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
  • a handful of slithered almonds
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. At the end, sprinkle over a handful of slithered almonds.
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

Okonomiyaki 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 okonomiyaki, 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.

Okonomiyaki 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 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 okonomiyaki 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 12cm (8 inches) and 2cm (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 1 litre

1 x 8cm (5 inches) square of kombu seaweed
1 litre of water
2 tbsp 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.

Friday, 9 January 2015

3 carrot recipes: cedar roasted carrots, Moroccan carrot & orange salad, carrot jam coated carrots

Carrot, orange flower water, orange salad with poppy seeds

Carrot, orange flower water, orange salad with poppy seeds

Carrots are so sweet, so bright, so crunchy, so... cartoony. They are almost as cheerful as bananas. I've been inspired to play with them over the last few weeks. Here are three carrotty recipes:

Moroccan carrot and orange salad 

Serves one or two for lunch

I had something like this at Grainstore in Kings Cross. It was just the ticket for a grim January day, using the sparkling freshness of winter citrus, and the textural sweet bite of carrots. This is my version. You'll need a spiraliser or julienne peeler to make this salad. I've been using a julienne peeler which is a cheaper version of the spiraliser but I think I may now invest in the real thing. I'm a big fan of all carrot salads, including the classic French starter carrottes rapées (recipe in my Supper Club book). I can eat a big bowl of carrot salad by myself.

4 good stiff carrots, spiralised
2 oranges, peeled, pith removed, segmented
1 red onion, julienned (optional)

1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp of orange flower water
4 tbsp of olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp of rose harissa
1 tsp of sea salt

Garnish with rose petals if you want to get fancy.

Prepare the carrots and oranges and red onion (if using). Here is the easiest way to segment an orange. Make the dressing by mixing together all the ingredients and toss the salad (with your hands if you wish). The great thing about carrot salad is that it doesn't 'burn' as the French say, once it has the dressing. It will last two or three days in the fridge.

Carrot marmalade, carrot juice, simmered carrots

Serves 4 as a side

I've just discovered carrot jam or marmalade in a local shop. I decided to braise some carrots in this sweet confection which resulted in a delicious sticky carrot glaze. I'm also a big fan of cooking vegetables in their own juices, hence the carrot juice.

500g carrots, sliced into 1cm slices
3 tbsps of carrot jam
200ml of carrot juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp of sea salt

Garnish with fresh parsley or coriander

Place all the ingredients into a medium saucepan on a medium heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Cedar roasted carrots with birch syrup

Serves 4 as a side

Ever since I visited Alaska last summer, I've been experimenting with Alaskan ingredients like Birch syrup and cedar sheets. Birch is very similar to maple syrup, with a slightly more resinous flavour and reddish hue. I'm not sure you can get it here in the UK, unless of course, you tap your own syrup from birch trees like this guy. The homesteader that lurks within me would love to have a go at tapping maple and birch trees, so I also bought a tap from the same suppliers. I find it incredible that trees naturally produce their own sweet syrup. Trees are amazing. (Trite phrase of year perhaps but still!) To further emphasize the wonders of wood, I'm using cedar sheets, that I also bought in Alaska, for roasting which will give them a smoky wood flavour. The nearest I've found in the UK are these.
Maple syrup, brown rice syrup, agave syrup, are all good vegan replacements for honey, which strict vegans will not eat. You can replace the birch syrup with any of these ingredients for this recipe. Carrots are one of the sweetest vegetables, roasting boosts the caramelisation anyway.

