Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spatchcocked Spatchcock

“Spatchcock” refers to the method of cutting open a whole chicken, so that it sits flat in a pan, or on a grill. However, it wasn’t always the highly amusing verb it is today. 

Originally, it was a highly amusing noun used to describe a small, young chicken. Since these tender birds were usually butterflied to cook faster and more evenly over the coals, “spatchcock” became the culinary term for this technique. So, if you use a small, young chicken like I did, then you’re actually spatchcocking a spatchcock, which is about the most entertaining answer ever to the question, “What are you doing for dinner?”

Above and beyond how fun it is to use in casual conversation, the technique really does work beautifully for grilling a whole chicken. Once you remove the backbone, and set free the sternum from its covering of cartilage, you'll have a bird that will cook quicker and more evenly. It also looks pretty damn cool.

If you don’t own a sturdy pair of kitchen shears, then I hope this video inspires you to go out and get this must-have piece of equipment. They make this technique incredibly fast and easy, and you can also use them to completely section a whole chicken into serving pieces, as we showed in this video demo.

Anyway, I hope you pick up some spatchcock soon, and give this whole spatchcocking thing a try. I’ll be showing a recipe I did using this technique in a future video, so stay tuned for that, and as always, enjoy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fig Brulee with Burrata Cheese – Let’s Burn the Top of Some Fruit!

I love a crème brulee as much as the next portly chef, but when you consider the custard base is egg yolk-thickened, sweetened heavy cream, it’s not something you should be eating more than occasionally. But, why waste such a great technique when it can be applied to other things, like fresh fruit?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I chose figs here because I received a generous sampling from the California Fig Advisory Board, and decided this would be a wonderful way to enjoy them. As I mention in the video, this technique also works on fresh banana, a roasted peach or apple, and basically any tender fruit you can slice and sprinkle with sugar.

While this will work with white sugar, the Demerara sugar you see in the video seems to work best. It’s a type of raw brown sugar, and pretty much the same thing as you get in those little, brown “Sugar in the Raw” packages at the coffee shop. Let me be clear – I’m not suggesting you borrow a few of those to use for this recipe. That would be as illegal, as it would be free and convenient.

These were amazing with the fresh, creamy burrata, but any style cheese plate would benefit mightily from the shiny, sexy fruit. If cheese isn’t your thing, go grab a pint of vanilla ice cream, forget all about that sweet-savory thing, and just go full dessert.

Anyway, thanks to California Fig Advisory Board for inspiring the recipe, and if you want more info on how awesome figs are, you can check out their homepage here. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Monday, September 26, 2011


I always - always - look an absolute fright. And as I get older it's less easy to conceal with the virtue of youth. I've concluded that my Hennes addiction is partly to blame, so I have decided that I am no longer allowed to go in. Not even to have a little looky-look.

Although thinking about it, my looking a fright might also be because of my wonky teeth and fat hamster face or my cheeks, which are ruddy like a farmer's son or my fat hands and picked-at cuticles. And my stupid hair, which I wish would just do something consistently. Like even if it was very flat and thin at least it would be consistently flat and thin. Or mad and curly at least it could be consistently mad and curly. But instead it veers in completely random non-wavy directions and really whatever I do with it, by 6pm it's almost always shoved up in some kind of straggly, unflattering bun, which really shows off my double chin to full effect.

I'm being disingenuous; my double chin is receeding, thanks to a combination of a fucking hideous Nazi diet and also every time Kitty gets ill (about once a month) I completely freak out and can't eat anything for 48 hours, which does wonders for shifting "un-shiftable" post-baby blubber. Exercise? Please. If you want to be thin you have to STARVE.

Where was I? Oh yes, right, so I'm back in my pre-pregnancy jeans now. I am secretly hoping to over-shoot past my dream weight (9st 3) and plummet down to, like, 8 and a half stone. Ideally, people will be whispering to each other about how worried they are about me. Eldest sister was so thin at Christmas that is was all we talked about and I was terribly jealous, being as I was then packing about three extra stone.

I've lost my original thought again. Clothes! Ok clothes clothes. All mine are shit. I've just done a purge of loads of drab depressing Hennes clothes so now I open my drawers and see about 40 mulchy Top Shop vests, a kaftan, a brown Zara poloneck and a terminally unflattering breton top from Uniqlo. Then I open my wardrobe and see two hideous check shirts, a flowery shirt with a big rip in it I bought in the South of France three years ago, eight party dresses from 2006 when I had to go to a lot of parties and a pink size eight bodycon skirt from Topshop.

I think starting next month I am going to buy ONE really nice thing per month from Net A Porter (price within reason) and when on the loose in Brent Cross, (fatal), I will write on my hand before I go "DON'T GO INTO HENNES".

