It's a constant, if not full-time job to keep enough food in the house for the seemingly hollow children. And while bergamot curd may not be up on the list of household necessities, as the saying goes, when life gives you lemons...I had a box of bergamots hanging around as one does, and after trying palm them off here and there on unsuspecting family and friends, the remainder were destined for a slow and sad decline. I'd used some in a pasta dish with broccoli, garlic and Parmesan in place of lemon and I'd squeezed the juice into sparkling water for a touch of the bath bomb in my evening drink. I was considering using the rest for a lemon-style tart, but seeing as the children seem to have developed a new and mysterious love for lemon curd on toast I had my solution.And it's very nice. Perfumed but not like walking past a soap shop, it's citrussy and delicate. I know bergamots are not really the kind of thing you come across that often --it's almost exclusively grown in Calabria -- but if you do, this is a good use for it. And, as a bonus you can spoon it into little sweet pastry cases for a speedy little tart.This recipe works just as well with blood oranges, which is my next stop if I'm lost for curds.Makes: 2 jarsPrep time: 5 minutesCooking time: 10-15 minutesIngredients4 bergamots, juice and zest (giving up about 160ml juice)4 eggs1 egg yolk200g golden caster sugar100g unsalted butterMethodZest the bergamots into a heatproof bowl big enough to sit on top of a small saucepan. Halve the fruits and put them in a bowl. Microwave them for one minute. This will give you all the juice from them. An astonishing amount comes out. If you don't a microwave, roll them really hard on the bench before slicing open. It will help, but isn't as good as the micro.Put some water in the bottom of the pan and bring to the boil. Add the butter, sugar and juice to the bowl and stir well. Put on top of the pan, making sure it's not touching the water and reduce the heat to a simmer.Stir, dissolving the butter and melting the sugar.Lightly whisk the eggs and yolks and tip into the bowl. Whisk in well until incorporated and cook for about 10-15 minutes, very gently. Stir occasionally with a spatula until the whole thing is beautifully and gently set.Remove from the heat and put into jars. Leave to cool and store in the fridge.This weekWatched:Jiro dreams of sushi. I now want to retrain as a 90 year old Japanese sushi master, but I feel some ambitions are impossible.'Somebody feed Phil' on Netflix; another travel-food-ologue, but as usual, interesting and hosted by someone who seems genuinely enthusiastic and nice.Coco, from Pixar with the children. I didn't know where to look there was so much going on.Listened:Blind Melon: not listened to them for a long time. Uplifting in a melancholy way.Kodaline: thought I'd try them out, see what the youth of today are listening to. Or something like that. They probably aren't, it's more likely to be hairdressers in Newbury or somewhere that listen to this boring snorefest of a band. Ate:Dull Indian takeaway. Dull Italian food at Ecco, Clapham and a dull lunch at Franco Manca after the cinema. Followed by heavenly gelato from Odono's on Lordship Lane. Homemade spinach and ricotta ravioli with sage butter. Children hated it. Savages. Philistines. It's one of the world's finest dishes.A steak sandwich with anchovy, melted cheddar, watercress, salsa verde, chillies, radish, cucumber and gherkins. That was a sandwich alright. Nico dreams of sandwiches.Read:Death in Sardinia, '60s set Italian detective novel, lots of good food descriptions as well as the usual detective formulas.
