I’m working at home today so I was able to cook myself something nice for lunch.

I spread some butter over the underside of a large field mushroom, lightly sprinkled some sea salt over and baked it at 200c for 10 minutes. I then sandwiched it between two slices of buttered bread.

It was very tasty, the salt really brings out the flavour of the mushroom. Try it with brie, bacon, sautéed shallots, rocket or crushed garlic.

Mushroom Sandwich

Follow:
Share:

Pick And Mix PS

We went to our local farm shop today for our weekly fruit and vegetables.

I tend to buy according to what I fancy or what looks tempting. There are some staples I buy regularly – potatoes, onions, garlic, for example and sometimes I’ll have meals in mind that I know I need certain things for, but generally it tends to be fairly impulsive. This makes deciding what to cook a little more fun – I look in the fridge and think about what I could do with those parsnips and that pepper, the courgettes and the pears. I’ll flick through my recipe books, search the web for inspiration or be led by my own ideas, past recipes or what I’ve eaten in restaurants.

It’s all the more interesting when Rob goes without me – I wonder what will he bring back? I hang around him like an excited child as he unpacks the bags, waiting to see what I have to cook with. I like the element of surprise, it adds more interest to my cooking, gets me thinking harder and helps to build my repertoire.

Follow:
Share:

Life's Too Short To Stuff An Olive

I am a big advocate of cooking good food, using fresh ingredients, from scratch. I strongly believe that cooking is a vital skill and that many of my own and younger generations are missing out on healthy, home-cooked food. I am delighted that we have so many high-profile food writers and cooks promoting home cooking and raising awareness of the importance of eating well and buying meat and produce that has come from well-raised animals. It’s fantastic that there is more interest in food than ever before and so many people are cooking great food at home.

But let’s also be real. It’s a busy world, we juggle the demands of work with running a home, we have children to raise, families and friends to see, social events, further education, hobbies, the gym..…and we still need to find time to wash and iron our clothes, vacuum, clean, shop. We don’t necessarily have the time or the inclination to cook everything from scratch seven days a week. So are we failing as cooks, will we no longer be able to call ourselves ‘foodies’ if we take some short cuts, buy dessert to serve to friends, don’t make our own mayonnaise? Is there a compromise, or does it have to be all or nothing?

Well let’s not forget what it’s really about. Why are we reading the recipe books, watching the TV chefs, surfing the net and browsing the food markets? Alright, at it’s basic it’s about feeding ourselves, but more than that, for those who are really interested in food and cooking, surely it’s about enjoyment and pleasure – not hard work.

I love cooking. I enjoy simmering chicken stock for hours, kneading bread dough, slow-roasting meat, stirring risottos. But sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I want someone else to do the cooking, sometimes I’m just not in the mood. Then there are the times when I want junk. I crave takeaway pizza oozing cheese, deep fried prawn balls with barbecue sauce, a fried chicken sandwich. And you know what? That’s ok with me.

I believe it’s all about balance. Let’s not get too hung up on the perfect soufflé, growing everything in our own back gardens, slaving over every stage of the meal. Buy ready made pastry, use jars of chinese-style sauce, have a takeaway once in a while – that’s perfectly alright.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great if you can and want to do everything yourself but it shouldn’t be a necessity and no one should beat themselves up about not doing that. Let’s relax and remember that it’s about enjoyment and ultimately how YOU want to cook and eat.

Follow:
Share:

Nigella2

Nigella Lawson is working with the BBC on a Christmas cookery programme this Autumn.

Fantastic news – I can’t wait and I’m pleased that Nigella is going back to what she does best. If the new show is anything like the Nigella Bites Christmas special then we’re in for a festive treat.

Nigella’s festive feast for BBC

Follow:
Share:

Tools

  • My cream KitchenAid mixer- this was a real treat, an expensive one, but a long-term investment and I get a lot of use and pleasure out of it. I use it primarily for baking – whisking egg whites, beating cake mixture, mixing cheesecakes, etc
  • A hand-held blender – perfect for liquidising and blending soups directly in the saucepan
  • Sharp knives – I recently bought two Global knives. These come highly recommended by top chefs, including Anthony Bourdain. I have two cooks knives, a medium sized one for chopping vegetables a larger one for meat
  • Wooden spoons of various sizes – I use these all the time and have an extra long one for making gravy directly in my roasting tray
  • A grater
  • Wooden chopping boards
  • Digital weighing scales
  • A colander
  • A sieve – perhaps surprisingly baking is not what I have in mind for this, but straining soups, gravies and sauces
  • A Pyrex measuring jug
  • A potato ricer

Pots and Pans

  • A good, non-stick frying pan
  • A large frying pan with a lid
  • A griddle pan
  • A tiered steamer
  • A solid, non-stick roasting tray with handles
  • A large Le Creuset casserole dish – it can be used on the hob and in the oven. I couldn’t be without it in the winter
  • A non-stick milk pan
  • A stock pot

Store cupboard

  • Stock bases: Knorr Touch of Taste Beef and chicken concentrated bouillons, Marigold swiss vegetable bouillon – this makes up a wonderful vegetable stock and is perfect in soups
  • Oils: Lemon, chilli and garlic olive oils – for speed (or should that be laziness?), extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, toasted sesame oil, groundnut oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Tins of chopped tomatoes
  • Rice (risotto and long grain), various pastas including the essential spaghetti
  • Maldon sea salt – it really does live up to the hype
  • Peppercorns
  • A few pots of Dried herbs and spices – bay leaves, thyme, oregano, Chinese 5-spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, chilli flakes
  • Pure vanilla extract – forget vanilla essence, it tastes very synthetic and is nothing at all like the real thing
  • Vanilla pods
  • Plain and self-raising flour
  • Caster sugar and vanilla sugar – just a vanilla pod kept in a jar of sugar
  • A few food colourings -pink and yellow are my favourite
  • Tomato puree
  • Port and Marsala

Fresh Produce

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Lemons
  • Unsalted butter
  • Celery (for stocks, soups and casseroles)
  • Carrots
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
Follow:
Share:

Chips PS

We were both too tired to cook tonight so we opted for battered sausage and chips from the local chip shop. Simple pleasures – holding the warm brown paper bag close to me to keep me warm as I walked home, unwrapping the paper parcels, sprinkling salt and vinegar and, of course, the eating.

Here are my top five ways to eat chips:

  • The ultimate – hot, salty chips eaten straight from the paper, outside on a cold, cold winter’s evening.
  • Fish and chips by the sea
  • Chicken and chips in a pub garden in the summer
  • Chips dipped in mayonnaise
  • Cheese-smothered chips

Tell me yours!

Follow:
Share: