Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Giant Yorkshire pudding in truffle oil recipe with red wine and shallot gravy

My daughter told me that in her first year at university in York, she was served a giant Yorkshire pudding as a main course. Often this is served with some kind of meat stew or gravy. In America a Yorkshire pudding is called a 'popover', I believe it is rather fashionable in some restaurants.
This is the perfect dish to insulate you from the freezing weather. I've upped the luxury element by dropping the batter into an oven hot dish with a generous splash of truffle oil. Obviously you can use vegetable or olive oil too.
You will need a baking dish measuring 25cm x 20cm (10 x 8 inches).

Giant Yorkshire pudding in Truffle Oil recipe

Serves one or two


150g plain flour
2 eggs, slightly whisked
150ml of whole milk
1/2 tsp of sea salt (or truffle salt)
1/2 tsp of white pepper
3 tbsps of truffle oil

Preheat the oven to 220ºc and place the baking dish inside so that it heats up. Put the flour into a large bowl or stand mixer and whisk or fork through to make it airy. Add the eggs and milk, whisking until it forms a creamy batter. Add the salt and pepper.
With oven gloves, pull out the scorching hot baking dish and add the truffle oil. Put the dish back in the oven and let the oil heat up for a couple of minutes. Then pull out the dish and scoop the batter into the boiling hot baking dish. Replace in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Do not open the oven door. Make the gravy.

Red wine and shallot gravy recipe (vegan)

Makes a medium jug


10 shallots, sliced
3 tbsps of olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
1 heaped tbsp of plain flour
2 glasses (250ml) of red wine
150ml of hot water
1 tbsp of sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 tsp of sea salt
A dash of soy/tamari or Braggs amino acids


Soften the shallots in the olive oil in a medium saucepan on a low to medium heat. Once they have started to caramelise, add the garlic then the flour. Stir quickly then add the red wine, hot water, vinegar, salt and soy sauce, stirring all the while. Cook on a low heat until thickened into a gravy like consistency.

Serve the baked hot Yorkshire pud with the gravy.

Happy New Year!

Friday, 26 December 2014

Roast fennel soup with raki and Meyer lemon fougasse recipe

roast fennel soup, salad, fougasse bread
Aniseed is a flavour you either love or can't stand. For those that can abide it, aniseed flavours such as  one finds in fennel, dill and alcoholic drinks including Pastis, Sambucca, Absinthe or Raki matches beautifully with lemon. I came up with this rich soup recipe and a use for the Meyer lemons I'd recently ordered from California.
A few weeks ago, I attended a Raki dinner at Dabbous where Chef Ollie Dabbous had a whole menu based around this Turkish drink; artichokes were a memorable pairing. Serve with a green salad with a few artichoke hearts in oil perhaps to make a complete meal.

Roast fennel Soup recipe

Serves 4

2 large fennel, storks removed, ferns retained, sliced thinly
Olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt
4 shallots, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch dill, finely chopped
Plus fennel ferns, finely chopped
2 stock cubes
500ml boiling water
300ml single cream or soy/nut cream (vegan option)
Swig of Raki (optional)

Garnish:
Ground grains of paradise or fennel pollen


Preheat the oven to 190Cº. Toss the fennel slices in the olive oil, sprinkle with salt, then spread onto a baking tin and roast for 15 minutes until lightly golden.
Remove from the oven and put into a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add a little more olive oil to the pan, add the shallots, fennel and garlic. Stir until softened, about ten minutes. Then add the stock cubes and boiling water. Simmer on medium low for another ten minutes. Then add the cream and a swig of Raki.
I found this soup deepened in flavour over the next day or so, as soups so often do.
Dust with grains of paradise, a spice similar to cardamom, which was popular during the middle ages and has mostly fallen into disuse, or fennel pollen also known as 'spice of angels'. This will add a heavenly aroma to your soup.
baking meyer lemon fougasse bread

Lemon Fougasse Bread recipe

Serves four

I've never gotten around to making fougasse before. It's quite easy, made, according to Richard Bertinet, from a standard white dough but using a dough cutter to make the 'holes'. This recipe is adapted from Bertinet's 'Dough' book.