For my husband, watching television shows like Come Dine With Me is the equivalent of buying a lot of clothes from Hennes. He prefers instead to pick a film neither of us have ever heard of from Pay Per View, watch two thirds of it, start yawning and say "this isn't really doing it for me". We then discuss whether or not to kill it for about ten minutes. We always do. Then we go to bed. It's almost always about 9pm.

But the other night I managed to persuade him to watch an episode of Father Ted and then Come Dine With Me and someone on it made a paella.

"Paella," said my husband. "Now that's a thing we could eat."

Then we had a short discussion over whether we ought to pronounce "paella" "pie-ay-ya" to avoid sounding like we were addressing the third child of Wayne and Waynetta Slob. We concluded that pronouncing words the local way is just too embarrassing, so pie-ellar it remained.

So he made one, although we didn't have any paella rice, or saffron, or prawns, and we used chicken stock instead of fish stock. So it was sort of a risotto. But it was also very much like a paella. And it was TERRIFIC. We were still talking about it the next day.

This is how he did it, in his own words:

"brown four cooking chorizo in a big shallow pan as much like a paella dish as you have (a wok is a top substitute but any big pan will do) on quite a generous slick of olive oil (this is spanish food so it's meant to be a bit oily) and slice later when they're firm (or slice dried chorizo and fry off, or if you have neither then some pancetta or lardons but you must have some cured pork in there one way or another).

Then into the nice meaty red paprika-y fat, chuck a quite finely chopped green pepper, finely chopped onion, three fat cloves of garlic finely chopped, low heat, maybe five mins, till soft but not brown. at this point i chucked in five or six big chunks of left over cold roast chicken, you could pre-brown four nice thighs first if you haven't got leftovers, but you do need some white meat (the original valencian paella has rabbit instead of chicken, but then it has snails instead of shellfish, which NOBODY wants).

okay, then when the chicken has relaxed into the dish, toss in about 200 grams of rice (this will serve three to four people in the end, or two with leftovers - it's better the next day) and toss that around until all the grains are nicely oiled (now, i didn't have paella rice, i had only risotto rice, but Esther said risotto gets its consistency from all the stirring, not the arborio itself, so i went with a bit less stirring and it worked beautifully).

add some paprika at this stage. mild or hot, doesn't matter, it's mostly for colour, and some chilli flakes or crushed dried chilli, not too much. if you have saffron, now is the time for that too. i didn't. and didn't miss it. i used a bit of tumeric for yellowness (but the bright yellow of a costa del sol paella is all food colouring so don't make that your benchmark unless you have a pot of E102 in the cupboard).

so, fry, fry, fry, um, oh yes, two to four nice firm tomatoes, de-seeded (but i didn't bother to skin, the rolled up skins looked a bit like the missing saffron stamens), chopped as small as you can be bothered. stir, stir, stir. i think that's that stage done.

no, wait, then a big glass of white wine or sherry, in, bring to boil and cook off the booze.

so now you have a couple of pints or so of chicken stock (or better still a prawn stock, but i couldn't get prawns) nice and hot on the stove (always use stock hot in things like this becasue it saves everything cooling down and slowing the whole faff down even more - you cd even get away with boiling water), poor about half of it on, so the rice is covered, about the amount that cd get the rice to almost cooked but not quite. and bubble away a a simmer, not stirring, but maybe poking a bit to make sure all the rice is under, for about ten minutes, by now it should taste pretty good (assuming you've had the nouse to salt it according to your own taste) but still the grains too hard and starchy.

now is the time to lob in a big handful of clams and one of mussels, bought that morning and scrubbed hard under the tap. push them into the top of the rice hinges down so they open gaping upwards and look pretty, and also one nice big squid (emptied and the horn removed obviously) sliced into rings, and the crown of tentacles halved. poke these down into the rice a bit, then cover with foil or a lid, and cook for another ten minutes or so, so that the shells are open, the squid has turned white and opaque and the rice is done. (if you've got prawns then put them in at the same time as the other shell fish but just fry them off for a couple of minutes first).

serve on plates, picking out all the shellfish and making sure it gets eaten becasue it is not so stellar in the leftovers, and garnish with chopped parsley. eat it with a cheap rioja topped up with a splash of lemonade.

i've probably forgotten a couple of things. [Like: he chucked a handful of samphire over it, which you can do if you want or not if not.] it's basically a cross between a jamie, a delia and an anthony worrell-thompson that all come up on the first page when you google 'paella' - but ignore all the websites with "spain" or "spanish" in the name, because that's just wankers going on about authenticity."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hello from Dunsmuir, California!