2 sheets cedar or wood papers
500g baby carrots or large carrots, quartered
50ml Birch or maple syrup
4 tbsps Smoked oak rapeseed oil
1 tsp smoked sea salt or red wine salt

Soak the wood papers for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 200cº. Then spread the cedar wood papers on a flat baking tray. Place the carrots on top of the wood papers. Drizzle with the syrup, oil and salt.  Roast for 20 minutes or until the carrots are caramelised at the edges.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Back to work recipe: wholemeal pitta breads for your sandwiches (plus red pepper hummus and candied walnuts)

I have a big drawer where I keep flour and sugar. As an ingredients 'collector', I possess virtually every type of sugar: from cubes through to granulated, caster and powdered, from Demerara, soft brown, golden, to pure white or novelty colours, from cane or beet to palm. Sugar keeps forever as long as it is kept dry.
I also have every type of flour; coconut, buckwheat, rye, spelt, waterchestnut, potato, tapioca, lotus root, corn, maize, wheat in all its forms: brown, self-raising, strong, cake flour, plain, 00 Italian for pasta. Flour should be used within date ideally; in the past one had to look out for weevils but that is no longer a problem, perhaps the atmosphere of my flat is drier.
I like to keep a tidy and thrifty pantry, so over the holiday period, I decided to use up the odds and sods, ends of bags. I'd run out of white flour and was left with mostly wholewheat, buckwheat, spelt and self-raising white.
Buckwheat flour can be used to make Breton style pancakes or galettes, or blinis (I have a good recipe in my book Supper Club). I used the spelt to make a 3 minute loaf, replacing the sesame seeds with pumpkin seeds. This recipe turned out 'ok' but not great; a usable but not terribly tasty loaf. The self-raising flour went into a chocolate Victoria Sponge (add 35g of cocoa powder to this recipe) which had the benefit of using up the rest of the buche de noel buttercream icing.
Wholewheat though...I'm not really a fan. I'm just not that much of a hippy. But then I remembered that there is one food that I actually prefer as a wholewheat version: pitta breads. So I made these. I stuffed them with a red pepper hummus, candied walnuts, fresh coriander and avocado slices. Just one made a substantial lunch. Make a double batch of these pittas, use some for lunch and store the rest in the freezer. It is quick to reheat them until puffy and warm.

Wholemeal pitta bread recipe

Makes 10 pittas

14g fast action yeast
1tsp of honey
400ml warm water
450g wholemeal flour
2tbsp olive oil
1tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 250ºC.
In a jug mix the yeast, honey and water (lukewarm only otherwise it will kill the yeast). Leave for five minutes until it froths up.
In a large bowl or stand mixer, pour the flour, olive oil and salt. Then, either stirring or with a dough hook, mix in the yeast mixture until fully incorporated into a bread dough. If doing by hand, knead for ten minutes, or leave for 5 to 10 minutes in the stand mixer on a low speed. Then cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for an hour.
Put a flat baking tray into the oven to heat up.
You will find that wholewheat is easier to work with the white flour. Divide the dough into 10 balls and with a rolling pin, roll them out into flat thin ovals, about 1/4 inch/1 cm thick. I didn't even need flour to roll them out.
Then place two or three oval pittas (or as many as you can comfortably fit in without them touching each other) onto the hot baking tray. Bake for around four minutes until the pitta bread has puffed up.
Do this in batches until they are all cooked.
Slit those you want to use straight away along one side. Wait for the others to cool then put them in a plastic bag and place in the freezer for later use.

Red pepper hummus recipe

Makes a bowl

It is easiest if you have a food processor or Vitamix for this recipe.

2 red peppers
400g can of chickpeas, drained
50ml olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1tsp of ground cumin
1/2tsp of ground coriander
1/2tsp of sweet smoked paprika
1tbsp of good sea salt
Juice of half a lemon
A handful of fresh coriander

Preheat the oven to 200ºC and once up to temperature, place the red peppers whole on a baking tray in the oven on the top shelf. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes or until the skin is slightly blackened. Then remove from the oven and cover with a bowl or place in a plastic bag. Leave to cool enough so that they can be handled, then strip off the shiny skin, remove the seeds and stem. Place the peppers in the food processor.
Place the chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika and salt in the food processor and process until smooth. Add the lemon juice and process. Taste for salt levels. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Transfer to a bowl to use as a dip or, if using for sandwiches, put it in an air-tight container, it will last three or four days at least in the fridge.

Candied walnuts recipe

Makes a handful

You will need a silpat, or sheet of parchment paper to make this recipe.

