Thursday, 29 January 2015

A talk and a tea at 40winks hotel

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” Henry James

On Saturday 7th of February journalist and celebrity interviewer Liz Hoggard (of The Times and Evening Standard) will be talking to me about my latest book, MsMarmitelover's Secret Tea Party, and my next two books (V is for Vegan and Get Started in Food Writing). 
This is the first in a monthly series of tea time salons which take place at a gorgeous Queen Anne townhouse hotel, 40 winks, named by Vogue as "the most beautiful small hotel in the world". This hotel is designed and run by celebrated interior designer David Carter and is located in Mile End, the east end of London.
Tickets for the event are £30 and is being sponsored by Perrier-Jouet champagne so you'll get champagne, sandwiches, cakes and an entertaining afternoon with myself. It starts at 2.30pm.
Email Daisy at

I hope to see you there! 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Pecan chocolate cookies (with squidgy centres) recipe for elevenses

These cookies are just as good as any you will get from any American style bakery. You could experiment with replacing the milk chocolate with white chocolate and the pecans with macadamias or dried cherries.

Pecan chocolate cookies recipe

Makes 15 cookies

110g salted butter, room temperature
110g caster sugar
110g dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
150g self-raising flour
40g dessicated coconut
225g of milk chocolate, chopped (not too small)
80g of rolled oats
50g of pecans, chopped (not too small)

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth.
Beat in the egg and vanilla paste.
Add the flour, chocolate, oats and pecans, mixing together well.
Then make golf ball size cookies, place on a baking tray covered with parchment paper or a silpat. Squash them down a little so they are flatter. They will spread out once they are baked, so place them apart a few centimetres/an inch or two.
Preheat oven to 200cº.
Chill on the tray in your fridge for half an hour.
Then put the baking tray in the oven to bake for 12 minutes or until golden.
Remove and eat straight away or leave until later, the centres will remain chewy.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Plum b'stilla recipe

Happy birthday to me!
Actually I'm spectacularly crap at celebrating myself. I have nothing planned today. I don't do book launches (although this Saturday's Honey Bee Tea is a book launch of sorts...still tickets left so do come along) either.
January birthdays are a bit grim aren't they? They say Aquarians (which I am, just on the cusp at 0º) are altruistic and care more about society than themselves. Well we bloody have to don't we? Sure as hell nobody feels like celebrating in January, what with cold weather, being broke post-Christmas, punishing oneself on a diet or through not drinking (my piece on how to avoid Dry January here).
Today I'm doing my taxes (a familiar January routine for all self-employed people), doing a final edit on a book that will be published in June 'Get Started in Food Writing' (the low-down) and hunching under the building noise from a leaseholder upstairs who is trying to squeeze the maximum profit possible from his one bedroom flat by turning it into a very small two bedroom. London is my home, I'm one of those rare things: an actual Londoner. But London nowadays isn't full of homes, it's full of property developers/buy to let types making a buck.

B’stilla is a Morrocan savoury filo pastry pie using the sweet and sour flavours of Northern African cuisine. Here I’ve used the same idea to make a sweet pie. This is a stunning dish for a dinner party dessert. You will need a 20cm springform cake tin with the bottom removed to make this pie and a flat baking tray.

Plum and ricotta b'stilla recipe

Serves 6-8

For the plum filling:
10 plums, pitted,halved
200g caster sugar
150g butter
2 star anise

For the pie:
4 sheets of filo pastry
Butter to brush the filo pastry
250g of ricotta cheese
1 tsp of vanilla paste
3 tbsp of date syrup or honey
50g of pine nuts
30g of poppy seeds
Icing sugar to finish

Preheat the oven to 200ºc.
Put the halved plums into a medium saucepan with the sugar, 50g of the butter and star anise. Cook on a medium to low heat until the plums are poached, about 15 minutes. Then remove from the heat and allow to cool. 
Melt the rest of the butter.
Placing the springform cake tin on the baking tray, drape the first sheet of filo pastry over and into the cake tin. Brush the surface with the melted butter. Do this with the other three sheets, criss crossing them so that the entire inside of the cake tin is covered, but you have enough hanging over the sides to eventually cover the b’stilla. Brush each layer with melted butter as you go.
Mix the ricotta with the vanilla paste, 3 tbsps of date syrup and the pine nuts. Spread this mixture over the bottom of the cake tin. Then add the plums, removing the star anise. 
Cover the top of the b’stilla by bringing up the hanging down sides of filo and overlapping it on top of the pie. It doesn’t matter if it is crinkly and folded this is all part of the charm. Brush some more melted butter on top. 
Put the baking tray with the b’stilla inside the springform cake tin into the oven. After 15 minutes, slide it out of the oven and remove the springform tin and sprinkle the poppy seeds on the top. Put it back in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes until the top is golden.
Remove from the oven and let it cool briefly . With a spatula (or two) remove the b’stilla from the baking tray and place on a decorative plate for serving. Sprinkle the top with a dusting of icing sugar. 