Just a quick note to let you know we're up in beautiful Dunsmuir, California celebrating my father-in-law Al's 70th birthday. We'll be back at it Monday, so pardon any delays in responding to comments and emails. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and as always, enjoy!

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Mayo Method Steak Sauce Formula – Looks Like Math, Tastes Like Magic

When I need a fast and easy sauce for grilled steaks, I love to use this sort of mayonnaise-based condiment. As I explain in the video, the basic formula is mayo + salt + spice + acid + herb. I don’t think I’ve ever made the exact same one twice, which is not surprising when you realize how many combinations are possible.

I’m not calling this aioli because it doesn’t contain any garlic, but you can if you want to, since nowadays any flavored mayonnaise is called an aioli. That reminds me, this would be really good with garlic.

By the way, don’t let the name fool you; this is great on so many things besides steak. In fact, making up a ramekin to keep in the fridge is not a bad idea at all. It makes a super sandwich spread, a stellar salad dressing starter, and a vegetable dip so good, it will make you forget how much you hate raw broccoli. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for my Rosemary Harissa Mayonnaise:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp anchovy oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Harissa or other hot chili paste
2 tsp minced rosemary

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Good Morning Sausage! Pork, Fennel, and Orange Breakfast Sausage Patties

I know I say this a lot, but I can’t believe I haven’t done this recipe yet! There are few things as easy and amazing as homemade breakfast sausage, and this is my favorite formula.

The key here is to get some properly ground fresh pork from a real live butcher. The ground pork in the meat case at the supermarket is not going to be coarse enough, not to mention the fact that the meat they used was probably chosen based on it’s inability to be sold in any other form.

Tell the butcher you want a couple pounds of freshly ground pork shoulder, and be sure to use the term “sausage grind.” This means a very coarse grind, and an adequate fat content. Anything less than 30-40% fat is just not going to make a great sausage patty.

Above and beyond the meat, almost anything goes when making sausage patties. I think the fennel, nutmeg, and orange zest (an idea I borrowed from my uncle, and sausage master, Bill) really gives this a breakfast-y flavor, but if you’re not into those ingredients, use what you like.

Lastly, the overnight refrigeration really makes a big difference. All those big flavors need time to meld together, and besides, by making this in the evening for the next morning’s meal, you’ve pretty much assured yourself of some quality sausage-related dreams. Enjoy!

1 pound ground pork
1 tsp kosher salt (1/2 to 3/4 tsp of table salt), or to taste
1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs blend (mine has thyme, rosemary, sage, and oregano)
2-3 tsps fennel seeds, lightly crushed
2 tsp freshly grated orange zest
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
pinch of fresh nutmeg

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fried Stuffed Squash Blossoms – So Good, You’ll Have Them Standing!

I try to stay as seasonal as possible when choosing which food wishes to film, so I’m pushing it a little bit here with these goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms. 

They’re generally thought of as more of a springtime thing, but are available into fall. In fact, if I’m remembering my past zucchini growing experiences correctly, the hearty vines seemed to produce blossoms right up until the first frost.

You can substitute cream cheese for the goat if you’re one of them fromage wusses, but the tang of the goat cheese makes it for me (at least use mascarpone if you’re going to desecrate my recipe). I like to add a little of another melty-type cheese just for fun, and here I went with a Arti Gasna, a Basque sheep’s milk cheese. It was amazing.

The batter is ultra-light and absorbs virtually no oil. You are welcome to use club soda or a light beer for the batter, but I had neither and think cold water works perfectly anyway. 

You’ll notice me using self-rising flour, because I had it, and it really does work beautifully. If you need to make your own it’s: 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

This is one of those recipes that is best eaten standing in the kitchen at a party. This needs to be done in small batches to be enjoyed in all its glory. You can stuff them ahead of time, of course, and then in the middle of the party, heat up the oil and start frying. Serve a few guests at a time as they wander in and out of the kitchen, and see what happens. Spoiler alert: people love them and think you’re awesome. Enjoy!

For the batter:
2 parts self-rising flour
1 part cornstarch
enough cold water to form a pancake-like batter consistency
For the blossoms (for 12):
12 squash blossoms
3/4 cup soft goat cheese
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup shredded gruyere, cheddar, manchego, or any other firm cheese
black pepper and cayenne to taste
vegetable oil for frying

Caramel sauce

It came to me - like Kubla Khan - this morning as I lay somewhere in between waking and sleep.

"Don't look down," I heard. "Don't look down."

It only came to me later what it meant. "Don't look down" may as well be my (rather oblique) personal motto. I try never to look down, never to think about what my other options might be - especially if I am stuck somewhere. Because if I really thought about it I might completely fucking freak out. And that wouldn't help anyone or anything.

