Thursday, 30 December 2010

Bloody Maria

Does anyone actually know the words to Auld Lang Syne? Can’t say I do. Chances are, come midnight on New Year’s Eve I’ll be delivering a wildly atonal and fractured interpretation in chorus with the melee; if I’m lucky, collective inebriation will grant me respite for another year. A Bloody Maria is nearly identical to a Bloody Mary; with exception to tequila and lime, which replace the vodka and lemon. Perfect for (what is perenially) a dishevelled start to the year's proceedings.
1 Shot of tequila
6 Dashes Worcestershire sauce
4 Dashes Tobasco sauce
1tsp Grated horseradish root (creamed horseradish is fine if you don't
have any)
A pinch of ground black pepper
A pinch of celery salt
A small pinch of cayenne pepper
A good squeeze of lime juice
200ml Tomato juice
Ice cubes
Celery sticks, to serve

Pop 3 ice cubes into the bottom of cocktail shaker, then add the
remaining ingredients. Shake well, pour into an appropriate receptacle
and serve with a celery stick.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Boozy sloe gin mincemeat

600g Mixed dried fruit (I used roughly equal parts raisins, currants and sultanas)
200g Unsalted butter
200g Light muscovado sugar
1 Large bramley apple peeled, cored and grated
Zest and juice of one large orange
1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon
A good grating of fresh nutmeg
150ml Sloe gin

Slowly melt the butter in a large pan; take off the heat and stir in the sugar and cinnamon. Mix the dried fruit, grated apple, orange zest, orange juice and sloe gin together in a separate bowl (it's good to do this the night before if you get a chance). Stir the butter into the fruit, mix together well and spoon into sterilised jars. Fashion into untold mince pies.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Cranberry clafoutis

I've made clafoutis' before, but with sweeter fruit such as blueberries,

blackberries and plums. In this instance I offset the sharpness of

the Cranberries by macerating them in a little warm honey first.

400g Fresh cranberries

1 tbsp Honey

75g Plain flour

100g Golden caster sugar

75g Ground almonds

1 tsp Ground cinnamon

2 Eggs

150ml Whole milk

100ml Single cream

Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Warm the honey in a small

saucepan, take off the heat and stir in the cranberries. Sieve the flour

into a mixing bowl, then stir in the sugar, almonds and cinnamon.

Whisk the eggs, milk and cream together in a seperate bowl, make a

well in the centre of the dry ingredients and slowly whisk in the liquid.

Mix well, until the batter is smooth and lump free.

Butter a shallow dish, add a spoonful of sugar and tap at an angle,

rotating slowly to coat the bottom and sides of the dish. Spoon in the

honeyed cranberries, then pour in the batter. Bake for 25 minutes,

after which the clafoutis should be risen and golden. A skewer should

come out clean when poked into dish.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Monday, 6 December 2010

Wild mushroom tarts

Makes 4

300g Wild mushrooms

375g Pack puff pastry

1 Garlic clove, finely chopped

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp Creme fraiche

20g Parmesan, finely grated

A large knob of butter

1 Egg, beaten

A few sprigs of fresh lemon thyme

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Sprinke a little flour onto a work

surface and roll the pastry out to about 1/2cm thick. Use a small

saucer to cut out 4 pastry discs; transfer onto a lined baking sheet

and use the blunt edge of a knife to score a border on each (inset of

about 1cm).

Melt a knob butter in a hot pan, stir in the garlic, then add the

mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes, then take off the heat.

Mix the mustard, creme fraiche and Parmesan together in a bowl. Spread

a thin layer of the mixture into the centre of each tart, taking care

not to spoon over the border line. Divide the mushrooms between the

four tarts, brush the pastry borders with beaten egg and bake for 20

minutes. Season, sprinkle with some fresh thyme leaves and serve.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Spicy pumpkin soup

A medium sized pumpkin, deseeded, peeled and roughly chopped

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

A thumb-sized piece of root ginger, finely chopped

1 Red chilli, chopped

1 Lemongrass, chopped

1 Large onion

1 1/2 pints Vegetable stock

1 Tbsp mango chutney

Salt and pepper

Heat the sesame oil in a pan before adding the ginger, lemongrass and

chilli. After a few minutes, stir in the onion, softening slightly

before adding the pumpkin. Pour in the stock and simmer gently for 10

minutes or so; after which the pumpkin should squish easily. Transfer

everything into a blender and blitz to a smooth consistency; pour back

into the pan and season. Spoon in the mango chutney and leave to

bubble on a low heat for a few minutes. Serve with chopped chilli,

ginger matchsticks and fresh coriander.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Pink peppercorn pfeffernusse

For the second time in a week I chanced upon the wolf man on the way home. He seems to just appear on the horizon; long silvery hair, lupine scowl and (seriously) a wolf-embroidered fleece hanging off his bony shoulders. If that wasn't enough, he has TWO ACTUAL WOLVES tethered to his hands, albeit by unnervingly flimsy leashes. It's startling to witness; but has little to do with festive baking. I digress.

