Foraging and Cooking with Wild Garlic

Last week a new friend of mine, Nicola (a brilliant cook and blogger in her own right), crowed on Twitter about a recent discovery: she’d found loads of wild garlic at a Secret Location. I immediately demanded to be taken to the spot. She agreed, but not before exacting a “wild garlic tax” (some of my orange-blossom-saffron-vanilla macarons). It was an easy trade. I adore wild garlic. Wild garlic, also known as ramps, wild leek, and wood leek, grows in cool damp woody areas. Its colour is strikingly chlorophyll green and it’s got a sharp allium flavour and intense aroma. It’s gorgeous stuff. Monday, the appointed day, was cool and very wet. Nicola picked me up from an Overground station, her sweet and excitable dog, Toro, in the back of the car, and drove us to the Secret Location, a lovely wooded path Somewhere In London. Continue reading

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Butternut Squash and Ricotta Gnocchi

A lot of people are intimidated by gnocchi. With good reason, too – it’s hard to get gnocchi right. We’ve all had leaden, chewy gnocchi, and chances are we’ve even had them at Italian restaurants. Chances also are we’ve made them. I know that my first few attempts at making gnocchi were failures – either I overworked the dough, or I added too much flour, or I didn’t add enough and the gnocchi fell apart in the water. Yet that Platonic ideal of gnocchi has always been out there, tantalizingly: delicate, light, feathery-soft gnocchi that hold their shape yet yield at the slightest touch of a fork. I can (and do) make good gnocchi now, and there are tricks to it, which can be distilled to two basic rules. Continue reading

Classic Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin is my absolute favourite go-to recipe when I need to produce a nice dessert in a hurry. It’s the ultimate crowd pleaser: a classic tarte tatin consists simply of rich apple-flavoured butter caramel surrounding soft, tender cooked fruit on flaky, buttery, puff pastry. Served warm with a dollop of crème fraiche, there is NOTHING BETTER. And your friends – particularly the ones who don’t bake – have no idea how simple it is. (People are resistant to the idea that something so delicious can be so easy to make.) The beauty of a tarte tatin is that you can make it in less than two hours with minimal fuss. If you’re an expert apple peeler and corer, you can make it in under an hour and a half. Continue reading

Gougères

Okay world, first I have to apologise. I’m really bad at holidays. I forget birthdays. I buy Christmas cards only to discover them in my drawer, untouched, in February. Most of the time I don’t even buy them. I’m okay at Thanksgiving, but that’s mainly because it doesn’t involve quite the same type of advance planning as The Big Winter Holidays. So I’m afraid that I am not going to be your ready source for attractively iced and sprinkled holiday cookies, nor will I be telling you how to make your terrine look like a Christmas tree. (Or a dreidel.)

I do, however, love to throw parties, particularly parties involving lots and lots of food. And alcohol. Continue reading

Apricot-Almond Meringue Cookie Bars

When I was an awkward pre-adolescent with dreams of becoming a chef, my immediate goal was to differentiate myself from my mother. My mother is possibly the world’s best pastry chef. After a long day of work at the laboratory (both of my parents are scientists), she would effortlessly whip up beautiful airy genoises, cream puffs, Polish poppy seed cakes, elaborate Black Forest cakes (remember those?), delicate pralines, rich ganaches, and meringues shaped like the letter S for me and R for my sister. Her bible was Paula Peck’s The Art of Fine Baking, the book from which (much later) I too taught myself how to bake. But, at the age of 11, achieving parity with my mother seemed impossible. Anyway, I didn’t want to IMITATE, I wanted to DISTINGUISH myself. Continue reading