Wild garlic butter

We sat down to supper, the children just having gone to bed. They were supposed to be asleep, yet by the volume of giggling wafting downstairs were still wide awake. Perhaps we could finish our meal in peace before resorting to investigation followed by threats.

I'd spent about half an hour in the afternoon making wild garlic butter from scratch. About 600ml of double cream into the churning jar was enough for a large pat and the buttermilk left over will go very well in some scones or to marinate some chicken.

A few handfuls of the garlic leaves and flowers, dug from the garden and cleaned of soil were wilted in a pan and squeezed dry. Salt and a pinch of turmeric went in to the blender with the butter until it became a vivid green, then I poured it, still fairly liquid, into a dish in the fridge to firm.

Making your own butter means you can choose cream that you know comes from well looked after cows. Grass-fed and allowed to live as they should: on pasture and well treated, contributing to and being part of the wider healthy biosphere. There is also a freshness to homemade, as well as a the excitement of seeing the simple magic of separating whey from fat. And once you've rinsed and squeezed it through muslin you can flavour it as you like.

When the children help, we wrap and label theirs with their names so they have personalised butter pats. They usually stick to plain butter, but you could spice it with garam masala or a tablespoon of harissa, rosemary or tarragon. You could even go sweet with ground cinnamon and sugar.

When you make a batch, roll each into a cylinder and wrap well in paper. You can freeze for later use or keep in the fridge for about a week if salted.

I used the wild garlic butter last night with chorizo scrambled eggs. The spices from the meat mingling with the deep green butter as the cubes sizzled and crisped. On the side were garlic-laden sautéed courgettes and a green salad lightly dressed with a punchy mustard vinaigrette. As if it wasn't rich enough, I had some very creamy goats cheese on my eggs. Maybe I'm calcium deficient at the moment and my body is trying to tell me something. If that meal was the result of subliminal dairy messaging, then I'm all ears.

Quincey, pudding examiner

It's cold outside, bleak, wintry. The pile of quinces on the kitchen counter hasn't moved for a week and some of them are on the turn.
Unlike the pumpkins still on the windowsill these needed to be used quickly. 
A version of a Tarte Tatin seemed the solution, as it could well be for many of life's problems.

Peel and core the quince, (about six or so went into this).
I used the peelings and cores to make a syrup: sugar, water, a cinnamon stick, a pinch of saffron-- then poach them in water for about 15 minutes, until tender, but still firm to the touch. I then mixed them in about 4 tablespoons of cinnamon sugar left over from the 'skillingsboller' Maya and I made on Sunday which Noah then ate most of.

Then, proceed in the way you would if making an apple Tatin, that is to say melt and caramelise some sugar in a heavy, wide, oven-proof pan or tatin dish and layer the quince down. Cook for a few minutes before covering with the puff pastry* and gently tucking it in around the edges as if putting it to bed (you can also use shortcrust if you prefer, but you will be wrong).

Cook in a fairly hot oven (200c) for about 25 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden. Leave to cool for a while before turning out onto a plate, sprinkling over the hazelnuts and giving a drizzle of syrup if you have any. Serve with creme fraiche.

*Some frozen puff pastry (homemade is obviously better, but I didn't fancy it today, and I had a roll to use up) defrosted and rolled a little thinner is fine for this and makes the whole thing a really quick yet impressive pudding.


It's normally always there, lingering in the back of the cupboard, the lid slightly encrusted with a beige residue and the oil separated from the paste, sitting on top in a questionable pool. Then there is a fight to get the near solidified clay out of the bottom and not bend the spoon. And that's all before you discover you haven't got a tin of chickpeas anyway so have to go to the shop. Again.But fear not! This homemade tahini will save the day. And if there's ever a houmous crisis in the shops again, you can whip up your own in a jiffy. And then you can put it in a jar in the fridge and the whole family dip a carrot stick in it for lunch on Saturday then forget about it until you throw it away a week later as you wonder why you bother.Of course, this all depends on you having a bag of sesame seeds in the cupboard. I'd suggest that it is a staple worth having, and really, it's nicer making your own tahini anyway. It just (as with most things that are freshly made) tastes so much better. And you know it only has what you put in it in it.MethodTo make a jam jar sized amount of fresh tahini, sprinkle sesame seeds all over an oven tray, you can be very generous. Heat the oven to 180c and roast the seeds until they start to colour a little and toast. Stir them round occasionally so they don't burn.Leave to cool a little then put in the food processor and blitz until you have a crumbly mix. Slowly add in some neutral oil, such as groundnut or rapeseed and keep blending until you have a creamy paste. Transfer to a jar and keep in the fridge.Apart from houmous -- which I would recommend making using dried chickpeas for a better finished dish, but, if you only have tinned I'm not going to judge you --  tahini can be used in dressings, sauces with some yoghurt, drizzled over roast carrots or even put into ice cream. And what's more, there's a little more cupboard space and the satisfaction of the homemade.