The sky was yellow, a Saharan dust covering London. A strange light and a weak red sun poking through. Perhaps this was a new and rather full-on marketing push for the new Bladerunner film, or maybe we are hurtling toward apocalypse now. I met a friend for supper that evening and the gloom meant we all scuttled indoors a little quicker than usual. We eat steak tartare, prepared tableside by a crisp black and white linen-ed and desiccated waiter then hurried back to our homes.Summer is now well on it's way to the other side of the world and autumn has properly pulled the duvet over us. Soon, the woolly hats and gloves will be on and we can be justified in not leaving the house until March.It's a strange feeling, the desire to go to bed at six in the evening and the sure mistake of the alarm going off at what seems like the middle of the night. The clocks will soon change, giving us a little more light in the early morning for about a week before we sink ankle deep into winter. I hope the farmers are grateful as we all finish our afternoons with night vision goggles on, stepping over the bodies of run-over school children.There are still some green leaves clinging desperately onto the branches of the tree today as I look outside the sitting room window. Most of the other branches around are bare and I swear I just saw a pigeon with a scarf on. But as civilisation comes to an end around us and turnips are the only thing that will still grow, I still insist on serving a green salad at almost every meal. The children have a bowl of it tossed with mustardy vinaigrette to eat before I give them their supper. We don't live in an American restaurant, it just keeps them quiet for a bit and they wolf it down. I should stop wearing a frilly apron and serving them bottomless mugs of coffee though.This week saw me grate half a clove of garlic into my usual dressing. This is what is passing for excitement in our house at the moment. We are all pretty tired now, and half term hasn't come soon enough. The children need a rest and we are grateful for the change of pace it brings. Although we now find ourselves, with unbelievable inconvenience, having to feed them three meals a day plus occasional snacks and seek out entertainment.This Sunday morning though, the children let us sleep until quarter to nine before waking us up to complain of hunger. They then retired to their room to tidy their drawers for two hours, as if possessed by Mary Poppins. Ours was not to reason why, so I read the paper alone in peace while Bee read her book in bed drinking tea. Unsettling.But by the time evenings come around and the children are in bed, supper sometimes seems a huge effort. It's more often than not something I can throw into one pan and leave to do it's thing, such as the hearty haricot and chorizo stew we had early in the week. or a tray of chipped sweet potato, sprinkled liberally with garam masala and chilli flakes, roasted in the oven with a couple of bream, olive oil, fat garlic cloves and cherry tomatoes that had started to explode in the heat.One night, I found a bag of figs, now perfectly ripe (one overly so and destined for the bin), some very ripe Rocamadour goat's cheese that you could smell from France and some slices of a sourdough loaf. A little honey, olive oil, salt and pepper and a pinch of fresh parsley was enough to satisfy the evening hunger. Simple, good ingredients made something far more than the some of their parts and figs, well they are practically the flavour of Christmas aren't they?This week:Watched: Finally getting around to Fargo season three. Perfectly wintery, and the Minnesota accent is so great.Read: Still reading Middlemarch. And I fear I shall be for some time yet. Lincoln in the Bardo sits on my bedside table and the pile of books I want to read is growing longer than there are years left to read them.Listened to: The Omen on Radio 4 iPlayer. A perfect example of an epic child's tantrum.Eat: Steak Tartare in 1980s Toremolinos, or rather La Barca, Lower Marsh. Methi chicken at Lahore Karahi in Tooting. Pakistani canteen food better than most, quick, friendly and a great place to top up the spice levels. They promise a "genuine spicy taste", so you'd hope they deliver. And they do.
I'm a busy man, I don't have time to separate my free-range, organic araucana eggs for homemade mayonnaise. In the cut and thrust world I live in I barely have time to put clothes on before I leave the house and take the children to school.*Why not just buy a jar of mayonnaise I hear you ask? To be honest, it's been a quiet couple of weeks here, so I blatantly have more time usual, hence the fresh bread issuing forth from the oven and the children eating proper food on the weekends and after school.The reason I didn't separate the eggs was to see what whole egg mayonnaise was like. And it's pretty good, hardly different to the usual method. It's just a little more liquid to begin with so emulsifying the oil takes a little more time, but in a food processor it's easy. And it tastes so much better than a middle-class posh jar with French words and has the added benefit of having no stuff in it for a year on the shop shelf.I found the remains of some wild garlic, flowers and all, in a still fairly good state in a bag in the fridge. They were starting to become slightly frilly and not quite as fresh as when I picked them. They were certainly good enough, however, for a pesto, sauce or in this case accompaniment to plump and juicy prawns on hot toasted sourdough. If I'm lucky, there may still be some lurking in the garden for the risotto I'd originally planned, but for now, this is a delicious use for them.As far as the monk's beard goes, the season for that is even shorter. If you've missed it, although I suspect it's still available (Natoora and Ocado stock it), samphire works perfectly in it's place. And failing that, some tender British asparagus tips, halved lengthways and lightly steamed will also work.