I am stuck as this mum person. And it was my choice. And sometimes it's okay but sometimes it's extremely not okay. And so I have decided that my general attitude will be not to look down. Not to check the clock when I know for a fact it's hours until bedtime. Not to attempt to go out and get drunk - ever. Not to seek out the company of people who don't have children. Not to attempt to go anywhere that isn't child-friendly. Not think about anything but what's happening in the next two hours. Not to try to do anything but creep along this ledge I find myself on, slowly, hand over hand, all the while not looking down.

Refusing to look down is a thing I quite often do in cooking, as it happens. Although it works for me in life on a larger scale, in cooking this attitude often means that I will go at a recipe unprepared and rather blindly, assuming it's easy unless I'm told otherwise. And often there are disastrous consequences.

Like this weekend, I wanted to make a caramel sauce to go with a pudding (don't get excited - bought) and I had to go through 3 different recipes before I found one that didn't pretty much explode or set like concrete. I didn't investigate, you see - I didn't read up on what might go wrong. And what might go wrong, if you're me, is that you turn the stove up as high as it will go, nuke everything and make a terrible mess.

But this recipe works as long as you don't excitedly overcook it and caramel sauce is a terrific thing to be able to make. I was mostly excited about being able to decant it into one of my squeezy bottles that I bought from Pages last year and have yet to really find a use for. I drizzled it, without really thinking (naturally), in a zig zag pattern across the plate and brought it to the table to gales of laughter and jokes about the pudding being from 1986.

What can I say? I didn't look down.

Caramel sauce
enough for about 6 people

100g light brown soft sugar
50 butter
200ml double cream

1 Put the sugar and butter in a pan and melt on the lowest possible heat until everything has melted and combined. This may take up to 10 minutes. Be patient.

2 Take the pan off the heat and gently whisk in the cream. If you want to return the pan to the heat that's fine, just make sure it's a gentle one.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Getting Overexpose by Hungry Nation

When my friends at Hungry Nation were over here filming my “Fresh Five” secret ingredients, they also forced me, under threat of severe physical injury, to do an interview called a “Meet & Eat.” I spend most of my free time thinking of ways to avoid going on camera, so I’m really never comfortable (or very good) doing these things, but since they did such a great job on the production, and took the time to put this together for me, I feel the least I can do is show it off here. I’ve also included the full Mahi Mahi Ceviche video below. Enjoy!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Crazy Basil Peach Black Pepper Parmigiano-Reggiano Cobbler that Captured My Heart

This unusual basil, peach, black pepper, Parmesan cobbler recipe started out as an innocent experiment making individual-sized cobblers, but somehow spun out of control into weird and wonderful new directions.

I was thinking about a cheese Danish, so I grated some Parmigiano-Reggiano into the batter. I was thinking about Gougères, so I added some freshly ground black pepper as well. I was thinking about a peach and basil sorbet I had one time, and decided that some of the sweet aromatic herb seemed perfectly appropriate.

The result was one of the more interesting and delicious desserts I’ve eaten in a long time. The flavors are subtle, but identifiable. I love, love, loved it. It may sound a little savory, but it was plenty sweet enough, and would make a memorable end to any late summer meal. I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Note Regarding Self-Rising Flour: As we said in the regular peach cobbler post, it is recommended you go out and get some self-rising flour. You can make it yourself, by adding baking powder and salt to all-purpose flour, but for whatever reason, it just doesn't seem work as well.

Two 10-oz ramekins with 2 tsp melted butter in each
For the batter:
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup self-rising flour
2/3 cup milk
1 tbsp finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
pinch of black pepper
For the peaches:
1 large peach, peeled, pitted, sliced into 10-12 slices
2 tbsp sugar
2-3 torn or sliced basil leaves
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp water

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Coming Soon: Crazy Cobblers and Secret Steak Sauces

These incredibly tasty mini peach cobblers feature ingredients that will shock and amaze.
Get ready to experience the magic of last minute, mayonnaise-based steak sauces.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gumbo a Go Go – Duck, Andouille Sausage, Smoked Pork Hock, Gulf Shrimp and Langoustine Gumbo

It’s not easy to pry gumbo-making secrets from a cook in New Orleans, but you should have better luck if you slip them some truth serum, in the form of several well-made sazeracs. 

This particular gumbo, featuring duck, andouille sausage, smoked pork hock, gulf shrimp, and langoustine, was inspired by my recent trip to New Orleans, where I sampled a half-dozen varieties.

