Sunday, March 28, 2010


Having a fridge full of leftovers is my fortnightly joy. It is the only time you can scrape the mould off the yogurt and no-one knows the difference. The stew has lost its freshness but tastes better than it did the first time. The wrinkly apples are screaming to be put into a crumble. The stale bread in the bread bin looks the perfect friend to welsh rarebit or pappa al pomodoro. And the old cheese is at its best.

Leftovers let you be frugal yet still generous. Using them up makes you environmentally friendly without giving it a thought. And, best yet, you can be as creative as possible. And who will mind if it goes wrong? It would have only gone in the bin.

So it's time to give the old dears a second chance...

This weeks fresh(ish) leftovers are as follows:
Half a Roast Chicken, Eaten yesterday, Taken off the Bone (approx. 300g)
Stock made from the Bones
1 Rasher of Smoked Bacon
Last Batch of Homemade Yogurt
Three Boiled New Potatoes
1 Browning Banana
Half a Mango

And here are the old pots in the fridge that should have been used a LOOOONG time ago:
Harissa Paste
Tom Yum Soup Paste
Very Lazy Red Chillies
Thai Green Curry Paste
1 Scraping of Pesto

I'm going to try to whip as much of a dîner délicieux as I can using as many as these as possible - the fridge has been rather kind this week, I must admit. So that means the bacon and pesto will have to be left til tomorrow's sarnie, and the Harissa should probably be thrown.

So, who's for giving some life to a Thai chicken curry?

No coconut milk, you squeal? No rice? Rice we have. There is always rice. Coconut milk is also something that must always be in the larder. NEVER let it run out. Leftovers NEED coconut milk.

Curry is a great one for using up what you've got and need to get rid of. It's in the same category as soup: chuck it all in and boil it up. (But do check the sell by date just in case. Most of the time it's there for a reason).


300g torn chicken
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsps green curry paste
1 450g tin of coconut milk
1 ladle of chicken stock
2 scantily chopped shallots
2 broccoli stalks, broken into smaller trees
1 tsp very lazy red chillies.
3 cooked, chopped new potatoes
half mango, sliced
three large tablespoons of natural yogurt - homemade
200g dry basmati rice

sliced banana

Warm up some olive oil, stir fry oil or sunflower oil (see what you've got) in a heavy based pan or wok. Throw in two tbsps of green curry paste, and fry for about 2 minutes, with regular stirring. Now, add the coconut milk and stock.

Make sure the chicken is skin-free and torn into medium sized strips. Add to the coconut mix. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes(If you are using raw chicken, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through).

Add the broccoli.

Boil a pan of water and cook the rice - cooking times vary so check the packet.

Add the red chilli.

Once the broccoli is cooked, throw in the chopped new potatoes to the curry - if they are already cooked they only need a short simmer to heat up, and they are lovely in their original new potato (or old in this case) form.

Add the mango to sweeten it up - it works deliciously with chicken.

Once the rice is cooked, drain and serve in a large bowl. Ladle the curry over the rice. If you have lime, use it. Give it a good squeeze over the curry. Serve with chopped banana - trust me it's good. Dollop the leftover yogurt on top and devour.

Can't wait until next fortnight's luxury leftover load!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Today, my Sunday morning kicked off punctually at 8 o’clock, setting out of the house with baking buddy, Miss Mackenzie, on the hunt for yeast and bread flour, in preparation for a morn of energetic bread making. I wanted my house to smell like a bakery. I wanted to breathe in those heavenly fumes, waft the warmth into my nostrils and watch the perfectly formed dough rise in the oven...

My mum – Happy Mother’s Day to her – is, and always has been a queen for whipping up a freshly baked loaf, mixing flavours and always succeeding in getting a warm approval. And as I am away from the comfort of her kneading expertise, I felt the ‘knead’ (ahem) to brighten up my weekend with a loaf of the highest ‘a la mère’ quality.