Take your pickle

There is a shelf in our fridge that David Attenborough should investigate. Here, behind the inconspicuous looking cheese, the vivid bright colours of the chilli sauce bottle and the jar of ancient miso lie unexplained phenomena. Jars of things, experiments and whims.While we are currently living out of suitcases at the in-laws, I admit there is a possibility I don't need as much stuff as I have. It has been refreshing to live with a minimum of things, and while it will inevitably not last after the decorating has been finished at home, I see that life could do with streamlining. And that should extend to the kitchen. I have boxes full of things I use maybe once a year, and perhaps while we are trying to sell our place, I could do without festering packets of dried animal parts and the like that I insist impart a certain je ne sais quoi to dishes.It can't go on. And while I experiment with flavours, make pickles and chutneys or try and use up gluts of vegetables our fridge becomes fuller and smellier. So I will now stick to the fresh and keep a minimum of jars. Within reason.These shall be:Dijon mustard -- a must, without which vinaigrette is nothing to meMiso -- just for that little savouriness and occasional warming hot drinkChilli sauce -- well that goes without saying. A house without chilli sauce is not a home.Pickled jalapenos -- what are tacos and chilli without those? And let's not forget how brilliant the little pickled chillies are with spaghetti Bolognese, so those can stay tooGarlic and ginger purée -- well, it's just so useful isn't it?Cornichons -- what kind of a household doesn't have those in the fridge? Savages.The jar of dill pickled cucumbers -- great on rye with some of the jarred and pickled herrings. They must stay too.And kimchi -- homemade of course. That's a legal requirement. We should get a new fridge which has a kimchi dispenser in the door as well as one for water. It's the perfect snack, I love an occasional bratwurst in a microwave Chinese steamed bun with a good dollop of the stuff, so space must be kept for this. So that only leaves the half used jar of wholegrain to get rid of. Not much, but it's a start.The kimchi recipe is below. It's a very easy thing to do, perhaps five minutes work. Time does the rest.As for the week ahead, I fancy making Canadian butter tarts for a weekend snack. What's not to like about butter? Perhaps a haricot and chorizo stew to warm us up on a cold midweek night, although this time I'll try to not burn the beans in the pressure cooker like I did last time.A prawn, tomato and fenugreek curry to go with the dhal I have stored in the freezer will make a quick Thursday supper sprinkled with some ground peanut, garlic and coconut chutney and maybe some spicy harrisa coated lamb chops with a spiky green salad to get our fingers dirty with on Friday. And there's always the kimchi, which I've brought with us from home. I have freed up some space in our fridge after all...Ingredients1 Chinese cabbage, cored and sliced lengthwise6 radishes, finely sliced4 spring onions, sliced1 thumb of ginger, grated4 cloves of garlic, grated1tbsp gochujang1tbsp seaweed flakes1tbsp chilli flakesPepper100g salt1tbsp sugarWater, to cover the cabbage in a large bowlMethodAdd the salt to the sliced cabbage in a large bowl and massage into the leaves. Cover with the water, put a plate on top with a heavy weight on and leave for at least three hours. Overnight if possible.Drain and rinse the cabbage thoroughly.Mix together the sugar seaweed flakes, chilli flakes, gochujang and pepper in a small bowl. Add a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt and mix well.Add the  remaining ingredients to the cabbage and mix in the paste.Pack into a sterilised kilner jar, adding a splash more of water to loosen the mix a little if needed.Leave for 24 hours and open the jar to release any build up of gas. Keep in the fridge and use as needed for three weeks or so.This weekRead: Nearly finished Middlemarch. I will need to read a cereal packet for a few days after. As always, The New Yorker fills the gaps; an excellent piece on culinary revolution from Jane Kramer.Watched: Some good costume dramatics in Howards End. I am quite the fan of E.M, having loved Passage to India for A' Level English.Listened: Laura Cantrell, 'Not the tremblin' kind.' An old favourite, gently countryish.Eat: Braai wings at Meat Liquor that blew my head off. They were hotter than a white Escort XR3i. Delicious and for once something that lived up to its spicy billing. I'm still impressed. And I made mashed potato stuffed tortellini with the children. Served with sage butter it was a comforting, carby, delicious supper. 'Though I'm going to have to crack down on the kids in the kitchen, they really didn't crank the pasta machine quickly enough for my liking.