*I do get dressed. And it's mainly because the alarm is such shock to the system I snooze it until the last minute. I'm not a morning person. Getting up earlier is not an option with my lack of discipline.Ingredients, lunch for two8 large tiger prawns, shell and head on2 free-range organic eggs1tbsp Dijon mustardA pinch of saltRapeseed oilA tablespoon or two of olive oil to finishA splash of water to loosenA small bunch of wild garlic, flowers too if you have any (they're peppery)A small bunch of monk's beard or a couple of handfuls of samphireJuice and zest of half a lemonSourdough bread to toastMethodMake the mayonnaise. You can do this in the mini bowl of the food processor or by hand with a whisk.Stir the mustard and a pinch of salt into the eggs. With the motor or your whisk hand running, pour in the rapeseed oil at first slowly drop by drop until it starts to thicken and emulsify. You can then speed up the pour, spinning all the time until thick and 'mayonnaise-y'. Now continue with the olive oil. Add a splash of water to loosen a little. If you're doing this in the processor, throw in the garlic now and blitz until completely shredded to pieces in the mayo. If doing it by hand, slice, slice and slice again then chop. Now stir it in well. This keeps in the fridge for a few days in a sealed jar so make it ahead if you fancy.Sauté the prawns with the shell on in some olive oil and chopped garlic until cooked, then remove from the pan and leave to cool a little.Remove the tough stalks from the monk's beard. These make good, if temporary weaponsQuickly sauté the leaves in the pan the prawns were cooked in and add the lemon juice and a pinch of salt at the end.Toast the bread, dollop a spoon of mayonnaise on top and spread it around.I shelled the prawns over the toast and mayo, squeezing the heads as I did so to get more of the juices out, giving it an even bigger punch of flavour.A sprinkle of salt and pepper, the still warm monk's beard leaves and perhaps a few chilli flakes and lunch is ready.
I'm writing this lying on the floor in the middle of a cheese coma. The sudden trauma of morning, getting the children ready for school and repeating 'brush your teeth' over and again until you become insensible is not a good way to start the day, even though one of them somehow and somewhy got dressed by itself this morning. I'm still suspicious of her motives, but she got telly with breakfast as a reward, and it hurried her brother along to join in, so I didn't question her.I've been meaning to make this dish for a couple of months, ever since we went to Chai Naasto in Beckenham where I had a tin pot full of it. Today seemed like the perfect time and just reward to compensate for the reality of the morning which was not, as I hoped, to have been gently woken from a peaceful and deep sleep by a string quartet and to have my valet bring me bed tea.This is fairly quick and very simple to make, but the noises that came from me as I took the first bite are best kept private. It's an indecent snack, and certainly an indecent breakfast. A good extra drizzle of chilli sauce over the cheese is welcome, and use the remaining half an onion, finely sliced with some chillies and coriander to serve as a little salad on the side to cut through the richness.Ingredients for four to six people as a snack500g cubed paneer. You can easily make your own, but buying it is even easier than that.For the sauce:3 cloves garlic, chopped1tbsp ginger purée1/2 a medium red onion, choppedA few green chillies, sliced2tbsp chilli sauce (I used Linghams)1tsp tomato purée1tbsp water1tsp ground Szechaun pepperFor the batter:2tbsp flour1tbsp cornflour1tbsp chilli powder1/2tsp cumin powder1/2tsp turmeric powder1tsp Garlic puréeWaterSalt and pepperRapeseed or peanut oil to frySliced spring onions, green chillies, a sprinkle of chaat masala and Coriander leaves to serve.Make the sauce by gently sautéing the garlic in a little oil then adding the onions, ginger, pepper and chillies. Cook for about three minutes then stir in the chilli sauce, tomato purée and water. Cook for another minute or two, and keep warm in the pan.Make the batter by mixing together the flours, spices, seasoning, garlic and enough water to a cream-like thickness. Leave it to rest for about 20 minutes while you wonder off and try to work out why the children have left mud all up the hallway wall.Toss the paneer cubes through the batter and deep-fry them in hot oil until crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.Toss through the chilli sauce and serve with a sprinkle of chillies, spring onions and coriander.
If you are hungry and need a quick pick me up, this snack has won my coveted 'snack of the week' award. It's an amazing, classic combination and if you have thirty seconds and the ingredients to hand, it's unbeatable. Unless you hate beetroot.Slice two gherkins, or as we always called them, pickles, one cooked and vinegared beetroot then add a tablespoon of creme fraiche, chopped dill and a pinch of garam masala. Really delicious.