500g strong white flour
1 tbsp of Maldon's sea salt
320g luke warm water
7g quick acting yeast
Zest of two Meyer lemons (ordinary lemons will also do)

Mix the flour, salt, water, yeast and lemon zest together in a stand mixer, mixing for ten minutes until the dough is soft and stretchy. Or knead by hand. Leave in a lightly oiled bowl covered with cling film for one hour or, if you are a night baker such as myself, leave it in the fridge overnight.
In the morning, tip the dough out carefully onto a well floured surface. Preheat your oven to 200cº.
Cut into four quarters and with your hands, spread those pieces into slightly triangular rectangles. Using the straight side of a dough cutter cut three or four slits into the pieces as shown in the photograph.
I have a peel so I sprinkled a little semolina onto the peel and shoved two fougasses into the back of the hottest oven of my Aga, straight onto the floor. Then I put the next two fougasses into the front part of the oven. I left them to bake for about 15 minutes. The semolina acts as 'ball bearings', making it easier to slide the bread off the peel.
If using a normal oven, you could keep a baking tray in the oven while you are preheating it then place the fougasses, spread out so that they aren't touching each other, onto the hot baking tray. Spray the inside of the oven with a mist of water to get a nice crust on the bread. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.
Serve warm with the soup.



Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Büche de noel/Yule log recipe with magic meringue mushrooms

Chocolate chestnut nutella yule log with meringue mushrooms, Christmas food

Chocolate chestnut nutella yule log with meringue mushrooms, Christmas food

Quick! Nip out and buy the ingredients! You still have time! I much prefer a chocolate cake to a Christmas pudding and this yule log is effectively just that. But with nutella icing and a chestnut purée filling. This is incredibly indulgent.
The magic mushroom recipe is in my new book MsMarmitelover's Secret Tea Party which you can order here. 

Chocolate, nutella and crème de marrons Christmas log cake recipe with meringue mushrooms

Serves 10

You will need a flat baking tray or a Swiss roll baking tin, some parchment paper and a rectangular cake board long enough to fit the cake.

For the cake:
6 eggs separated
150g caster sugar
50g cocoa powder
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla paste
Icing sugar for rolling the swiss roll


For the filling:
250g sweetened chestnut puree
50g dark chocolate, melted
100ml creme fraiche
1 tsp vanilla paste
a pinch of sea salt

For the icing:
250g icing sugar
125g salted butter, room temperature
100g nutella
100ml creme fraiche
100g good quality dark chocolate, melted
1 tsp vanilla paste

Icing sugar to dust the cake

Preheat your oven to 180c.
In a clean dry bowl (of a stand mixer) whisk the egg whites until frothy.
In another bowl whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar until pale then add the cocoa powder, salt and vanilla paste.
Fold the egg whites into the yolk/cocoa powder mixture, taking care not to crush the air out of the mixture.
Pour it into a baking tin which is lined with parchment paper, which should overlap over the sides. You will be using this paper to help roll the cake into a Swiss roll.
Bake for 20 minutes then remove and let it cool for a few minutes. Cover with a clean tea towel
Dust another sheet of parchment paper with icing sugar.
Flip the piece of parchment paper containing the baked Swiss roll over onto the prepared paper with the icing sugar.
Leave while you prepare the filling.
For the filling mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.. You can melt the chocolate in 15 second increments in the microwave. Take care not to burn the chocolate.

Then uncover the Swiss roll and spread the filling thinly all over the cake right up to the edges. Using the paper, roll up the cake (obviously the long side) until it forms a tightish roll. Place it on a cake board.
Then cut off a quarter of the roll at an angle.
Place this little section next to the larger section of cake, the diagonal side attaching to the side, a little way up the 'trunk' of the log. This will be an offshoot branch.
Make the icing:
Mix all the ingredients together and with a rubber spatula, cover the entirety of the chocolate log, covering over the join of the two branches, making sure you cover the ends also.
Drag a fork along it lengthways to create a wood grain and swirl your fork around for the 'ends'.
Dust the buche de noel with icing sugar in a tea strainer or small sieve.
Then dot the little mushrooms around and decorate with a sprig of holly.

