Tuesday, 10 August 2010


Every year I toy with what to get my Dad for his birthday. Except for another Hawaiian shirt, I always struggle to come up with something that won't just sit on his desk or table untouched.

My Dad loves his food as much as I do, if not more. In fact it's my Dad who really taught me how to cook. Cooking him dinner always seems like the best present I could give him.

I probably spent longer planning a menu for the evening than I would have spent shopping for a gift. It had to be something light and summery because of the time of year. All of the courses also had to be able to stretch to an unknown number of guests, we pretty much have an open door policy to friends coming over for dinner. Pork is a no-no for one of our closest family friends and my Dad has an aversion to chicken most of the time.

I toyed with the idea of different salads for a starter. Nothing really stood out though as we always have all kinds of delicious salads. I needed to think of something we wouldn't usually have.

Gazpacho seemed perfect. All the delicious componants of a salad, but different.

There seems to be a lot of controversy surrounding what is an authentic gazpacho. Does it contain bread? herbs? chilli? garlic? peppers? Should it be smooth or chunky? Keep or bin the tomato seeds? After a few hours of reading hundreds of recipes I thought my head was going to explode. I decided just to use what I had in the fridge, keep it basic, and hope for the best. It turned out pretty delicious if I say so myself.

Ingredients (for 8ish servings).

1.5kg ripe tasty tomatoes
Half a loaf of stale crusty bread
3-4 cloves of garlic
Slosh of red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

For the garnish:
Red onion
Yellow bell pepper

How to...

1. Soak the stale bread in a basin of water for half an hour.
2. Use a sharp knife to score a cross in the base of each tomato, then immerse the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or so until the skins become loose. Plunge into cold water and remove the skins which should come off easily.
3. Roughly chop tomatoes and garlic.
4. Blend tomatoes, garlic and the soaked bread (with some of the water squeezed out). If you only have a small blender you may have to do this in a few batches.
5. Season with salt and pepper and add a generous slosh of red wine vinegar. Taste to see if the seasoning is right and the vinegar has given enough tartness.
6. Chill for 4+ hours.
7. Finely chop all the ingredients for the garnish and mix them up.
8. Serve in chilled bowls or cups with a generous spoonful of the garnish on top and a glug of olive oil.

Today whilst cooking I was listening to... Hot in Here by Athlete

Monday, 2 August 2010

Marniated prawns with hot spicy tomato salsa

Prawns are something I always tend to have in the freezer. I go a little OTT every time I see a special offer on raw king prawns and end up buying 4 or more bags. This means I've always got the ingredients to treat myself to something prawn-based and delicious. I think it's important to use raw prawns (fresh or frozen), as using ready cooked prawns makes it so much easier to accidentally overcook them and end up with rubbery bullets of prawn. I also like watching them turn pink from grey. It's like magic.

Tinned tomatoes are the other thing I always have at home in excess. I probably eat tomato based meals 5 or 6 days a week. My tomato to other food ratio is always a little odd to other people's tastes so if you have a go at making this a little blob of the hot tomato salsa is probably enough for most people. I like to have half a plate so once I've piled it high on to each mouthful of prawn I can mop up the rest with fresh crunchy bread.

Marinated Prawns

Raw prawns
Fresh chillis
Lemon or lime juice
Soy Sauce

How to...
1. Mix finely chopped or crushed garlic with finely chopped chillis, the juice of a lemon or lime and a generous swig of soy sauce.
2. Mix in raw prawns
3. Cover and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours.
4. Heat up a pan.
5. Cook prawns for a couple of minutes until pink. Be careful not to overcook.

Hot Spicy Tomato Salsa

Half an onion
Clove of garlic
Tin of high quality chopped tomatoes
As many chillis as you fancy
Olive oil

How to...
1. Finely chop onion, garlic and chillis.
2. Cook onion in olive oil until soft and translucent.
3. Add garlic and chillis and cook for another 2 minutes.
4. Add chopped tomatoes and salt.
5. Cook for 20ish minutes, or until the salsa is thick, rich and tasty.

Today whilst cooking I was listening to: Handle Me by Robyn

Friday, 16 July 2010

Sausage and Tomato Pasta Sauce

Sausages are one of those things I adore. Strangely when I was younger I hated them. Probably due to the poor quality sausages that got foisted on us at school. Still to this day I can't abide low quality sausages. My favourite type of sausage has to be a toulouse sausage. This not only has normal pork sausagemeat but also has bacon, garlic, herbs... mmmm. All my favourite things.

Because of my slight obsession with sausages I tend to keep some in the freezer at all times. Thankfully they're also quite a crowd pleaser. Fed up of cooking sausages with onion gravy (Yes! I know that sounds like blasphemy...), I decided why not merge my other eternal crowd pleaser, pasta with tomato sauce, with my beloved sausages. Match made in heaven. So good that I now get requests for it, and not just from my tummy!

Sausage and Tomato Pasta (serves 2 hungry people, probably more if you ration out the sauce and give people a big helping of pasta)

Packet of high quality pork sausages
Half an onion
Olive oil
Tin of chopped tomatoes
A couple of chestnut mushrooms
Balsamic vinegar
Bay leaf

How to...

1. Soften sliced onions in a little bit of olive oil until they start to colour.

2. Add chopped up sausage bits. If you have fussy eaters take the sausage skins off as they can fall off in cooking and lurk in your sauce. I'm too lazy to do this. Even for my friends. Cook until the sausage starts to brown.

3. Add in mushrooms and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Don't add the garlic before now or it might burn and go bitter.

