It's that time of year when the low-sun sky dazzles my eyes at every street corner and I have to walk with an arm half-raised in defence. Sadly the raised arm technique has not stopped the attack of the seasonal cold that this house is full of.It's at times like this that we need an old Italian nonna come round daily and look after us, feed us and let us revert to child-like states while she takes care of everything. Sadly, this is not going to happen. At least the children, thank God, are not too ill to go to school. Yet.Last week I eat more food cooked by others that by me. Not through choice, but through circumstance. Sautéed mushrooms tossed with Parmesan and served on a crisp disc of polenta; layers of aubergine with pecorino, honey and pinenuts; octopus with green lentils and romesco sauce; asparagus with crisp-coated egg and wild garlic (seasonal right?!) and a delicious Sunday lunch sat outside in the warmth of a sunny September afternoon with family and friends over (escaping?) from The U.S of A.Sue cooked us all tender and pink beef fillet, a Persian salad studded with pomegranate seeds, the dressing creamy and richly coating the cucumber. A huge bowl of kasha meant I could happily fill up, denying myself nothing as my September free of bread, rice, pasta and potatoes and sugar nears its climax. I averted my eyes as the ice cream, damson fool and homemade almond biscuits were passed around. I could eat ice cream until the cows came home and started churning their own milk, but for now, drastic measures are in place as I slowly come to the realisation that my metabolism is not that of an 18 year old. And as much as I admire Pavarotti, it's for his voice, not his girth.What I did cook was a simple tomato and egg curry, using the tomato 'sugo' leftover from the children's pasta a previous night, as a base. A pile of chickpea flatbreads mopped up the sauce and baby courgettes quickly sautéed in garlic gave some crunch.Another night saw me top some southern fried chicken fillets with a fried egg, some chopped cornichons and crisp chorizo cubes in a strangely tasty emergency supper. If you squint, you could pretend it was a schnitzel a la Holstein... It's been one of those weeks.So in tribute to the American visitors (some tribute, eh?), the fact I have a massive bag of cornmeal to get through and not much more reason than that I had a bag of hot dogs in the fridge which I thought the children may enjoy, here is a trashy-in-the-extreme recipe for corn dogs. I love them — mainly for the fact they make me feel I'm walking the streets of New York city or sitting in a car park at the ball game — but the children peeled the batter away and just eat the sausages. They may have thought I was turning into a the 'dangerous cook' that Bruce from America said of his mother. I closed my eyes and tried not to think of battered saveloys from the chippy.Ingredients8 hot dogs200 fine cornmeal150ml milk50ml buttermilk1 egg, beatenSalt and pepper, a large pinch and a twist1tsp ground turmeric gives it a healthy colour1/2tsp bicarbonate of sodaRapeseed or groundnut oil for fryingFor the chutney12 cherry tomatoes, halved and quartered randomly2tbsp chopped coriander1 clove of garlic1tbsp tarragon vinegar (or cider vinegar)2tbsp olive oilFor the avocado1 avocado, crushed with a fork to which added the juice and zest of half a lime and one chopped cherry tomato. Season well with salt and pepperMethodMix together the batter ingredients and leave to rest for about ten minutes.Lay the hotdogs on kitchen paper to dry well so the batter doesn't slide off.Make the chutney by cooking the ingredients in a small saucepan on quite a high heat until the tomatoes start to soften and collapse. Turn off the heat and leave to cool a little.Pour the batter into a tall glass, like a highball and cut the hot dogs in half.Stick each one on a skewer that is not too long to fit in a large sauté pan.Heat about two centimetres of oil in a large sauté pan to about 180c.Dip a hot dog in the batter, turning and twisting it until well covered. Let the drips fall off then gently lay it in the hot oil.Turn it over after about five seconds and cook on all sides for about five minutes. You should be able to do two or three in the pan at the same time. Be careful to cook them evenly on all sides so the batter is golden and crisp. Be gentle with them too, you don't want to knock the batter off.Drain on kitchen paper and serve with the chutney and avocado and a sprinkle of coriander.I would also highly recommend American mustard with these (Frank's is my favourite), and when I say highly recommend, I mean do it.Read: Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi, the account of his banishment to a Southern Italian village by the fascists. Brilliantly and gently written, a portrait of poverty full of warmth.Saw: Mummies at the British Museum. Overwhelming place, mainly fascinating and occasionally a load of old jugs. Seen one dirty pot you've seen them all...Lawrence of Arabia at the British Film Institute. Brand new print of this enormously long film. So long there was an interval and as magnificent as it was, I think a part of me is still attached to the seat.Eat: Chinese hot pot skewers from Chinatown. I had beef tripe, fish cartwheel (?!), pig intestine (quite a little funky if I'm honest), fried beancurd and cuttlefish. A little broth and coriander coated them and the heat from the chilli was spot on, enough to be a little painful but not too much to overpower.Listened: Accidentally to Camille while trying to put The Archers on; Jorja Smith on Jules 'Boogie-woogie' Holland's programme. Mesemerising. Mac Demarco a Canadian chap. Rather good.