Asking around for thoughts on flavours just put me right back to where I started. Any amount of fresh inspiration couldn’t erase the thought of one particular combination. I was advised to add Marmite to my bread. Or Parmesan cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, or blue cheese and rosemary. Even the sound of banana and apricot couldn't shake me. But stubborn as I am, the thought of walnut and honey baked in a warm loaf makes me want to collapse into a heap of joy. Its sweet crunch, humid from the oven, and spread with a little melted butter, tops them all. It has no place in the bread bin and MUST be eaten immediately; no time wasted, just instant pleasure.

So, we kneaded the dough. And let it rise. And baked it. And ate it. And what a perfect complement to a, not so lazy, Sunday morning.

500g strong white/wholemeal bread flour (either works)
7g dried yeast
300ml warm water
25g butter
Extra flour for dusting
1tbsp honey (or molasses if you’ve got it –even better)
50g crushed walnuts

Preheat the oven to 230 degrees C/ 450 degrees F/ gas mark 8. Mix all the dry ingredients together, and then rub in the butter. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the warm water. Use your hands to combine the ingredients until you have a non-sticky ball. Knead the dough well on a floured table, for approximately ten minutes until it bounces back when pressed.
Place into a bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Find your warmest place in the house, apart from inside the oven. Leave it to rest until the dough has risen to double its original size (usually 1 ½ hours), knock the air out again, and leave it to prove once more for about 30 minutes. Add the walnuts and honey, and shape into desired form. Place into a large, deep, floured bread tin, or a floured baking tray for about 8 rolls. Bake in the heated oven for 30-35 minutes, until the dough is cooked and the top, brown.

Now, slice, and serve with a knob of butter, your favourite jam and a mug of fresh coffee. Mmmmmm...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Glutton for nourishment?

Food tasting. Everyone loves the thought of it, as long as it doesn't involve boiled innards.

The general census is that food tasting couldn't be easier: when the fork comes to mouth, what's there not to like? But to do the food justice, you have to tweak your taste buds. It is easy to know what's bad and what's good but can you tell the good from the very good? If so, here is your chance to get involved.

The country’s largest agricultural show, the Royal Bath & West in Shepton Mallet, is advertising for a member of the public to join the panel of expert judges at this year’s event. A day of sampling, sipping and slurping. And very difficult decisions.

Applicants must be in it to win it. Shortlisted applicants will be put to the 'taste' test, proving their knowledge of local and seasonal produce.

To apply visit http://www.bathandwest/glutton-nourishment/122/ and fill in an application form. Have I done it? Definitely!

Did I mention payment comes in the form of samples from home-growing participators? I'm drooling already...but ff you'd rather stall-hop than scoff, you can buy tickets for June now, at

Saturday, March 6, 2010


WOOO. It worked! I think my guests were satisfactorily stuffed. A night filled with wine, chatter, heated debates - one too many glasses of cheap vino at this stage - and most importantly, good food. There was even mention of a Round Two.

STARTER: Grilled haloumi wrapped in pancetta, with a rocket salad and balsamic dressing.
(c/o mysterious flatmate - Rose Cottage's equivalent of the Stig).

"The starter was best", slipped politely into post-meal reflection by fellow Come Diner, Miss Mackenzie.

: Lemon marinated salmon with primavera risotto. A wee bit bony...but fresh and delicious.

and DESSERT: Rose-scented panna cotta with rhubarb compote.

Groans all round - and good ones, I think! Well worth re-creating this dreamy pud, so here's the recipe for your own indulgence:

The original recipe was taken from p. 36 of Stella mag last week, and adapted slightly for serving in wine glasses rather than from moulds.
For the panna cotta:
150ml (5fl oz) full-fat milk
600ml (1 pint) double cream
3 strips lemon rind
6 small sheets of gelatine (or 3 teaspoons of powdered gelatine)
1 tsp rosewater
150g (5 1/2 oz) caster sugar
several good squeezes of lemon
groundnut oil, for greasing (I went without this and made the recipe in wine glasses).