One rye whiskey-induced tip was to cook the famous Cajun roux in some duck fat instead of the more common and mundane vegetable oil. The roux is the soul of the gumbo and one of the challenges of this recipe is giving the fat and flour enough time to turn into that deep brick red-brown color.

My little trick here is to add a couple extra spoons of flour after the roux is browned. The dark roux gives the gumbo its signature flavor, but it doesn’t have much thickening power. I just cooked it a couple minutes, and then stirred in the stock.

Another tweak is using pickled okra instead of fresh or frozen. This particular perversion was born out of necessity rather than some brilliant thought on my part. Of course, if this technique catches on, that story will change. The pickled okra gave the gumbo a great flavor and added a little bit of acidity, which is always welcome in something this substantial.

This can be made with hundreds of different combinations of smoked meats, game, poultry, and seafood; and in my opinion, the more the merrier. As usual, I’d love to hear about any variations you may come up with. As you’ll see, the procedure is pretty straightforward, although you’re talking about a full day’s project. This is a dish that takes time, but I still hope you give it a try. Enjoy!

2 duck legs
1 tbsp vegetable oil, more as needed
1 cup flour, plus 2 tbsp for second addition
6 cups chicken broth
1 pound andouille sausage
1 large onion, chopped
4 green onions chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup diced peppers (any combination of sweet and hot)
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 smoked pork hock
2 cups water, or as needed
1 cup sliced okra, fresh, frozen or pickled
1 pound gulf shrimp
1 pound crawfish tail meat or langoustine
rice to garnish

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lettuce Entertain You and Get to Know a Farmer

This quick and dirty video recipe for grilled romaine hearts was shot on location at Tanimura & Antle, a family-owned lettuce farm we toured as part of the Get to Know a California Farmer field trip Michele and I just returned from in Carmel, CA.

The event was to introduce their website and, as the name implies, help us get to know a farmer, and that's what we did. We got a fascinating look into how lettuce gets from their farm to your table. Brian Antle, the farm’s Harvest Manager, ran the tour, and it was a joy to hear him talk with such pride about what his and the Tanimura family had created from this land. 

After the tour we were treated to a wonderful lunch showing off some of the farm’s famous foliage. The grilled romaine salad you’ll see in the video was a big hit, but we also had some beautiful pizzas, as you can see below. It always feels special to eat produce that was just picked hours before.

You’ll also see a short video I did showing how the lettuce goes from dirt to final packaging on this slow-rolling mobile processing plant. You’ll have to pardon the dirty lens, as I hadn’t planned on filming in the field, and never checked it. I believe the smudge is gumbo, but there’s really no way to tell for sure. Don't let that deter you, or you'll miss a cameo by social media guru, Jay Baer, on a bed of lettuce.

After lunch we got to tour Naturipe Farms, one of the largest berry producers in the state. Our guide, Tom, did a great job of explaining all the challenges that go into growing berries, especially strawberries. I learned that organic doesn't mean that no pesticides are used. They just need to be certified pesticides, and are often the same ones used in conventional farming. The highlight for me was his explaining how fish meal is regularly used to fertilize organic strawberries, unbeknownst to most vegans we assumed.

Anyway, it was a really fun trip, and I want to thank Adfarm and Get to Know a California Farmer for inviting us. Also, huge thanks to the farmers who shared their stories and delicious products with us. For more information on Get to Know a California Farmer, please check out their website! It's a fantastic way to connect directly with the people growing the food you put on your tables every day.

They’re also running a sweepstakes on the Facebook page where you could win $10,000 worth of groceries. It’s only open to California residents, and ends soon, so get over there and check it out. Enjoy!

Grilled Romaine Salad

How Lettuce is Harvested

Damson jam

I think I became truly middle-aged the day I got home from university. What I reallly wanted, I decided, was some fucking peace and quiet, Radio 4 and something baking in the oven. I became obsessed with storage solutions, even though I didn't have anything to store, and bookmarked Lakeland and Farrow and Ball.

I had recently got into the West Wing and while I went wibbly like everyone else over the general smart-arsery and political blah-blah (like the easily impressed fool I am) I also fell in love with the sets. That plush, wholesome Americana thing. Tobacco-coloured lamps on polished wood. Rugs on floors. Wide-striped wallpaper. Plantation shutters. Comfort. Quality.

I think it was around about then that I first started having - admittedly rather lateral - thoughts that maybe I ought to learn how to cook. It didn't really happen because I tried one or two things and they didn't work out, so with typical determination and perseverence, I gave up.

But the feeling lingered. That middle-aged feeling, (despite being 22), and for a long time, whenever autumn rolled around, I wanted to make jam. But because I lived at home, which has no fruit trees, and then subsequently in a high-rise flat on Kensington High Street, if I wanted to make jam I would have to buy the fruit to make it, from a shop. And even I knew that there was something not quite right about that.