50g sugar
1tbsp of coconut oil
50g walnuts
A pinch of sea salt

Prepare your Silpat/parchment paper on a flat surface. In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan on a medium heat, heat up the sugar until it starts to melt, then add the coconut oil, shaking the pan. Add the walnuts after a couple of minutes and a pinch of sea salt. Shake the pan until the walnuts are coated with the sugar.
Pour the nuts/sugar onto the Silpat/parchment sheet, separating the nuts with a silicon spatula so that they are spread out in a single layer. Allow to cool. Break them up if they have stuck together.
These can be kept in an air-tight container.

Assembly of your pitta bread sandwich

Avocado slices
Red pepper hummus
Candied walnuts
Fresh coriander
Alfalfa sprouts (optional)
A slick of vegan mayonnaise (optional)
Some chilli sauce (optional)
Slices of cherry tomato (optional)

Heat up the pitta bread again in the oven and once puffed up again (this takes a couple of minutes so don't walk away), slit open the pitta bread and spread a thick layer of red pepper hummus inside. A slick of vegan mayonnaise, some chilli sauce and sliced cherry tomatoes wouldn't go amiss. Add two or three wedges of ripe avocado, three or four candied walnuts and a few sprigs of fresh coriander.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Swedish cardamom buns recipe for John Cleese

swedish cardamom buns
Soft, exotic, sweet but not too sweet, cardamom, cinnamon and saffron buns are a Christmas tradition in Sweden, eaten with a cup of coffee for 'fika' (coffee time). You might think it odd that the Swedish use eastern spices in their baking... but it's a legacy of their seafaring adventures from the Vikings onwards. This recipe is a fully cardamom version of a recipe from a Gothenburg all female bakery, Alvar and Ivar; I have their recipe for spelt, cinnamon and cardamom buns in my book MsMarmitelover's Secret Tea Party.
Ex-Monty Python and Fawlty Towers genius John Cleese liked my instagram of these cardamom buns and posted it on his facebook page which got almost 3k likes. Who knew he was into Swedish buns?

Swedish Cardamom buns recipe

Makes approximately 10 to 12 buns

For the dough:
The seeds of 35 cardamom pods, crushed into powder
250ml of lukewarm whole milk
50g butter (unsalted)
7g fast acting yeast
75g caster sugar
400g of plain white flour
1/2 tsp of vanilla paste
1/2 tsp of sea salt or vanilla salt

For the filling:
150g salted butter
50g caster sugar

To glaze
1 egg, whisked with a little milk
100g nibbed sugar

First of all split the cardamom pods and crush the seeds inside using a pestle and mortar. In Sweden you can buy these ready seeded but it's more difficult in other countries.
Melt the butter, the milk and the yeast in a heatproof jug, make sure you don't overheat because you will kill the yeast. Just lukewarm is fine.
In a large bowl or stand mixer, mix the sugar, flour, vanilla paste and salt, then add the warm milk/yeast/butter mixture. Add half of the ground cardamom seeds to the dough.
Knead until you form a dough or mix with the dough hook in the stand mixer for ten minutes. This is a very soft dough.Then cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rise for one hour.
In the meantime make the filling by making a paste by mixing the butter, caster sugar and the rest of the cardamom powder. Set aside.
Prepare a flat baking tray with a silpat or parchment paper.
Flour a clean surface and roll out the dough, very gently, taking care not to knock all the air out of it, making a large rectangle.
Carefully, with a rubber spatula, spread the buttery cardamomy filling all over the rectangle.
Then fold over the rectangular in half, pulling the long edge over to the other long edge.
Using a knife or dough cutter, cut the dough into 2 cms lengths, starting from the short edge and going all along until you get to the other short edge.
Twist the dough strips then coil them into snail-like buns. Place the buns, not touching each other, onto the prepared baking tray.
Cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for another hour.
Preheat your oven to 200ºc.
When risen, using a pastry brush, brush the egg glaze mixture gently all over the buns then scatter the nibbed sugar over the top.
Bake for 4 to 5 minutes until golden. Serve warm with coffee or you can let them cool then toss them in a plastic bag and freeze. They reheat well.
swedish cardamom buns