When I was fifteen I got my first mobile phone. Not your standard smart phone with fancy apps, a camera or even a colour screen; just a pink-cased Nokia brick which I used as a sort of portable telephone box to call my parents. Friends were contacted using our good old-fashioned landline and the internet (including the joy of MSN Messenger) accessed by via our clunky home PC. I didn’t spend much time online and any baking we did was inspired by my Mum’s extensive collection of recipe books, magazine cuttings and a little bit of imagination. Continue reading
One of the strange things about writing a cookbook is wondering where my recipes will end up. I don’t necessarily mean the tables that they’ll grace or mouths that they’ll feed – although I’m completely fascinated by that too – but the way in which people will interpret what I’ve written, reinventing their very own versions of the flavours I eat and enjoy. Continue reading
My first book deadline is just a couple of weeks away and my fridge and freezer are groaning with food, my recipes are out with an army of testers and I’m finalising the ingredients and anecdotes in every spare moment. For those of you who don’t follow me on Instagram, here’s a sneak preview of some of what I’ve been working on. Continue reading
We spent this weekend just gone at my parents’ house in Italy (yes, if you clicked the link, I’m finally on Instagram and a little bit addicted, come join me!). High in the Tuscan mountains with little more than the sun shining above us, trees around and valleys below, we had time to reflect on the important things in life. Love and family and food featured foremost, with pretty much equal emphasis on all three.
Leaving lessons in love and family aside, let’s focus on the food. There everything seems to just taste better, from freshly podded borlotti beans to creamy mozzarella cheese, ripe tomatoes, leafy greens and the heaviest of melons, sweet flesh replete with juice. Continue reading
Meringues will always make me think of my Granny.
Not my paternal grandmother – a skilled home baker whose larder was always stocked with a homemade chocolate cake, fluffy scones or knobbly rock buns the size of a fist – but my mother’s Mum. The same amazing woman who would serve stale Maltesers had little interest in baking, producing meringues from a packet and filling them with cream from a can, yet somehow this dessert remains utterly magical in my memory. Continue reading
When was the last time you tried to recreate a restaurant dessert at home?
One of the joys of eating out is the complexity of the dishes on offer. I love to cook and bake but it’s not often I’ll take the time to make the numerous reductions, drizzles and sprinkles that often adorn a single plate. Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago, my ice cream machine broke. Having poured a simple peanut butter custard into the turning bowls, I sat back to watch it churn into the soft, smooth, scoopable consistency I have learned to expect. The mechanism whirred unreasonably loudly, plastic paddles slapped pathetically against the sides and forty minutes later my ice cream attempt was in as liquid a state as when it started.
With work, holidays and everything in between, it’s taken some time to get it off to the manufacturer for (a luckily within warrantee) repair. Last Friday I finished up early, packed the two-bowled beast into a large cardboard box and headed off to the post office in the afternoon heat. After a twenty minute walk and twice as long waiting, I was told I’d taken it to the wrong place. No ice cream for me that day (but at least I gave myself a good arm workout).
When was the last time someone responded badly to something you’d made?
In the kitchen, I tend to be my own worst critic. Although I enjoy cooking all sorts of savoury dishes, I definitely get the most joy out of baking and making desserts. And one major bonus that comes with being a baker is that your creations are almost always met with a rapturous response. While I’ll worry that something hasn’t turned out quite perfect, that the top is too brown or the middle less moist than I’d hoped, most of the time people have nothing but praise to impart when handed something sweet.
Maybe it’s an inherent insecurity which means I thrive on this praise, or perhaps conversely it’s some sort of overblown ego which makes me enjoy the eager eyes, nods of appreciation, squeals of pleasure and silent smiles of satisfaction, but the reaction of my friends and family to the treats I make brings me at least as much happiness as the actual processes of both baking and eating. Continue reading
I really couldn’t decide whether to post this photo. After the success of my Double Chocolate Cardamom & Rose Cake, and so many lovely comments about its elegance and beauty, these crudely thrown together kebabs felt like a bit of an eye sore. They were far more rough and ready; simple skewers of spiced minced meat wrapped around a stick. And in all honesty, if asked to conjure up an image of beauty in food, meat on a stick probably wouldn’t be your number one choice.
Or maybe it would. I’m sure a food stylist could have drizzled them in creamy yoghurt and sprinkled over some chopped mint, found some suitably colourful prop to offset the darkness of all that meat and tinkered and tweaked until they had a plate that looked the picture of foodie beauty. But I’d made these kofte for a friend on a work night, and after we finally got around to getting them off the BBQ, sizzling hot and smelling divine, the last thing I wanted to do was faff around taking proper photos. This is real life, and sometimes hunger wins out over art.
So why did I decide to post these pictures? The answer’s pretty simple really; the recipe is too damn good not too.