My mother is one of the world’s great food hoarders. Her freezer is always packed so full that when you open the freezer door things invariably tumble out: half a dozen New York bagels in a plastic bag, a Tupperware container of chicken stock, frozen leftovers, frozen packages of butter. The refrigerator is the same. Growing up, I did not realize that this was anything but normal. I’d look in friends’ refrigerators and think, “Where is the FOOD?” It should go without saying that this condition, if not hereditary, at least must create a strong genetic predisposition. I am always ready for the apocalypse; I reckon that I could feed myself and a small band of hardy survivors for at least a few months, although I do wonder what I’d do when I run out of cat food. Continue reading
Although nothing can substitute for a well-crafted cocktail, I have an abiding affection for good bar food. I have been known to drag friends to Mark’s Bar at Hix (where the drinks are undeniably excellent) simply because I craved the salty-fatty-crispy-hot pork crackling with Bramley apple sauce that you can get for a mere £3.95, which perfectly complements the sharp gin drinks I gravitate towards. (The freebie marmite sticks are another story – I still loathe marmite, after over three years in England.) Lately, when I host cocktail parties, I like to make my own bar snacks. Sure, it’s perfectly fine to dump a bag of potato chips (sorry, Brits – crisps) in a bowl, particularly if you’re hosting a large group, but if you have the time, it is so much more fun (and impressive!) to offer BESPOKE SNACKS tailored specifically to the drinks on offer. At a recent dinner party at which I served mostly Mexican dishes, I started the evening with margaritas, home-made Mexican pickles, and these spiced cocktail nuts. Continue reading
I do not fully understand the synergistic relationship between shellfish and pork products, but I do not question it. Clams are delicious with smoky bacon, and at Spanish restaurant Pizarro, I ate seared scallops, each of which was topped with a translucent sliver of Iberico pork lardo – pure cured fat – which softened and clung lasciviously to the scallop. It was seriously one of the most pervy things I have ever put in my mouth. Guanciale is unsmoked cured pork jowl. The fat in guanciale, of which guanciale is mostly comprised, is more delicate and tender than belly fat. Guanciale is the key ingredient in classic Carbonara sauces (until you have tried Carbonara with guanciale, you have not truly experienced Carbonara) and it is a remarkably fortuitous item to have in your fridge when you’re casting about for a new way to prepare mussels. Continue reading
There was a time, I remember, when I did not regard beetroot with the fanatical adoration I feel now. In fact, when I was little, I didn’t like beets at all. I hated beetroot’s sweet, iron-rich flavour and the cooked-fruit texture it acquires when roasted or boiled. I disliked the sweet-and-sour cooked grated beetroot, sour cream and horseradish salad that I was forced to politely eat at the homes of my mother’s Polish friends and relatives, and I despised hot borscht. I now love all of these things. In fact, I can only think of a single iteration of beetroot that I don’t adore, and that’s those flabby beetroot slices you find at salad bars, but those aren’t really beets at all, anymore than tinned corn is corn.
This is a beetroot-lover’s salad. Beets are not some shy accessory, but the main attraction. Continue reading
This cake is the happy result of an experiment in gluten-free baking* for my Lovely Flatmate, who is gluten-intolerant, but lacks the willpower to resist my baked goods. It’s based loosely on a Greek cake called Revani, which traditionally is made of a mixture of semolina and almond flour, and sweetened with a sticky orange syrup. My version substitutes lime for the orange and adds plenty of cocoa. It’s a delightful crumbly-but-moist tea cake, with a hint of crunch from the semolina. It meets my ‘specialty diet’ test, meaning that I would bake this cake again for people without dietary restrictions. Lovely Flatmate consumed the entire cake in two days (hurrah! Also, slightly alarming). Continue reading
Although it’s not commonly taught, I think that everyone is familiar with Newton’s law of bananas. That law is: no matter how large or small a bunch of bananas you buy or the size of your family, there will always be two leftover bananas that become too overripe to eat. They sit in their basket, accusatorily, shrinking and slowly becoming covered in black spots. You look at them every morning guiltily. No one wants to put soft bananas in their breakfast cereal. Eventually, they pass a point of no return. Then it’s bin them or turn them into banana bread. Continue reading
The benighted Brussels sprout is finally having its day. It used to be quite fashionable to detest Brussels sprouts; now the momentum has shifted in the other direction and is gathering speed. As a descendant of cabbage-eaters on both sides of my family, I suppose it was inevitable that I would be a Brussels sprout lover. (Research shows, in fact, that our palates are most influenced by the foods our mothers consumed during pregnancy.) Previously, in order to induce friends to consume them, I had to cleverly disguise my Brussels sprouts with things like nuts and dried cranberries. The last time I did that, my friend Jess remarked, “I think you should have let the Brussels sprouts be Brussels sprouts.” Let the age of the Brussels sprouts begin. Continue reading
I have three rules when cooking and eating fish: 1) eat sustainably; 2) only eat it if it’s fresh; and 3) do as little as possible to it. When I was younger and possibly more obsessive-compulsive than I am now, I strictly limited myself to five ingredients when cooking fish, not including salt. Yes, it was an unnecessarily lunatic culinary flourish, but it also taught me to respect the fish. The mark of a well-prepared fish dish is that two hours after you’ve eaten it, the flavor that you remember is the fish, not the accompaniments or the sauce. Continue reading
Unless you’ve been under a rock or you live in the Southern hemisphere, you probably know that wild garlic is currently in season. Wild garlic, called wild leeks or ramps in the United States, is annoyingly but deservedly trendy. It is (a) delicious; (b) beautiful; and (c) did I mention delicious? As I discovered, it also freezes beautifully; although the leaves lose their structural integrity, they maintain their colour and pungent flavour. To freeze wild garlic, simply chop finely or puree in a food processor, pack in a Tupperware, and pop in your freezer.
Perhaps, like me, you were lucky enough to “find” wild garlic actually growing wild, and you greedily picked way more than you could possibly use at once. (It still counts as finding it if someone else found it first and showed you where, right?) Or maybe you bought a bunch at a Farmers Market, used some leaves in a recipe, and now are wondering what the heck to do with the rest. Or maybe you just need a little inspiration. Whatever your need, here are three lovely things to do with wild garlic when you’re at a loss. For what it’s worth, all of these recipes were made using wild garlic that I had previously frozen. Continue reading
It’s been a little while since I’ve done any home cooking posts, for which I apologise. This is because I’ve been whooping it up and dining out in a manner quite unbefitting my modest means. (A good friend flew all the way to London from Oakland, CA to visit; what else could I do?) But, winter comes equally for the grasshopper as for the ant. And so it was I found myself staring into a nearly empty fridge wondering what the hell I could make for dinner. Continue reading