Miso Ginger Glaze

DSC_0991aMy 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

Advertisements

Spicy Cocktail Nuts

DSC_0673bAlthough 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

Mussels with Wild Garlic, Grape Tomatoes, and Guanciale

DSC_0653aI 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

Chocolate Almond Lime Semolina Cake

DSC_0373aThis 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

Chocolate Chip Walnut Banana Bread

DSC_0988bAlthough 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

Spicy Brussels Sprouts with ‘Nduja Sausage and Mushrooms

DSC_0665The 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

Garlic and Puy Lentil Soup with Smoked Paprika and Spicy Greens

There are few flavour combinations that I like so well as garlic and paprika. Married to one another, garlic and paprika have a greater-than-the-sum-of-their-parts appeal, a briny, lingering, and distinctive aroma and flavour that work equally well with seafood and meat, with pulses and with vegetables. I am, of course, immensely fond of Spanish food, which some might say has its foundations in this happy union. Paprika, or pimentón, supposedly was brought to Spain from the Americas by Christopher Columbus, and it has become such an integral part of Spanish food that in Spain, paprika is rigorously regulated for quality, with denominations of origin, like wine and olive oil. When cooking with paprika, invest in high-quality Spanish paprika (it makes such a difference), and keep both sweet and smoked in your cupboard – you’ll use both. Continue reading

Roasted Mackerel with Radicchio, Black Olives, Red Peppers and Rosemary

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

Another Roll in the Allium (More Wild Garlic Recipes)

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

Caramelized Figs with Balsamic Syrup and Crème Fraiche

Although London basically had no summer this summer, I am reaping the fruits, literally, of summer in other places. The markets in Paris are full of the most glorious black figs. I sampled one at the Marché d’Aligre in the 12th Arrondissement and had to buy a kilo of them. (They only cost about three euros, by the way.) My dad, who’s got slightly antiquated notions about food, did not believe me when I told him that figs and balsamic are one of the most glorious pairings known to man. I set out to prove him wrong, and succeeded. The addition of crème fraiche made this easy dessert HEAVENLY. Continue reading