There is no competition for me when it comes to tarts. If I had to choose one, even over tart au citron, tart tatin, tarte aux poires and chocolate tart, it would be the little glazed strawberry tarts with creme patissiere you get in Parisian bakeries. Unbeatable. However, I'm not in Paris as often as I'd like so they remain an occasional piece of heaven.Most tarts take a little effort though, and that's fine. But not this one. Today's recipe is a really quick shortbread tart with a simple chocolate ganache topped with fruit, herbs, chia seeds, honey and strawberry powder (you can use cocoa if you prefer).The base is the standard shortbread 1:2:3 recipe (sugar, butter, flour) but I've used coconut sugar and coconut flour instead. You can use caster and wheat if you prefer, the recipe is the same. This way gives a lovely coconutiness to the base which goes very well with the chocolate and is also gluten free for those of you who are gluten intolerant.You'll have some shortbread mix left over as well for bonus biscuits which you could use for this recipe or just plain with a cup of Earl Grey tea. Use your favourite soft fruits and plenty of honey. Pretend it's one of your 'five a day'.IngredientsFor the shortbread100g cold butter200g coconut sugar300g coconut flourFor the filling250ml double cream250g dark chocolate (70% cacao), smashed upBlueberries, raspberries, strawberries and kiwiA sprinkle of chia seeds1 tbsp raw honeyA few basil and thyme leaves1tbsp strawberry powderMethodMix together the butter flour and sugar in a bowl by hand until well combined and breadcrumb-like.Press evenly into a fluted 20cm (9") tart tin and bake at 170c for about ten minutes, or until golden brown. Make sure it's evenly cooked.Leave to cool while you make the filling.Bring the cream to just below the boil then pour onto the chocolate and stir well until melted, glossy and smooth. Pour into the tart case then top with the fruit, chia seeds and herbs and leave somewhere cool to set.Drizzle with honey, add the herbs and dust the strawberry powder over to serve.
These coconut flour shortbreads with blackberries and orange cream take less than 20 minutes and make a delicious afternoon treat. Or morning one. Or middle of the night one.Read More
When buying a few quick supper things for the children the other day (I don't always have time to cook, you know), the ingredients on the chicken Kievs had so many things a lab technician would struggle to recognise, I resolved to make a batch of my own for the freezer.There is no wheat or gluten in this recipe for those of you who are avoiding it, and I think wholegrain rice is better for you than breadcrumbs anyway. As is the coconut flour.Make the garlic butter ahead and you can freeze it to use as you need. It's best to stuff the chicken with frozen butter anyway, your hands don't become slipperier than a politician and it melts nice and slowly when you're cooking the chicken.I often serve the Kievs with green salad and some sweet potato fries.Ingredients2 skinless free-range chicken breasts100g unsalted butter2 cloves of garlic2 tbsp chopped curly parsley, because it's more fun that flatleaf50g wholegrain puffed rice cereal, blitzed to crumbs. Kallo do a good one.Coconut flour to coat the chicken1 beaten eggSalt and pepperMethodChop the garlic finely with the parsley and mix into the butter then roll into a cylinder in some greaseproof paper, wrap in clingfilm then freeze for at least half an hour.Heat the oven to 180c.Stick a knife lengthwise through the chicken breast to the middle then stuff with a large piece of garlic butter.Season the chicken and roll it through the coconut flour until well coated.Dip the chicken breast in beaten egg then cover in the rice crumbs until fully coated.Cook in the oven on a baking tray for about 30-35 minutes until golden and cooked through.