It’s Sinterklaas eve on 5th December. Traditionally, children in Germany, Holland and Belgium leave shoes by the fireplace before bedtime; come the morning it’s hoped that Saint Nicholas will have filled them with treats – Pfeffernusse being a favourite. It feels a bit keen to be making Christmas biscuits at the end of November, but these really benefit from being left in a tin for a couple of weeks so that the spice flavours develop.

Pink peppercorn pfeffernusse
Makes 20

For the biscuits
2 Eggs
230g Light muscovado sugar
250g Plain flour
Zest and juice of 2 satsumas
1tsp Ground cinnamon
1/2tsp Ground mace
1/2tsp Ground cloves
1/3 Freshly grated tonka bean
1tsp Finely chopped pink peppercorns
1tsp Freshly ground black pepper
30g Ground almonds
A pinch of salt

For the sugar coating
2 Egg whites

250g Icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Whisk the eggs, sugar and Satsuma juice together until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in the zest, spices, pepper, salt and almonds before gradually sifting in the flour, mixing well and shaping into a ball of dough. Knead for about five minutes, then roll into 3cm balls and arrange on a greaseproof lined baking sheet (allowing a fair bit of space around each so that they don’t stick together). Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, turn the oven off and transfer biscuits onto a cooling rack. Whisk the egg whites and icing sugar together, dip each biscuit into the glaze and place back on the greaseproof lined tray. Put the tray back into the cooling oven for about half an hour.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Wild walnut, Stilton and honey foccacia

500g Bread flour
1 ½ tsp Salt
½ tsp dried yeast
2 tbsp Olive oil
325ml Warm water
A handful of chopped walnuts
A chunk of Stilton, crumbled
2 tbsp Honey
Sea salt

Add the yeast to the water, leaving for a few minutes while you mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Stir the water and olive oil into the flour, using your hands to shape into a ball. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, pop back into the bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave in a warm spot for an hour or so, after which (hopefully) the dough will have doubled in size. Carefully stretch out the dough into an oiled baking tray; get the damp tea towel back on the scene and put back in the warmth for a further 30 minutes.

Use your fingertips to gently make some dents all over the surface of the dough, brush with olive oil and pop into a preheated oven (180C/160C fan/gas 4) for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the crumbled Stilton and walnuts over the foccacia, then give it another 5-10 minutes in the oven. Drizzle with honey and a light sprinkle of sea salt.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Savoy cabbage

When I'm all alone I go batshit mental and start photographing cabbages. It's just the way I roll.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Barney's pigeon & hedgerow salad

One one my favourite recipes, created by the wonderful Barney Desmazery. Recipe here - it's a joy...

Nettle salsa verde

A handful of mint leaves
A handful of basil leaves
A (gloved) handful of young nettle tops, steamed
Half a handful of parsley leaves
2 Pickled gherkins
1 Tablespoon capers
3 Cloves garlic, crushed
4 Anchovies
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
6 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

Finely chop the herbs, nettles, gherkins, capers and anchovies. Stir in remaining ingredients and season to taste.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Baby courgette and lime linguine

Serves 2
250g Linguine
Olive oil
4 or 5 Baby courgettes
I Red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 Large garlic clove, crushed
2 Limes
A handful of basil leaves
Parmesan cheese, to serve
Get the linguine into a pan of boiling water. Use a pastry brush to oil a griddle
pan before placing on the heat. Slice the courgettes on a slant and sear on both sides
for about 5 minutes, turning once (the courgette slices should be scorched with
griddle lines). Put to one side on a sheet of kitchen roll. In a seperate pan,
soften the garlic and chilli, before stirring in the drained linguine,
griddled courgettes, a drizzle of olive oil and the juice of one lime.
Season well. Serve with basil leaves, a generous grating of Parmesan and
lime wedges on the side.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Spicy toffee nut pears

220g Granulated sugar
110ml Water
25g Butter
1/2tsp Cider vinegar
1/2tsp Cayenne pepper
1 Star anise
A handful of chopped mixed nuts

It's a good idea to use slightly under ripe pears. Heat the water in a pan, add sugar as it warms to dissolve. Stir in butter, vinegar, pepper and star anise and bring to the boil. You need to heat the toffee to hard-crack stage; this takes about 10 minutes, after which a small drop spooned into cold water will go rock hard and sink to the bottom. Stir in nuts, poke a stick into the top of each pear and coat in nutty toffee. Consume with youthful abandon.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Pumpkin pie

2 x 375g packs sweet shortcrust pastry
4lb chopped pumpkin
150g sultanas
400g light muscovado sugar
Zest 1 large orange
300ml orange juice
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp Allspice
1/2tsp Nutmeg
1 bay leaf
A large knob of butter
A good slosh of brandy

Preheat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Tip the filling ingredients into a large bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon. Pour into a large dish and cook in the oven for about 45 minutes, stirring regularly. While this is cooking, line a 23cm springform cake tin with shortcrust pastry, making sure that you have enough spare for the lid. Add the pumpkin mixture to the lined tin, cover with pastry lid and pinch round the edge to create a seal. make a couple slits in the top with a knife. Brush with milk, sprinkle with muscovado sugar and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden. Allow to cool for a bit before removing tin.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Rose hip and blackberry fizz

I love foraging, but dare emerge from the undergrowth clutching a lumpy looking carrier bag as a young family trundle past on their Sunday cycle – parents’ eyes scan you like you're some kind of woodland dwelling deviant. One thinks of exclaiming, "It’s OK, I'm forager!" at volume, but I fear the outburst would only alarm them further, startling Father into a brier. Better take a large, suspicion quelling basket out from now on, or wear a t shirt with 'NOT A SEX PEST' in caps across the front.