Happy Christmas to all my readers!

Kerstin aka MsMarmitelover xxx

Chocolate chestnut nutella yule log with meringue mushrooms, Christmas food

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas spiced shortbread recipe


This is a very easy recipe which will take around 15 minutes to prepare, 20 minutes for chilling and just over an hour to bake. It's a rich crumbly buttery biscuit to dip into your tea. You can make patterns by spiking holes into it; I tried for a snowflake effect.

The basic shortbread is adapted from a new baking book called What to bake and how to bake it by Jane Hornby.

Christmas Spiced Shortbread Recipe

Needs a 23cm tart tin (I used a 20cm plus a 10cm so I had two, one bigger, one smaller)
225g salted butter
100g caster sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla paste
280g plain flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
Zest of 2 satsumas
A pinch of ground cloves
1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp all spice
1 tsp ground ginger

For dusting:
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g caster sugar

Butter the tart tin.
Cream the butter, add the sugar, the salt and vanilla paste. Then add the flour, the cinnamon, the zest, cloves, nutmeg, all spice and ginger.
Press the dough into the tart tin and smooth over the top with back of a spoon. Then cut it into slices and prick out a pretty pattern (I used the end of my digital thermometer).
Preheat the oven to 160ºc (320f).
Chill for 20 minutes, then put it in the oven to bake for an hour and ten minutes.
Leave to cool in the tin on a rack for ten minutes while repricking the pattern (which will have closed up slightly) and delineating the slices again.
In a small bowl mix the cinnamon and sugar together, dust it over the shortbread.
Serve warm or cold.
Lovely with a cup of tea or coffee for when you are snackish between the Christmas feasting.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Vegan Christmas recipes: mushrooms à la grecque


Mushrooms à la grecque, 'in the Greek style', with olive oil and lemon, is a classic 'traiteurs' dish, sold in all French delicatessens. This was the type of dish, easily reproduced in the UK, popularised by Elizabeth David's exploration of Mediterranean food; it became a 1970s dinner party favourite. Using olive oil, lemon and white wine vinegar, the mushrooms are lightly pickled, à l'escabèche, and can be served warm or cold, as a starter or as a side.
When I get a punnet of button mushrooms in my organic vegetable box, I'll often make this dish. It's so addictive to eat, I'll end up scoffing the lot by myself, straight from the saucepan. Whole coriander seeds are rather essential, I also add a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme.
For a vegan Christmas dinner, a bowl of mushrooms à la grecque will offset the richness of a nut roast, the fat and fluff of good roast potatoes, the sweetly bitter Brassica notes of Brussels sprouts. I also added a lengthy splash of a minerally Greek wine, Assyrtiko Wild Ferment, Gaia. This is an interesting wine; the grapes are grown not on a vine but coiled in a wind-resistant basket shape on the volcanic ground.

Mushrooms à la Grecque recipe

Serves 4 or one greedy person

50ml olive oil
400g whole button mushrooms, any dirt brushed off (if larger, then slice)
Juice of half a lemon (make sure no pips)
2 or 3 tbsps of white wine vinegar
Splash of white wine (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 fresh bay leaves
1 heaped tablespoon of whole coriander seeds
2 fresh sprigs of thyme
1 tsp of Maldon's sea salt
Ground white pepper, to taste

Heat up the oil gently in a medium saucepan on a medium heat then add your mushrooms. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for around ten minutes then serve or leave to cool and serve later. Can be kept in the fridge for up to two days.




