardamom really worked well with the orange and made a kind of syrup which was delicious. Also I served it with 'Rachel's' organic vanilla yoghurt. The vanilla really complimented with the other flavours so I would recommend serving it with vanilla flavoured yoghurt or icecream.

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 fresh figs
4 small comice pears
3-4 tbsps honey
Juice of 1 large orange
1 small wine glass sweet white wine
6 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 220c. Cut the fruit in half from stem to bottom and remove the cores from the pears. Arrange the fruit on a baking tray and drizzle with the honey. Ope the cardamom pods, remove the balck seeds and sprinkle them over the fruit. Sprinkle the cinnamon over too. Then add the juice and wine to the baking tray. Bake for about half an hour or until the fruit is soft. Check regularly through cooking to make sure that the liquid does not dry out. Top up with more juice or wine if neccessary.

Serve drizzled with the syrup and, as i mentioned above, I think it would be important to serve this with something vanilla. Rachel's organic yoghurt is AMAZING with this.

Squid and fennel with squid ink pasta

Rings of gold

In Venice there is an annual tradition which dates back a thousand years in which the Doge would every year throw a gold ring into the lagoon to symbolise the city's Unique relationship to the sea, in fact, its metaphorical marriage to the sea. Of course Venice is unique, its a city in the middle of a sea, built upon thousands and thousands of wooden poles driven into the lagoon mud. It shouldn't really exist but it does, and that is what gives the whole place its magical and otherworldly atmosphere.

This extra special relationship the Venetians have to the sea carries through to their food of course, and this dish is inspired by some squid ink pasta with black squid in sauce that I ate at a restaurant called Ai Beccofico in campo Santa Stefano in December. Apparently it is a signature dish of Venice, where Colm and I went for a few days holiday. Though it was my third visit, it felt like a different place without the hoards of summertime tourists. Despite it being FREEZING, It was my favorite visit as the city was amazingly quiet and at times swathed in freezing but very picturesque fog. It was great to see actual Venetians going about their daily business, including buying fish from the mind blowing selection at the Rialto Fish market, where I shopped for our dinner. Self catering is great sometimes!

I bought this squid from an asian fishmonger in Dublin town. It looked so pretty that in my excitement I forgot to ask the fishmonger to clean and skin the squid! I learned the hard way that squid have weird cartilage bones that look exactly like the clear plastic from a biro! I couldnt find squid ink anywhere, but I did manage to get the black squid ink pasta from Fallon and Byrne. Im sure Little Italy in Smithfield or any good Italian Deli would also be able to oblige

Ingredients, serves 3-4

2 squid, cleaned & skinned
1 large bulb of fennel
3 shallotts
2 cloves garlic
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 glass white wine
1 handful flat leaf parsley
Black pasta made with squid ink
Parmesan cheese

Start by chopping the squid into rings and separating the tentacles ready to be cooked. Then chop shallots and garlic and cooking them in some olive oil in a frying pan. Add the chopped fennel and cover the whole thing with a lid to soften the vegetables. Cook for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, put your pasta on to cook. When your pasta is almost done, add the squid to the fennel and onion in a medium hot pan and fry very quickly, about 2 minutes only. Then add the white wine and lemon juice and bring it up to a simmer for 1 minute, stiring continuously. Drain the pasta and throw it into the pan with the squid and fennel. Mix it around, throw in a handful of chopped parsley and serve with the parmesan cheese and some sprigs of the fennel leaf that sometimes escapes the chop!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mushroom and rosemary soup

So, it's time to come clean. Lola and Lu no longer share a kitchen. This sad fact has been swept under the carpet by us somewhat on this blog, but its time to face facts. Lu moved out 2 months ago and Colm and I are continuing on as the sole occupiers of said Kitchen. However, Lu is a regular visitor and thankfully I have a spare room with a bed made up especially for her.

On Monday night, the end of the bank holiday, I decided that since I hadn't been doing any proper cooking in the longest time, I would cook a 3 course meal especially for Lu. And Colm, of course.

We started with this amazingly mushroomy mushroom soup, which I made using some dried mushrooms my Mum brought me back from France last year. You could use a mixture of fresh ones as long as you can get your hands on something other that button mushrooms, it will turn out grand but perhaps not so intense!