4. Bung in a tin of chopped tomatoes, some salt, pepper, oregano and bay leaf (preferably fresh but dried is ok).

5. Drizzle in a bit of balsamic vinegar. I feel any sauce with tinned tomatoes needs a bit of sweetness and a bit of acidity. You can really tell when this is left out.

6. Cook for at least half an hour on a low heat. If the sauce gets a bit dry just add more water. The secret to a tinned tomato sauce with good depth is making sure the tomatoes are cooked for a long time. If you don't have the time for this use delicious fresh tomatoes instead as they taste fabulous in minutes. If I have some overripe fresh tomatoes I add these in 10 mins before serving the sauce.

7. Serve with a mountain of al dente spaghetti and a shaving of parmesan.

Monday, 5 July 2010


There are some things that I could eat every day. Pepperonata is one of those things. There are so many different ways I like to eat it. Hot on top of freshly grilled chicken, a few mouthfuls as part of a mezze, or best of all cooled down and piled high on top of fresh bread. In fact I think it tastes even better if it's been in the fridge overnight before I pile it greedily onto ciabatta. If I'm feeling really indulgent I'll crumble some rich, earthy goats cheese on top of it. It then make's the perfect starter, or even a little snack if I'm feeling decadent.

After a bad morning this morning, someone drove into my car at the supermarket, I decided I needed a treat. The logical thing to do, was to make a big batch of pepperonata.

Trawling through the internet it seems that everyone has their own recipe for it, and I'm no different. My recipe shouldn't be followed too exactly. I've tried to give measurements for the ingredients, but please don't treat them as law. How do I know if you have big or little peppers? Or whether or not you're slicing a dinky onion or a big beasty one?

In this recipe I haven't put any tomatoes. Some recipes call for them. If I know I'm going to be eating pepperonata hot, I often add a handful of quartered sweet cherry tomatoes in the pan after the peppers have cooked for about 5 minutes. They break down and make it a bit more saucy. Nice to have with pasta. If I'm planning to serve it on bread I tend to leave them out for two reasons. Firstly they can make the bread too soggy, secondly I have a strangely high number of friends who hate tomatoes.

Don't feel trapped into using sherry vinegar, like I have used, if you don't have it. A good white or red wine vinegar works just as well, so does a raspberry vinegar or even a balsamic of you like it sweet and sticky. I tend to go through fads of different vinegars and will use whichever one is my favourite at the time.

PEPPERONATA (serves 4 as a starter)

- 4 bell peppers (red, orange or yellow only)
- Half a large onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Olive oil
- Sherry vinegar
- Salt and pepper

How to...
1. Finely slice onions and peppers.

2. Cook onions until they're soft and starting to brown in a generous glug of olive oil.

3. Add finely chopped garlic and sliced peppers.

4. Cook on a medium heat until the peppers start to caramelise on the edges.

5. Pour in a generous splash of sherry vinegar (I probably use about 1-2 tablespoons), depending on how tart you like it. If unsure add a little, taste it, then add some more until you're happy.

6. Season with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper.

7. Serve piled high on top of fresh bread once it's cooled down. Remember to save some in the fridge for lunch tomorrow.

Today whilst cooking I was listening to: The Sea by Morcheeba

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Crushed Potatoes

I have this weird thing about certain foods. Potatoes are one of these foods. If you ask me to list the food that I'm not fond of potatoes rank highly on the list. I think this is because I just don't enjoy plain boiled potatoes or baked potatoes. Give me creamy mash or crsipy roasties however, and I adore them.

Another type of potato dish I adore is crushed potatoes. I get a bit upset when people say that they are the lazy person's mash. They're a completely different thing. The tanginess of spring onions and olive oil permeates though the potato, while it still manages to have a bite and texture.

Tonight crushed potatoes made the perfect accompaniment to my summery grilled sausages and tomato salad with some homemade onion marmalade. It even stopped me being jealous of the people downstairs who have a garden, BBQing all kinds of lovely things, with the smell wafting up to my flat all day. Well I got over my jealousy for a little while at least.


- 2 generous handfuls of new potatoes
- 3-4 spring onions
- Olive oil
- Salt
- Coarsely ground black pepper

How to...

1. Slice the spring onions. Normally I'd say stop after the white bits, but in this case chop up some of the green bits too, to add a bit of colour.

2. Either boil the new potatoes, or bung them in the microwave covered with cling film and a couple of dribbles of water for about 6 minutes (or however long it takes them to cook through). Meanwhile soften the spring onions in olive oil over a low heat. Be generous with the olive oil. I use a couple of tablespoons worth.

3. Add the new potatoes to the pan with the olive oil and spring onions. Use a fork to crush the potatoes into the olive oil and spring onions. Make sure it gets nicely mixed up. Don't be tempted to over-crush or you'll end up with a not too pleasant mash with bits in.
4. Add a pinch of salt and a generous amount of fresh coarsely ground black pepper.
5. Eat and enjoy!

Today while cooking I was listening to: Someday by The Strokes.

First Impressions

First impressions are always very important. Unfortunately they are probably the hardest impressions to make.

I've been toying with the idea of starting a food blog for some time. I spend hours salivating over the delicious recipes and pictures in other people's blogs and wish that I too could transfer my passion for food so well onto computer screens across the world.

For me food is happiness. Even if I'm feeling low, something delicious is bound to improve my mood. In fact I have only ever lost my appetite once, and that in itself was as upsetting and scary as the event that caused it. I'm hoping it will never happen again!

I am also hoping that this blog saves me having to try to explain to friends how to cook things, and always accidentally leaving bits out of recipes I scribble on bits of scrap paper for them. This is probably a little easier to read than my handwriting too.