For the rose hip syrup
1kg Rosehips
1kg Sugar
3ltrs Water

Chop the rose hips while you bring half of the water to the boil. Add the hips; wait until it rises to the boil again before taking off the heat and leaving to infuse for 15 minutes. Strain through muslin, squeezing as much liquid out as possible. Tip the pulp back into the pan with the rest of the water; bring to the boil and leave to infuse for a further 15 minutes. Strain as before, add sugar to liquid and boil until the syrup is reduced by half. Pour into sterilized bottles.

For the cocktail
Rosehip syrup

Drop a blackberry into the bottom of a champagne flute, cover with rose hip syrup and top up with champagne. Slanche!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Discovery mustard potatoes

Serves 4
800g potatoes, cubed
1 thinly sliced red onion
2 Discovery apples, cored and cubed
4 tsp wholegrain mustard

Boil the potatoes under a watchful eye - until a sharp knife just about slips through a cube. While you drain the potatoes, have a glug of olive oil heating in a frying pan. Pop the potatoes into the pan; toss gently every few minutes, adding the onion and apples about 10 minutes in. Stir in mustard just before serving. Great with pork chops - not forgetting a glass of crisp cider.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Feral fruit chutney

2 lbs Wild fruit (I used a mix of mostly wild cherry plums, damsons and apples). Oh, and a pair of crab apples.
1 large chopped onion
4 tbsp sugar (possibly more, depending on the collective sweetness of your fruit)
1 Red chilli
2 Star anise
1 Cinnamon stick
A splash of cider vinegar
A pinch of cayenne pepper

Soften onion in a pan while you remove the fruit stones and chop the (peeled) apples. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a quick bubble. Boil for 30-45 minutes until reduced and thick, before spooning into sterilised jars.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Chocolate, hazelnut and hogweed seed tarts

Half a 375g pack sweet pastry
200g Dark chocolate
50g Golden caster sugar
3 Eggs
3tbsp Single cream
1/2tsp Ground hogweed seeds
75g Chopped hazelnuts (wild if the squirrels haven't thieved them first; which is likely)

Heat the oven to 180C. Line 4 tart tins with pastry and blind bake for 10-15 minutes (they need to be slightly golden). Melt the chocolate before mixing in the cream and ground hogweed seeds. Whisk eggs and sugar until thick and creamy. Carefully fold in the chocolate mixture and about ¾ of the hazelnuts. Spoon into tart cases, sprinkle remaining nuts on top and bake for 10 minutes.

Monday, 26 July 2010


One of the most enjoyable things about foraging is the way in which it compels a greater awareness of one’s surroundings – the need to slow down, pause and look. My walk (run) to the station each morning plots a dishevelled and hastily coordinated line towards town – it’s only as the dust starts to settle in the evening and I make my way home that I spot what I’ve missed. Lime, sweet chestnut, ash, elder, common mallow, dandelion – last week I found clumps of wild fennel just a couple of hundred yards from our front door. Bit of a poor show that they’re marooned in a central reservation on the A331.

It goes without saying that a major aspect of foraging is identifying not just what to eat, but what to avoid. It’ll be a long while until I explore certain plants in the umbellifer family; wild chervil’s uncanny resemblance to a dangerous cousin is a little too close for comfort. There’d be few complaints from the family if I stirred a handful of finely chopped hemlock into a herby risotto, mostly due to the fact that we’d have expired at various points around the dining room. That said, spotting poisonous plants can provide clues to finding edible ones; foxgloves like soil with a higher PH, acidity loving sustenance may well be nearby.

Robin Harford runs a number of wild food courses in and around Sidmouth, East Devon ( – a great start if you’re keen on foraging. It was a revelation to discover that dried hogweed seeds have a lightly citrus, cardamom flavour; similarly I had no idea that German uniforms were woven from nettle fibre during World War 1. Nettles are a fantastically versatile plant, higher in vitamin C than oranges and packed full of protein. Why we use them so infrequently is something of a mystery.

Reedmace (bullrushes, as I erroneously knew them as a youth) is in flower about this time of year; slender spikes poking out of riverbanks and ponds with a fuzz of cottony pollen on top. When flour was rationed during the forties reedmace was regularly used as a substitute in bread making (roughly 20% pollen, 80% flour), apparently the roots are tasty too (not entirely dissimilar to hearts of palm). I could be onto a winner with the ‘hedgerow pizza’ – reedmace dough base, steamed nettle and ricotta topping with a scattering of mallow flowers at the end to add a bit of colour. Might work on an alternative title for the ‘Chocolate and hogweed torte’ though.

Posted on 26th July 2010