Monday, 15 December 2014

New Years Eve Swedish midnight tea party


I met Swedish Chef Linn Soderstrom a few years ago when she first visited my supper club then I returned the favour by visiting hers in Stockholm. Now we've decided to put on a joint supper club on New Year's Eve, combining the Swedish recipes and Midwinters theme from my book MsMarmitelover's Secret Tea Party. 
Menu ideas:
Glogg (Swedish mulled wine)
Smorgastarta (Swedish sandwich cake)
Danish Open sandwiches (cured herring and smoked salmon sandwiches)
Pepperkakor gingerbread biscuits
Cinnamon buns
Cardamom buns
Swedish 'cats eyes' saffron buns
and plenty of other goodies.

Bring your own champagne for midnight. 
Signed copies of my new book will be available for sale.

This is all rather last minute but I'm thrilled to be working with Linn again. She's a huge talent.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Christmas cheese board tips and what wine to match it with

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Christmas shopping and eating in Dublin


On my visit to Dublin, I was struck by the optimism and creativity but also a rueful realism. One taxi driver cheerfully said to me: "We had no money, then we got money, we pissed it up the wall and we lost all the money. Now we are on the up again. Hopefully." There was almost a mood of post-trauma jubilance. Things were so bad in Ireland post-crash, much worse than in the UK, that there is now widespread relief that the bubble has been replaced by a groundswell of solid young artisanal businesses.

Dublin is a good place to visit coming up to Christmas - the people are warm, the shops are interesting, the town isn't too big to walk around and Irish food has had a tremendous revival over the last few years. There is still enough remaining Georgian architecture left in the centre of town to make it an attractive place to walk around.
I was led to some of these locations by Eveleen Coyle of Fabulous Food Trails. She gave a fascinating quick run down of Irish food and dietary history. The potato grows so well in rainy Ireland and by the 1800s, 80% of the population was entirely dependent on one ingredient, the potato. (This is one of the reasons that coeliac disease is so common, one in ten, in Irish people.) From 1845 to 1847, there were three years of no potatoes due to blight. This meant starvation with a slow recovery. In the 20th and 21st centuries, Ballymaloe's Myrtle Allen and her daughter in law Darina Allen have led the way in rediscovering the Irish larder. 
Fallon and Byrne, dublin
Fallon and Byrne, Dublin
The Dublin equivalent of Wholefoods is a treasure trove of a food store, every aisle packed with interesting foodstuffs from around the world. They also have a restaurant and lunch bar.
Blazing salads, Dublin


If you want to pick up something both tasty and healthy for lunch, try Blazing Salads deli in the centre of town. They sell Nobo (gaelic for no cow) dairy free icecream, a food business that recently won the best start up award (worth 25k euros) at the Lovin' Dublin food awards. This business, only started two years ago by Rachel and Brian Nolan (above) is headed for great things, their ice-cream is absolutely delicious.
Scenes from Dublin
3) As my blogging colleague Food Stories said on her visit, Dublin has proper pubs. Even if you are not usually a pub person, and I'm not, you will love them. The bar people will talk to you, the customers propping up the bar will take the piss out of you (gently, with a twinkle), someone is bound to get out a guitar and start strumming. It appears, according to my brief foray, that everyone in Dublin can sing. Office workers, middle-aged mums, the people sitting next to me, the drunk guy at the bar - everyone can chip in with perfect harmonies.
Pub recommendations:
Mary's bar and hardware store, Dublin

Mary's bar and hardware store, Dublin
Mary's bar and hardware store where you can buy a pack of nails, a roll of sellotape and a pint of Guinness at the same time. I love hardware stores anyway.
The International Bar does the best cheese toastie (grilled cheese) according to the cheese toastie map of Dublin (which is as good as any other way of mapping a city. I feel this needs doing in London. In fact, why stop there? Let's have a cheese toastie map of the UK!) Created by graphic designer Eoin Whelehan, here are his top 6 toastie recommendations and his 10 toastie commandments. Do note, vegetarian readers, that a cheese toastie in Dublin automatically contains ham, in fact it's considered so intrinsic to the 'dish' that they don't even mention the ham in the title. Delicate negotiation is required to get pub staff to remove the ham element.
The Swan pub, Dublin