So I never made jam. But I always wanted to. I made marmalade a few years ago to test out a recipe for a cookbook and in fact it turned out to be quite easy.

Then I went to stay with next-eldest sister in Oxfordshire who suggested I make some jam from then damsons weighing down her tree and using a  mash-up of my own bumptiousness and Delia, made some damson jam that worked out really quite well. Alas, in the chaos of packing up for Kitty for even one night I forgot the flaming camera, so there are no dreamy photos of the damson tree in autumnal light.

I can't give you exact quantities, because I didn't weigh anything, but this is the idea of the recipe. Exact quantities can be found on Delia Online.

Damson jam

A quantity of damnsons - about a big saucepan-full
A 2 kg bag of caster sugar - you won't use the whole thing but you might as well buy a huge bag just in case

1 Put the damsons in a large pan and fill with water until just covered. Stew for about an hour.

2 Pass the resulting mixture through a colander to get rid of skin and stones. Don't do it through a sieve because you'll be there all week.

3 Set your strained mixture on the highest head you can on the hob. Now, here I added sugar to taste. I don't like a really over-sweet jam and wanted to keep some of the tartness of the damsons. So I shook in as much sugar as I wanted to flavour it. You can do that, or you can follow Delia's quantities religiously, if you don't feel confident going off-road.

4 Now boil the shit out of it. For about 45 minutes, I'd say. My sister turned down the heat after about 25 minutes because the jam was bubbling and "going everywhere". But it still set. To test if your jam is ready, put a small plate in the fridge and after about 40 minutes' boiling dab a blob on the plate and leave it. The coldness of the plate hastens the cooling of the jam and you can only tell whether jam is set when it's cold.

You can sterilise some jars by putting them in a 180C oven for about 5 minutes. Then pour in the jam while it's still warm and runny.

Label artistically and pretend you are a lady novelist living in a river cottage in Sussex.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chicken Satay Burger 1.0

Hello from beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea, California! Michele and I are here to tour a couple family farms as guests of Hopefully, I’ll have some photos and more info to share when I return to San Francisco on Sunday evening, but in the meantime I wanted to post this experimental chicken satay burger video.

I’ve been thinking about how to do a chicken burger using some of the same flavors found in Thai-style chicken satay, and this was my first attempt. I thought it was pretty good, and benefited from some seasoning adjustments, as you’ll hear. I think the concept is solid, but I’ll continue to try and perfect the execution.

This is one of those videos where I especially hope some are inspired to take the idea and run with it. Then, come back and share your incredible success with the rest of us. This is a fun jumping off point in regards to doing burgers inspired by other classic dishes. I can’t wait to see what you come up with. Enjoy!

For the burger (4):
1 pound ground chicken
1 1/2 tbsp coconut milk
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sambal chili sauce
1 tbsp bread crumbs
2 tsp soy sauce
3 cloves minced garlic
pinch of cayenne
For the peanut sauce:
Peanut butter thinned with a squeeze of lime, seasoned with more sambal or hot pepper
For the slaw:
1/2 cup grated or julienne carrot
1/2 cup grated or julienne cucumber
2 tbsp sliced jalapeño
2 tsp Asian fish sauce
1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Our #AFundForJennie Auction Closes with $550 High Bid!

They say every man has his price, but not every man gets to see that exact value calculated in public on a blog. The market has spoken, and apparently I'm worth exactly $550. Hey, at least that's more than I was appraised for by that carnival gypsy. Take that, Madame Corsi!

Thank you to everyone who bid, and also to those of you who made individual donations to #AFundForJennie at Bloggers Without Borders! Stay tuned as we'll identify the winner, and make plans for the shoot soon. Thank you all!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It’s Easy Being Green Hummus

This simple, basil-spiked “green” hummus is a great summer twist on everyone’s favorite spread. While making your own hummus is quite simple, as you’ll see, I completely understand why people don’t. Those big, ready-to-serve tubs at the grocery store are tempting when you’re party shopping and short on time.

But, if you do have an extra 10 minutes, and access to some fresh, sweet basil, this version will provide a great change of pace from the standard wake-me-up-when-it’s-over hummus recipes.

I didn’t mention it in the video, but as great a chip dip as this is, it’s also a world-class sandwich spread. Turkey on wheat? Yawn. Turkey on wheat with green hummus? Hello! And, don’t even get me started on wraps. I won’t even touch a wrap that doesn’t contain hummus, and neither should you.

