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roasted vegetable pithivier

a pithivier is a very easy pie to make – a disc of puff pastry laid on a tray then topped with your cooked filling, a larger disc of pastry placed on top, the edges sealed and all brushed with egg or milk for a shiny finish, before being cooked in the oven for around half an hour, so the pastry can cook through and the filling heat up.

i was inspired to make this by a recipe for a version filled with roasted apple and shallots with blue cheese. i needed to use up some vegetables that were looking a little sorry for themselves – a few courgettes and a red pepper – so decided on a roasted vegetable and cheese version. i added a sweet potato to provide a softer more comforting texture (squash would also have been nice), some red onion plus chilli and garlic. grated cheese (including some ricotta), fresh thyme and seasoning were the next additions. the mix looked a little dry so i added half a tin of chopped tomatoes and that was it.

half an hour at 180c and the pie was ready. it looks a bit messy as i was stretching my pastry (a 270g pack of butter puff pastry) a little further than i should have so the base crumbled as i lifted it from the tray. no matter, it tasted lovely with a rocket and beetroot salad on the side. best of all, half the pie was leftover and will be my lunch over the next few days.

i have a fancy for making a sweet version some time soon – dusting the top with a little sugar for crunch – perhaps with flavours similar to this plum and almond galette, which is a similarly rough and ready tart.


asparagus with lardo, parmesan and toasted hazelnuts


last year my favourite tv cookery show was tom kerridge’s proper pub food – really interesting recipes which weren’t dumbed down but were achievable at home despite, presumably, being based on recipes that would be served in his 2 michelin starred pub.

i cooked quite a few of the recipes and in most cases found particular elements of the dish that i loved – it was a little odd to find this, rather than loving a dish as a whole, but actually it’s great as it has encouraged me to try particular components with different accompaniments. particular favourites included the cavolo nero salsa that accompanied a pork belly recipe and the dal that accompanied a braised ox cheeks dish (the ox cheeks were a disaster for me, ending up really bitter so lots of tweaks were needed to rescue them!). friends raved about the slow-cooked lamb with boulangere potatoes.

anyway, to get to the point, he has a new tv show – spring kitchen (which has an annoying daytime tv magazine format but i’m ignoring that as the food being cooked is good). this asparagus dish was in the first episode and i made it that weekend, delighting in the fact that white asparagus is so easy to buy here in germany.

the white asparagus is braised in a butter and water mix, which creates a lovely flavour; it also gives you the start of a dressing - a bit of lemon juice for acidity plus, if you have it, smoked butter (i didn’t have any so i  skipped this part of the recipe). the lardo really works well and i liked the fact that the slices cooked underneath the asparagus stays soft while those that are on top end up crispy (i’m not sure this is what the recipe intended but i loved the contrast so would try to replicate it).

despite missing out a few components of the recipe – the smoked butter plus reduced pork sauce – the resulting dish was wonderful with lots of interesting flavours and a complexity that was well worth the effort.

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banana cake with penuche icing


apologies for the dreadful photo. i should wait until i make the cake again and try to take a better picture but i’d rather share it with you now, as it’s a beautiful cake and you should give it a try sooner rather than later. i also want to experiment, using both the cake and icing in different combinations, so again it’s best to share avoid delay.

the banana cake is wonderfully light and fluffy – a very different texture to the banana loaves i am more used to. it also has a lovely pure banana flavour as there are no spices in it. this is not to say that spices are bad – i still love this cinnamon swirl banana loaf which also has a hint of vanilla – just that sometimes it’s nice to keep things simple.

the less simple thing is the icing, but in a good way. i’d never heard of penuche but a quick look before baking told me to expect something similar in flavour to caramel. having made the icing and looked again properly, now i’m writing this up, i see it is actually a bit more complex than that.

penuche is primarily from new england and is a type of sweet (candy), very similar to fudge or tablet, made from butter, brown sugar and milk.  apparently it often has vanilla in (which it doesn’t here) and can also have nuts in to add a bit of texture. i like the idea of walnuts to help mitigate through the tooth-aching sweetness of the penuche.

all of this means that it needs to be used on a cake that isn’t too sweet - i’ve definitely got more bitter cakes in my repertoire, which i’d love to try this with (this dark chocolate cake would be top of my list), but having said that, the banana and caramel flavours work really well and i love this combination - just make sure you are expecting the sweetness that the pairing brings. 

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this was our first cocktail on the balcony of the new flat – and a nice way to raise a toast to spring sunshine whilst also remembering london (i typed home there – oops!)  and good times in the garden, including with rufus, our lovely cat who’s now happily ensconced in yorkshire.

to make a pussycat shake with ice, 1 ½ shots bourbon, 1 shot lime juice, ½ a shot sugar syrup, 2 shots orange juice and ¼ shot of grenadine syrup. strain and serve over ice. a bowl of padron peppers on the side is a delicious accompaniment!


avocado spaghetti

this was a wonderfully quick and easy lunch, which i tried after hearing friends rave about the flavour combination.

there are various recipes online but you don’t really need one – i used one small avocado, mashed with some lemon juice (just less than ½ a lemon’s worth), olive oil (about a teaspoon), a dash of chilli sauce (i used tabasco), grated garlic (1 small clove, raw) plus salt and pepper. this was mixed with cooked spaghetti and garnished with some toasted pine nuts, lemon zest and more black pepper. i also added a sprinkling of some finely grated hard cheese.

the flavour of the avocado is enhanced by the warmth of the pasta and obviously creates a wonderfully creamy sauce. the only trick is making sure your avocado is ripe enough.