Savoy cabbage, quickly cooked, with butter and pepper is pretty good as it is. But if you want to pep it up to serve as a side dish with south-east Asian food it may not quite cut the mustard.The trick with cabbage is to not cook it for a whole school term. A flash in the pan to soften it is enough, so be careful and be quick. This is fiery and comforting at the same time and goes really well with some steamed fish with lemongrass and lime leaves.Ingredients1/2 Savoy cabbage, shreddedCoconut oil for frying2 hot red birdseye chillies, sliced1tbsp red Thai curry paste1tbsp dessicated coconut1tbsp coconut aminos or soy sauce1tbsp lime juice100ml coconut creamSalt to seasonMethodSauté the cabbage in some coconut oil, letting some of the shreds almost burn. Add as much chilli as you like, my chillies were surprisingly hot, so be careful.Add the curry paste to the pan (home made if you can be bothered) and add a little more coconut oil. Cook for a few minutes, stirring well so it doesn't burn.Pour in the coconut cream and heat through. Tip into a bowl and blowtorch the top of the cabbage if you have one to give it a little bit of a dramatic char. Add a little more sliced red chilli and some hazelnuts sprinkled on top if you fancy, and serve.
On Thursday night we went out for my birthday supper at Olivio Carne, the sister to what is pretty much my favourite restaurant in London (Olivio near Victoria station) and I had pasta for the first time in nearly two months. My new rule is that food like that has to be worth it. And it was. A beautiful wild boar pappardelle. I also had plenty of Kate's duck ragù just to help her out.I've been wondering how to recreate one of my favourite dishes, ravioli con burro e salvia without pasta while I've been avoiding carbs. My new rules are that it's fine to occasionally eat what you want, and to not make sugar and wheat part of my daily diet. There seemed, after thinking about it, little point in trying to recreate ravioli, so here's a new dish based on those flavours.Leek is nature's cannelloni. And with this, instead of the traditional sage infused butter, a creamy sauce seemed a good idea. And to keep it dairy and wheat free meant almond milk and tapioca starch, so it's also gluten free. And vegan. And paleo. And Whole 30. It also dances the can-can for you while singing the Nessun Dorma. This should win awards for the most inclusive dish in the world. Unless you are allergic to nuts. Leave them out if you are. Unless you like risk.It's quite straightforward to make, once you get everything together. Just try not to spill double the amount of tapioca you need into the saucepan. This is very upsetting and can lead to a bit of a strop.Ingredients for two people as a starterFor the filling:420g roast butternut squash or pumpkin, diced40g almonds, skin on, chopped a little1 large clove of garlic, smashedA few young thyme sprigs1tbsp shiitake mushroom powder (optional)Pinch of chilli flakesA big squeeze of lemon juicesalt and pepperOlive oilFor the sauce:1 leek, light green part, pushed into tubesA large handful of sage leaves, shredded3tbsp Olive oilThin bits of middle of the leek, finely sliced300ml Almond milk1 1/2tbsp Tapioca starchSaltShredded sage leaves, chopped toasted almonds and dried borage flowers to serve, if you have them on the shelf in a jar and keep wondering what to do with them.MethodRoast the filling ingredients (apart from the lemon juice) at 200c for 25-30 mins, until soft and golden then leave to cool before adding the lemon juice and blitzing until smooth (but not too smooth) in a food processor then put in a bowl. Taste it and adjust the lemon juice and seasoning if necessary.Cut the dark green and white parts off the leek and use for stock. Or, do what I did and forget about them in the back of the fridge then throw them away.Push out the inner tubes of the leek, leaving you with about six of the large outer tubes. Slice the inner ones then sauté them until soft in good olive oil, with sage and then season and transfer to a bowl. Add the almond milk and tapioca to the pan, heat and whisk until you have an emulsion as thick as double cream. Add the leek and sage mixture and leave to infuse for ten minutes before removing the sage stalks and blitzing the sauce in the food processor. If you prefer, you can leave it unblitzed, but I prefer it smooth.Stuff the leek tubes with the filling and cook gently in a little olive oil until soft. Turning occasionally and carefully. Chop some toasted almonds and get the sauce warmed.Put the sauce on plates, top with the leek then sprinkle over the almonds, sage leaves and borage flowers if using. Blowtorch the leek if you're feeling fancy. Finish with a drizzle of excellent olive oil and serve.