Fresh basil should still be in good supply, and what better way to enjoy its fragrant flavor than this delicious dip? I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

1/3 cup packed blanched fresh basil leaves
1 (15-oz) can white beans, drained
1 (15-oz) can garbanzo beans, drained
4 cloves chopped garlic
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil (1 to start, 2 to finish)
salt and pepper to taste

Monday, September 5, 2011

End of Summer Peach Gelee – When Candy was Special

I was reading some comments under this peach gelee video on YouTube, and was shocked by the number of “omg! the sugar!!” type remarks. People, this is a candy, not a dessert. Candy is supposed to be an extraordinarily indulgent bite, enjoyed in small amounts only on certain very rare and special occasions.

Unfortunately, candy has lost its specialness, and somehow turned into a casual snack. We've gone from enjoying it at a couple sacred yearly festivals, to eating several handfuls a day. Let’s face it, the only reason you go up and chat with that receptionist is because she works behind a giant fishbowl filled with mini Snickers bars. Everybody knows.

Well, this fresh peach gelee is not that kind of candy. This is an old fashioned, handcrafted candy that takes a little time and finesse to pull off. It’s simple and sweet, but looks and tastes like something you’re only suppose to enjoy a few times a year.

I’ve never made this before, but saw an easy-looking recipe here, and tweaked it by using lime instead of the more traditional lemon. The recipe worked like a charm, and has me thinking about a late fall version using spiced pears. The method really intensifies the fruit flavors, and I find the jellied texture it produces very addictive.

Anyway, I hope you find some nice ripe peaches, and give this a try soon. If you’ve had experience making these types of gelees with other fruits, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks, and enjoy!

Step 1:
1 pound ripe peaches, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon lime juice
- Puree and add to sauce pan with 1/2 cup of sugar
- Boil for 15 minutes as shown
Step 2:
add 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and 3 tablespoons liquid pectin
- Bring to 200 degrees F. and cook for 10 minutes

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Happy Labor Day Weekend Pep Talk

Feeling a little melancholy this holiday? That’s okay, you’re not alone. Sure, this weekend is supposed to acknowledge and celebrate the labor movement in America, but what it does even better is remind everyone that summer is gone.

Wow, that was fast. It seems like only yesterday I was phoning in a Memorial Day post. But, before you get too down, remember, we are now entering prime cooking and eating season. From now until Christmas (only 112 shopping days left!), the kitchen replaces the beach, backyard, and ball diamond, as the center of our happy place. As much as we'll all miss that fun in the sun, this is any serious foodie's favorite time of the year.

Anyway, here’s a shout out to all the dishwashers, cooks, chefs, and other hospitality workers that celebrate Labor Day by working, while the rest of us sit around sipping beers, trying to figure out how summer went by so fast. Have a great holiday, and we'll see you on the other side. Enjoy!

Speaking of labor – if you’re still searching for some long-weekend-style lusciousness, here are six of my all-time, backyard favs:

Grilled Pineapple Pork Al Pastor

Garlic Ginger Grilled Salmon

Grilled Five Spice Chicken

Grilled Lemon Yogurt Chicken

Grilled Thai Red Curry Beef Flank Steak

Grilled Lamb with Honey Mint Vinaigrette

Friday, September 2, 2011

Coronation chicken sauce - BEST EVER

So. First holiday as a family. DONE. It was sort of ridiculous. In London, I have a bit of help during the week so I can drive randomly around town playing very loud music and screaming intermittently. But in Sussex there was no-one. Although my husband is a terrifically hands-on kind of guy, it wasn't a situation where I could shout "Bye!" at the door and piss off for two hours.

And it does concentrate the mind. I did spend rather a lot of time thinking about why people have children. Why? I howled this question particularly loudly to myself in my head as I fed a damp, bored and miserable Kitty a bottle in the pouring rain, hiding under a tree in the grounds of Petworth House, which we'd visited because you've got to do something between 2pm and 6pm other than singing "Row Row Row Your Boat" and looking at the clock, or you'll go mad.

Why? It's just so stupid. There you are, having a perfectly nice time and then you completely fuck your whole life up. For ages. I have become one of those people who devours anything written by anyone who is either desperate to have a baby or by someone who regrets not having had children. I can live on that shit for a week.

I always come to the conclusion - as I think everyone does - that the whole sorry business is all just selfish. For example, by having children I hope to achieve two things:

1) To go home. I want so badly to be at home again, in my bedroom with my stuff and my sisters around and my mum downstairs and my dad behind a newspaper somewhere. Adult life frightens me. I don't like things like clubbing very much, or achieveing things in an office environment, or going to smart parties, or acting on the spur of the moment. I just want to go home and potter about. I really like my parents, they are really nice people. I never had a yearning to get out and forge my way in the world. My parents had to evict me at 25. And because I can't go home (my little sister has taken over my old bedroom) the closest thing I can do is make a duplicate, an offshoot like a spider plant, and cross my fingers that it will, somehow, like a metaphorical Dr Sam Beckett, Quantum Leap me back.  

