recipes etc.
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damson doughnut muffins


these are wonderfully simple to make – muffin trays are brushed with melted butter, each muffin hole is partially filled with batter, a little jam spooned in which is then covered with more batter. when the muffins come out the oven they are rolled in sugar while still warm, so the sugar sticks and coats the muffin. eaten while warm they are similar to doughnuts, with their sugar coating and jam centre, but without the faff-factor and less of the unhealthiness. we used damson jam, as these were made after a damson scrumping session.

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roasted cocoa cookies


dan lepard calls these cookies, but i think a better name is biscuits – they’re crisp and crunchy, which is surely the characteristic of a biscuit, rather than a cookie?

what makes these biscuits interesting is that the cocoa is roasted until it darkens (do this carefully – i managed to set my first batch alight!) and takes on a slight nutty taste. this creates a complex flavour, having a similar effect to that which you get when you toast oats under a grill.

the result here, when combined with the dark muscovado sugar, is a biscuit with a flavour reminiscent of dark chocolate and treacle – an adult combination which is truly delicious.

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a pair of fig jams


i’m still smitten with salt sugar smoke, diana henry’s book on preserving. this weekend i decided to make fig jam – her recipe for fig and pomegranate jam has been teasing me ever since i got the book and i couldn’t wait any longer to try it. the book also contains a variation, which pairs the fig with orange and cardamom so, given i managed to get some ripe figs at a cheap price, i decided to make both.

the two versions are quite different from each other but the thing they have in common is the freshness of the fig flavour, something which i wasn’t expecting and definitely worth knowing if you’re not a fan of overly sweet, almost dusty flavour that some fig preserves have.

the pomegranate has both pomegranate juice and pomegranate molasses within it, which results in a bright and not particularly sweet flavour (this is my favourite variation); the orange also avoids excess sweetness, with a definite citrus tang and i love the pockets of cardamom that you encounter every now and then.

a lovely pair of jams to make and lovely to share – my twelve figs made 6 jars in total so sharing is definitely on the cards – either as they are or as part of a cream tea (the third jam pictured is gooseberry and elderflower).

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tagliatelle with courgette and pancetta


this is a great dish to make while courgettes are still in season and full of flavour, especially if you’re lucky enough to be growing your own and able to eat them when they are freshly picked (people always talk about a freshly picked tomato having more flavour than those you can buy, for me it is courgettes that most repay your home-gardening efforts).

the courgettes are the star of the dish, sautéed in butter until they start to turn golden. they also soak up the porky goodness of pancetta (if you want to keep this veggie i think sundried tomatoes can do a similar job) and i added a little garlic and chilli as well. 

the genius ingredient, which gets everything to work together, is capers. lemon is my default choice when i want something sharp or fresh in a dish, but the salty capers give a more subtle tang which, i think, works particularly well with butteriness of the rest of the dish. parsley and basil to finish.

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chargrilled squid with fiery salsa verde

for hot lazy days when i can barely be bothered to cook and want something light, i often used to turn to prawns. but having seen a documentary about the negative environmental impact their farming can have, as well as another less than appealing aspect about how they are encouraged to breed, i’ve stopped buying them. however, i have remembered that squid is a good alternative in many quick and easy dishes.

this thomasina miers recipe was part of a “top ten 10 minute dishes" and it has wonderful flavours that bely its simplicity. use good tomatoes and enjoy the salsa that is flavoured with garlic, herbs, anchovies and capers and which brings all the components together to create a lovey light summer supper.

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