Landlord of The Swan pub, Dublin
The Swan pub offers an atmospheric welcome, along with generous pours of vintage Jameson's whiskey (from Dublin) and well-settled pints of Guinness. The present landlord's dad, Sean Lynch, was the only champion rugby player for the Ireland side who was also a full-time publican. He'd play a match on the Saturday afternoon and be behind the bar pulling pints in the evening. "That was when men were men", grinned his son. The walls are decorated with his rugby shirts, dark wooden panels and bullet holes from the war of independence against the British.
Irish cheese at Sheridans cheesemongers, Dublin
4)) Sheridans cheesemongers. Dublin's cheese shop is run by, bien sûr, a Frenchman, John Leverrier, but he champions Irish cheeses as well as French. Cheese in Ireland tended to be either industrially made or homemade in farmhouses until recently. Now there is a burgeoning craft scene but it's a tough life. They are currently selling off the very last Glebe Brethan cheeses made by the recently and tragically departed David Tiernan who, on a trip to France, fell in love with Conté style cheeses and imported Montbelliard cows. He made cheese 40 days a year using summer milk. His sons aren't interested in taking over, one works for Google. Says it all, doesn't it? Who wants to do the hard, cold physical craft of cheese making when you can earn a good deal more working for the brave new world tech companies, many of whom are located in Dublin.

This place is credited with revitalising the coffee bar culture of Dublin. They do a tasting menu of coffee plus classes, brewing and barista workshops.
Powerscourt Town House shopping centre, Dublin
Powerscourt Town House shopping centre
Powerscourt Town House shopping centre, Dublin

The Pepper Pot, Powerscourt Town House shopping centre, Dublin
6) The Pepper Pot at Powercourt Town House in located in an impressive Georgian courtyard with many trendy boutiques. The Pepper Pot makes and bakes its own sourdough bagels which are stunning, you can have lunch there, on the balcony.
George Street ARcade, Dublin
I was actually tempted to buy this christmas pudding costume at George Street Arcade.
Lolly and Cooks, Georges Street Arcade, Dublin
7) Georges Street Arcade is a little Victorian market with clothes, souvenirs, cafés and a baked goods stall such as Lolly and Cooks. 
Little Museum of Dublin
8) Not an eating place but well worth a visit: the Little Museum of DublinThis museum was crowd-sourced, not just for funding but also for the exhibits. You will see souvenirs of Dublin life, a walk around a historic Dublin sitting room, great photos on the walls, spread over two floors of a Georgian townhouse. On the top floor they currently have a U2 exhibition from stuff donated by the band. Curator Simon O'Connor does a fascinating talking tour every hour.
Marco Pierre White talking to Niall Harbison, Lovin Dublin awards.
Marco Pierre White talking to creator of Lovin' Dublin, entrepeneur Niall Harbison, who gave away his book 'Get Sh*t done: from bedroom to boardroom in 1000 days'.  Marco said "I've spent time in many cities in the world, but Dublin is the one that has shown me the most kindness".
Halibut and chips, Marco Pierre White grill, Dublin

Girls getting dolled up in the toilets, Dublin
I love taking pictures of women in toilets, it's where all the best stuff goes on.
Girls getting dolled up in the toilets, Dublin
9) Marco Pierre White's steakhouse and grillNow I realise this is not trendy, Marco doesn't cook there and the menu is simple and protein driven. But you could say that White saw the move towards dude food way before it became hip, but here it is done with classic French flair and good Irish ingredients. If you want a steak, you won't find it better cooked. I had a halibut steak, which was perfectly seasoned and twinned with a bowl of thick twice fried chips. The atmosphere is luxurious with white leather banquets, dim lighting and moody black and white photos on the walls of a young hollow-cheeked brooding Marco tossing his greasy but sexy mane. The manageress Geraldine gives an Irish welcome and is a great craic, I found her not only backcombing and spraying her own hair in the loos but also doing an impromptu beauty makeover on some of the customers. Restaurant and beauty salon combined, what is not to like?
Coppinger Row, Dublin

Crab claws, Coppinger Row, Dublin
Buttery crab claws
10) Coppinger Row restaurant specialises in Irish ingredients including the freshest Atlantic seafood, cheeses, meats and vegetables. 
guinness drinkers, Dublin
I asked if I could take a picture of these guys drinking Guinness? Why? Because it's typically Irish! They laughed and said 'But we are English'. 