2) To have the life my mother has now. God my mum has a great time. Four daughters, none of who turned out to have a drug problem or decided to move permanently halfway across the world, (I always think that says something), who each ring her for a major gossip at least once a week, who deliver her grandchildren she can fuss over - then hand back - and bring to our house life. Life.

When we were little there was an apocryphal tale about my mother leaving next-eldest sister in the bath and she "nearly drowned". With the poisonous cruelty that little children are sometimes capable of, we always used to hold this up as an example of my mother's blatant imperfection. 

I remembered this story the other day when I left Kitty propped up with cushions on the sofa for a few minutes to fetch something. The thing I had not realised is that when it happened, my mother's first husband, the father of next-eldest and eldest sister, would have been either dying or already dead from leukemia. My mother would have been about 34.  And for a long time, until she met my father, she was all alone. With two small children. Of course she left next-eldest in the bath for a second or two! Eldest sister was probably screaming. Or there was a hammering on the door. Or she smelt burning. Or maybe she just needed to get a towel. And there was no-one else there.

So to have a full house, to have people there, is all my mother wants. And she is wise for it. As I hardly have any friends, and have never been able to do that thing where the few friends I have just come and hang out in my house, there is no question of having some kind of modern "urban" family with lots of glamorous homosexuals scattered about. If I am going to have any sort of family life, I am going to have to make one myself. Literally grow one. And there's no easy way of doing it.
To misquote Madonna: There are no shortcuts to being a family.* So occasionally you just have to fucking suck it up.

As it happens, there are no shortcuts to making a brilliant Coronation Chicken sauce. You can do a pretty grim one with curry powder and mayonnaise and raisins but it's not very nice.

A really serious one was brought round for me by Julia Churchill and it disappeared so quickly and I was so dazed from 4 weeks' solid childcare that it didn't cross my mind to take a photo. And I certainly haven't had, like, four seconds to myself to re-create it. So you're just going to have to do without a snap and simply take my word, on faith, that it's out of this world. Which is it. Really fantastic.

(NB: I am going to the countryside this weekend to see next-eldest sister - who didn't drown - and she has a glut of damsons. So in order to make it up to you, I will take a lot of whimsical pictures everyone can feel all autumnal about.)

I emailed Julia for the recipe and this is what came back. I always think it's best to let people deliver recipes in their own words and these are hers.

"Finely chop an onion and cook slowly till very dark. Add in spices - quite a lot of mustard seed, black onion seed, pepper, cardomom, (spelling?), tumeric, cumin, coriander seed, fennel seed, chilli flakes (loads. I have decided quite recently that food should hurt from time to time), teaspoon of curry powder for that familiar note, tiny bit cinnamon and clove - almost not there. Cook it. Let it cool and mix it with mayonnaise and [mango] chutney and squeeze in some lemon juice if it's cloying. Salt. Chopped coriander at the end. Oooo. Was there anything else? I think that's it.


*"There are no shortcuts to being Madonna".

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fresh Tomato Gazpacho – Crumbled Stale Wet Bread Sold Separately

I feel kind of bad posting a recipe that leaves out what is arguably the most important ingredient, and such is the case with this gazpacho. This garden salad masquerading as a cold soup was originally a way for field hands to stretch their resources by crumbling up stale bread into a mixture of crushed tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.

Sorry, panzanella, but I’ve never been a big fan of the whole wet bread thing. Even versions I’ve had where the crumbs where completely pureed in, weren’t as pleasing to me as all-veg versions. Besides, some culinary traditions are simply leftover from a time when people had to do it that way, you know, so they wouldn’t starve to death. I call this the rutabaga syndrome.

Happily, most of us can now survive just fine without fortifying our gazpacho with such additions. Having said that, if you grew up eating that style, I’ll assume you think I’m insane for even suggesting there’s another way to make it, as you rightfully should.

Like I said in the video, this is not even worth trying unless you’re going to use some killer, end-of-summer, super-sweet tomatoes. After a long wait, we finally have some decent ones here in San Francisco. There just isn’t any substitute, so happy hunting, and I hope you find some so you give this a try. Enjoy!

4 large vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup minced green onion
1 large jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch dried oregano
cayenne to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pint “Sweet 100” cherry tomatoes
1 lime, juiced, or to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
chiffonade of fresh basil leaves or cilantro