On the Case

DC598BB8-93B0-43DB-97FB-5144CEFB5939Tomorrow the children go back to school after six years off for Easter. I think we're all looking forward to it. It has been good having them around, though, and we've had some fun in the kitchen. Notably making these sausages.Normally, you'd put breadcrumbs in British-style sausages, that's one of the reasons they're not as dense as the meatier Italian ones, or, my favourite, merguez, which I shall be making soon. So to make these wheat-free, I used milled flax seed instead, which helped  bind the mixture as well as give a little extra texture.They're quick to make and you can buy the casings from your butcher or online. Making them yourself means there are no additives in them, and you can vary the spicing and herbs as you like, as well as the thickness and length. We got 18 large ones out of this, so quite a few went in the freezer.You can ask your butcher to mince the meat for you if you don't have a mincer at home, and you will need a sausage maker, you can also get these cheaply online. You can, however, skip the casings and roll them by hand into sausage shapes if you want. I'd highly recommend a machine though, not least for the opportunity to add a touch of 'Carry-On' to the kitchen. It's not possible to put the casing on the nozzle without thinking about GCSE biology with Mr. Johnson.Experiment with garlic, herb and red wine or mixed spices. Leek and apple perhaps, and paprika and onion. We'll not be buying sausages any more.Ingredients800g pork mince or pork shoulder800g pork belly1tbsp ground ginger1tbsp ground five-spice1tbsp ground nutmeg1tbsp dried oregano1tbsp dried tarragon1tbsp dried thyme2tbsp flax seedPepperLoads of salt150ml cold water2m hog casing sausage skinMethodMince the meat and mix in the rest of the ingredients.Fry a little of the mixture to test the seasoning and adjust as needed.Try not to snigger as you roll the casing on to the nozzle.Turn the machine on and slowly feed the mixture through until it starts to fill the casing. Gradually let it fill until you reach the desired size then twist to seal and carry on. Twist the opposite way on the next one and repeat until finished.You can cook them straight away, (I tend to grill them) but it's better to let them dry a little, uncovered, in the fridge for a day.Wrap well and freeze what you don't need immediately.

Delicious homemade doughnuts


The first time I had fresh doughnuts straight from the fryer was a revelation. There was a small stall between Covent Garden tube station and the market, basically a fryer on wheels. When some friends and I used to come up to London for whatever reason and found ourselves there, we would stuff our faces. They were hot and soft, sugary and delicious and felt like such a treat. Completely unlike the stodgy, cold shop-bought ones. Now, whenever possible I make my own.Cooking with the children is always good fun and baking is a really easy way to involve them. Rather than starting off with complicated savoury dishes, things like biscuits, cakes and doughnuts are great hands on recipes.Makes: 12 Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 5-6 minutesIngredients7g dry yeast5tbsp golden caster sugar230g plain flour160ml milk65g melted butter1 egg, beatenPinch of salt500ml rapeseed oil for fryingFillings of your choiceGolden caster sugar to coatMethod1. Warm the milk and add the yeast and a pinch of sugar. Leave to stand for about ten minutes until slightly foamy.2. Add the flour and sugar to a large bowl or food mixer and add the milk mixture and remaining sugar along with themelted butter and egg.3. Knead for about five minutes then cover the bowl and leave to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.4. Knead again for a couple of minutes then on a floured surface shape into balls and doughnuts and leave to rise for another twenty minutes or so.5. Heat the oil to 175c in a deep pan or preferably a deep-fat fryer and gently cook the doughnuts in small batches for a couple of minutes or so on each side. Don’t let the oil get too hot or they will remain uncooked on the inside and burn on the outside.6. Drain on kitchen paper and roll in sugar. When cool enough to handle, fill the centre of the balls using a pipette with your choice of filling. I think you can’t beat raspberry jam, but you could also use caramel or Nutella or whatever you fancy. I also like to drizzle them with caramel or melted chocolate and chopped hazlenuts.doughnut montage