1 medium punnet ordinary mushrooms
1 litre hot beef stock
2 - 3 cups dried mushrooms
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 litre milk
3-4 big sprigs rosemary
1 oz butter
3 glugs olive oil
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsps sherry

First, soak the dried mushrooms in the beef stock for about half an hour. Meanwhile chop the onion and garlic and saute in a big pot with the lid on until translucent. Add the chopped ordinary mushrooms and 2/3rds of the chopped rosemary. Cook with the lid on until the mushrooms are cooked through and have released their juices, about 10 minutes. Drain the dried mushrooms and add them to the pot. Cook for another 5 mins. Reserve the stock. Add the sherry and stir well. Then sprinkle in the flour and mix in so that it soaks up all the mushroom and sherry juices. Gradually add the stock, stirring well. Simmer to thicken and simmer for a further 5 or 10 minutes. Blend the soup with a stick blender and add the milk, up to 1/2 a litre depending on how thick you like it. While the soup is cooking, you could fry some reserved mushrooms in butter with the rest of the rosemary until crispy to use as a garnish.

Serve with cream if you like, chopped parsley and the mushroom garnish.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Guest Chef No. 7 My Dad

Growing up my Dad used to travel a lot during the week. At weekends he really liked to do some cooking to relax and to help my mum out as well. He would get pretty fixated on perfecting a certain dish, and cook it repeatedly week after week until he felt it was perfect. He went through a  risotto phase, and a curry phase, a brief chip phase and the most long lasting on has been the Italian tomato sauce phase!

There would be joking cries from my mother in relation to most dishes he'd make of "oh my god have you put chillies in it?" Most of the time chillies made a perfectly legitimate addition to most dishes - except the risotto I'm guessing. One of my most favourite dishes to which chillies are added is the wonderful pasta arrabiata, a rich and sweet tomato sauce served with pasta to which chili is added to give it a wonderful kick and extra depth. One of my all time favourite dishes and one of the many dishes that my Dad has most definitely perfected over the years.

Thanks for sharing this recipe Dad!

 Pasta Arrabiata

1 medium size onion cooked slowly in a big blob of good olive oil until soft and turning golden alongside 2-3 rashers of bacon.

While cooking this add:
i) plenty of fresh ground black pepper and
ii) 3 garlic segments finely chopped and
iii) a red chili finely sliced / or a pinch of chili powder or cayenne pepper.

When cooked add 2 tins of tomato (or even better 4-6 skinned fresh tomato with hard bit in middle cut out). Leave to bubble away for min of 30 minutes. Take off heat and add 2 teaspoon of sugar to take the bitterness off the tomato.

If you want to be really authentic then add a small beef bone when you put in the tomato and cook for 2-3 hours very, very slowly.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cumberland Casserole

From the Snowy Peak District
 I was lucky enough to be taken away with my parents this Christmas. We spent a week in the snowy and icy Peak District in Derbyshire in England. My mother was born in the area and we still have some relations. It was wonderful to catch up with my aunt, uncle and cousin. I was filled in on some fascinating family history which has been lovingly traced by my uncle, right back to the mid 1700's! Amazing. We enjoyed many slow leisurely meals and long walks in the beautiful snow covered moors. All very idyllic and relaxing.

I made dinner for the family one evening. It being a holiday house I stuck to a simple supper. The inspiration came from a recipe by Tamasin Day-Lewis. I bought some Cumberland sausages from the local butcher. This butchers shop contained a staggering amount of pork pies. The back wall was lined 4 deep and 15 high. When we returned on Stephen's Day (Boxing Day in the UK) they were gone, all of them! I was amazed by the Christmas Pork Pie consumption of these Derbyshire Folk. I guess it must be a Christmas tradition. I was lucky enough to snap one up before they were all gone - and it must have been the best pork pie I've ever had. Perfect pastry, a little jelly on the meat and moist filling - perfect with some English mustard.

Serves 3
5 Cumberland Sausages - skins removed
3 rashers
1/4 of a head of green cabbage - finely sliced
4 potatoes - peeled and finely sliced
1/2 large onion (or 1 small) finely sliced
1 heaped tablespoon of grainy mustard
1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
1/2 pint of stock
A few small knobs of butter (it's Christmas)

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Grill the rashers and cut into small pieces. In an oven proof dish make a layer of half of the cabbage, half the rashers and half the onion. Then top with the sausage meat - go on squish it out of the casing, it feels lovely! Make it into a rough layer. Top this with the grainy mustard and thyme. Then add the remaining cabbage, rashers and onion. Pour over your stock and a good grind of black pepper. Then top with the potato layer. Cover your dish with it's lid (or tin foil if you don't have a lid. The stock should be coming up past the first layer of cabbage and the sausage. As longs as the potatoes aren't covered it should be fine. Bake in the over for 1 hour and fifteen minutes. Top with freshly chopped parsley before serving with some steamed veg.

This is a lovely non-nonsense supper, that is really delicious despite it's modest ingredients. Greater than the sum of it's elements let's say. Quick and simple to put together and forget about while it bubbles away - yumbo!