Irish designer Orla Kiely's shoes at Clarks. Now why didn't I buy them?

Winter sunlight: it doesn't always rain in Dublin.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Poverty, Fortnum and Masons and Christmas

I do feel very lucky. Seven years ago I was a single mum on benefits, struggling to find a job. I couldn't find one so I started... not only my own business, but a whole new type of business. It was risky and sometimes frightening starting a restaurant in my living room and blogging about it. I haven't really let people know about the pressure I've been under at times, legally and in every other way, to keep going. Hell, the crap I've been through. And all I was ever trying to do is earn a living.
So blogging, which was an essential part of my story, changes lives. Another person for whom blogging has changed her life for the better is Jack Monroe who had in some ways a similar story to my own, being a single mum on benefits. I've never really blogged about being on welfare. Why? Because I was ashamed of it. I didn't know how to get out of that situation, I felt trapped, humiliated and helpless. My only difference of opinion with Jack is that, once the terrible bureaucratic nightmare interim period of not getting your benefits has passed (and yes, I was so broke my mum had to come over with a pint of milk so I could give my three year old a drink), the ONLY THING you can do on welfare IS eat. It's the most economical form of pleasure, a holiday in your mouth. That's why poor people in Western countries are fat. Carb me up, boost my serotonin, stop the feelings, anaesthetise the pain and the loneliness. Caitlin Moran wisely said in 'How to be a woman':
“Overeating is the addiction of choice of carers, and that's why it's come to be regarded as the lowest-ranking of all the addictions. It's a way of fucking yourself up while still remaining fully functional, because you have to. Fat people aren't indulging in the "luxury" of their addiction making them useless, chaotic, or a burden. Instead, they are slowly self-destructing in a way that doesn't inconvenience anyone. And that's why it's so often a woman's addiction of choice. All the quietly eating mums. All the KitKats in office drawers. All the unhappy moments, late at night, caught only in the fridge light.”
The borough next to where I live, Brent, has the highest diabetes in the UK - 23,000 people at the last count. This is partly because it has a large Indian sub-continent community where overweight starts at a BMI of 23. It is also because of inner city poverty, of which a large proportion are single parents and their children. It seems counter-intuitive but Diabetes 2 is inextricably linked with poverty.
So in the last six years my life has changed for the better. It's still tough to be freelance, especially in an economic climate where you have to stand your ground to be paid for your work. You never really relax when you have your own business: no paid holidays, no sickness pay, the lack of security, the feeling that you are only as good as your last blog post, recipe, dinner or book. 
But this is not a whinge fest. I am celebrating. 
Earlier this year I won the award for Best Online Food writer at the Fortnum and Mason awards which, seeing as it's one of my all time fave London landmarks and food shops, I was pretty damn pleased. They've just sent me their little Christmas booklet featuring contributions from la creme de la creme of British food and drink writing: Rose Prince, Diana Henry, Pete Brown on beer, Nina Caplan on wine, Victoria Moore on spirits, Yottam Ottolenghi, the Hairy Bikers, Dan Saladino for Radio 4's The Food Programme, Claudia Roden, Matthew Fort, Helen McGinn of the Knackered Mothers Wine Club and others. So you can see my work is in unbelievably exalted company. It's a very pretty turquoise and gold (F and M colours) booklet with fine illustrations (plus they sent me a box of salted caramels to munch on while I read it.)
The book features my classic gingerbread house recipe from my new book MsMarmitelover's Secret Tea Party. Even if I say it myself, this is a perfect Christmas present, have you ordered yours yet?
Oh go on.