I created this recipe for South African stone fruits, available now in supermarkets. Why buy South African? Go to this post to find out.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Nectarine and Almond Tarte Tatin recipe

I was asked to develop some recipes for South African stone fruits. I had such great fun with them last year, doing a supper club for instance, using plums and pluots or plumcots (a combination of plum and apricot) in every course from the cocktail to the cheese board. I'm waiting for the 'bubblegum' plum season -February to March. Last year, I made exciting flavours of jam from these plums, the 'Flavour King' cultivar.  Look out for South African stone fruit in your local supermarkets. Here is a very quick dessert, a tarte tatin, classically made with apples, but this time with nectarines. I've added almonds to this recipe, which are part of the same 'prunus' family as apricot kernels. You could also use peaches or plums. I always have puff pastry, either ready-rolled or in a block in my fridge or freezer; puff pastry and any fruit, eh voila, you have an acceptable dessert!

Nectarine and almond tarte tatin recipe

Serves: 6-8
  • 8 to 10 South African nectarines halved and pitted
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods, split
  • 320 all butter ready-rolled puff pastry
This upside down tart is commonly made with apples but other fruits also work well such as pears, plums nectarines or peaches. It’s very easy to make but have the courage to let the nectarines caramelise; let them cook slowly for enough time so that their juices blend with the butter and sugar. You will also need a bit of courage to flip over the pie. You will need a frying pan that has an oven proof handle.
1. Smear the butter generously on the bottom and sides of the frying pan.
2. Place the nectarine halves, cut side up into the pan; pack them in tightly, they will shrink as they cook. Then sprinkle over the sugar and add the vanilla pods. Place the frying pan over a medium heat, the butter, sugar and nectarines will take about 15 to 20 minutes to turn a lovely golden colour.
3. Preheat the oven to 200c.
4. Cut the puff pastry into a circle that covers the circumference of the frying pan; this will be the lid (and eventually the bottom) of the tart tatin.
5. Remove the frying pan from the heat and flop the puff pastry circle over the frying pan and put it into the oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry is pale gold and risen.
6. Remove from the oven and prepare a flat plat larger than the frying pan. Then hold the plate over the frying pan and quickly flip it over so that the pastry is on the bottom. Remove the frying pan, nudging any displaced nectarines back into place. You will now see the beautiful sunset-hued tarte tatin.
7. Enjoy with a scoop of crème fraiche or double cream.

For more South African fruit recipes go to Beautiful country, beautiful fruit. 

Monday, 12 January 2015

Okonomiyake recipe (Japanese cabbage omelette)

okonomiyake, Japanese cabbage pancake omelette,
I don't like omelettes and I don't like cabbage. I once had this dish at a Japanese restaurant in London and I didn't particularly like it. So I had rather dismissed Okonomiyake, a Japanese cabbage pancake omelette,  as 'not for me'.
But after Christmas I had lots of eggs and a big sweet cabbage. I'd also made dashi, the classic Japanese stock, which is a component of this recipe so I thought I'd give it another go. My version was so much better than what I had eaten in the restaurant, it was just gorgeous to eat. It's terribly simple to make, fairly healthy and a great user upper of leftovers. It also looks rather pretty don't you think?
Recently all of my posts are just of recipes. I feel underwhelmed by my life and overwhelmed by events in the world to the point that I am rendered silent. I feel helpless. Perhaps I have too much to say or too little. I don't know.
All I can do is cook nice things. Cooking is what it always is for me, soothing, rhythmic, practical, therapeutic, healing.

Okonomiyake recipe

Serves 4 as a filling lunch or early supper

200g plain flour
300ml Dashi (this can be bought in sachets or you can make it yourself)
2 eggs
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 a fresh cabbage, finely sliced
Groundnut oil for frying
3 spring onions, green part only, sliced thinly
120g pink pickled ginger (or pink pickled turnip, grated)
A squirty bottle of okonomiyake sauce or brown sauce
A squirty bottle of Kewpie mayonnaise or ordinary mayonnaise

Mix the flour, dashi, eggs, salt together in a large bowl. Then add the baking powder and sliced cabbage. Reserve a little cabbage to put on top of the omelette.
Heat up a non-stick or cast iron frying pan with some groundnut oil, on a medium heat.
Add 1/4 of the contents of your bowl, spreading the mixture with a fish slice so that it forms an omelette/pancake of about 12 cms(8 inches) and 2 cms(3/4 inch) in depth.
Cook on a medium to low heat for a few minutes until the underside is well set then flip it over and add a little more cabbage on top.
When golden, transfer it to a plate and start on the next one.
With the one on the plate, take the brown sauce and squirt it in a spiral on top of the omelette/pancake. Then with the mayonnaise, squirt it in a zigzag pattern over the top. Then add some spring onions, some pickled ginger.

Dashi recipe

Makes about a litre

1 x 8cm (5 inches) square of kombu seaweed
1 litre of water
2 tbsps of bonito flakes (optional if strictly vegetarian/vegan)

In a medium saucepan add the kombu to the water. Simmer for 10 minutes until the kombu floats. Remove the seaweed. Bring to the boil then add another 150ml of cold water to cool it down. Add the bonito flakes if using and let them steep for a few minutes. Strain through a sieve. Use within three days.