For the rhubarb:
900g (2lb) rhubarb
300ml (10fl oz) water
150g (5 1/2 oz) sugar
good squeeze of lemon

Gently heat the milk and cream with the lemon rind and simmer until the mixture has reduced by about a third. Be careful not to let it boil.
Put the gelatine in a bowl and cover with water. Leave to soak for about 15 minutes.
Add the rosewater and sugar to the cream with just enough lemon to cut through the richness and stop the flower water being cloying.
Lift the wet gelatine our of the water and squeeze out the excess liquid. Add to the cream and stir to help the sugar and gelatine dissolve (the cream need to be warm for this to happen).

Lightly oil six little pudding tins or dariole moulds (or use wine glasses like I did - no need to oil them), with a flavourless oil such as groundnut, then ladle in the cream. Leave to cool then put in the fridge to set.

Trim the rhubarb and cut it into 4cm (1 1/2 in) lengths. Mix the water and sugar and heat stirring from time to time, until the sugar has melted. Add the rhubarb and poach gently until just soft (the rhubarb must not collapse).
Remove the fruit carefully with a slotted spoon, add a good squeeze of lemon to the poaching liquid and boil to reduce. It should be slightly syrupy and will become more so as it cools. Leave to cool, then pour over the rhubarb.

To serve (if using the moulds), unmould the panna cotta by sliding a knife down the inside of the mould, invert onto a plate and shake well.

Spoon the rhubarb around or beside the panna cotta (or on top of the panna cotta if using a wine glass), and decorate with rose petals.

I prepared these the night before the dinner party, in true Blue Peter fashion, and they were perfectly set. Although easy on how many you least leave some the guests.

Definitely a wooer. And if you are on a budget - it cost around £25 to serve 7 diners. SUCCESS!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


It is one day away from my turn to host Come Dine With Me in Leeds.

So far we have gorged on crispy pork belly, sticky treacle pudding, cheese platters, eight-hour pork simmered in coconut milk, chocolate tart to DIE for...and the list goes on...
The bar is very high so, this Thursday, I need to work hard. In case any readers are dining with me on Thursday, sadly you won't get a chance to know what I'm cooking until it is on your plate, waiting to be snuffled.
One ingredient that will be featuring in the feast of all feasts is my veg of the month...

Last weekend, Wakefield saw the celebration and conservation of one of Spring’s most weird and wonderful fruits (or should I say vegetable) of the earth: RHUBARB.

Growers and gobblers came together for Wakefield’s Food, Drink and Rhubarb festival on the 26th and 27th of February to put rhubarb back on the map, and fight –successfully- for it’s title as a Protected Food Name by the Regional Food Group (RFG).

Some turn their noses up at this sour, pink and white celery-lookalike, but only, perhaps, for lack of experimentation. It really is a versatile thing when it is put to the test in the kitchen. Rhubarb makes great chutneys, is a perfect side to pork or duck, but where it really has the power to show off, is on the dessert menu.

I was given over 20 rhubarb stalks from friend and festival-goer, Martin S, and introduced to a spectacular recipe by Charlotte H. So, my dessert for Thursday has literally been handed to me on a plate.

Their generous gifts I shall combine, and hopefully do them justice.
But until the big's a fool for a fool.

RHUBARB FOOL (stolen from a damn good
Waitrose recipe)

450g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into medium chunks
About 150g granulated sugar
3 tbsp Cointreau (optional)
284ml carton double cream

1. Put the rhubarb in a noncorroding pan with 4 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp water. Cook over a low heat for 10 minutes or until tender. Add about 85g sugar, or to taste. Leave until cold.

2. Add the Cointreau to the cream. Whisk into soft peaks. Strain the juice from the rhubarb into the cream. Fold in. If it seems too liquid, whisk a little more to thicken. Fold in the rhubarb (reserve a few pieces for decoration). Spoon into glasses and serve with almond biscuits.

Don’t just stick to the rhub - look out for leeks, radishes, parsley, and chicory, also in season this month!