Thursday, May 26, 2011


On a stormy day like today - drops the size of raisins and thunder grumbly enough to whisk an egg - the last few weeks of salad and sorbets get drowned right out. Puddling home this afternoon with my soggy shoes soaking up my new dungarees, thoughts turned instead to winter cooking.

Shopping for supper beneath a summer tempest pours my pennies to one thing only: meaty meat. Thawing, fatty, hot, slow cooked MEAT drizzled with rich sauce. Drool. So, for a night wholly dedicated to watching How To Steal A Million from the sofa, it had to be osso bucco. Oh so boo coh dawling (Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole like it too).

It's cheap, it's scrumptious and it's perfect for a lazy night in sheltering from the downpour.


Serves 1 (well why not?)
Or duplicate for an impressive dinner party main course which won't break the bank.

approx. 200g osso bucco (veal shank)
1tbsp plain flour
50g/3 knobs salted butter
1/2 glass white wine
1 large shallot, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
handful tarragon
2 sprigs thyme
80g polenta
100ml water
50g lettuce, chopped or broken into 5 cm pieces (I used round, but gem is a great option)
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4

Dust the osso bucco with the flour and place in a bowl. Heat up a knob of the butter in a frying pan. When it is sizzling, place the shank on each side for around 45 seconds until browned and lightly crisped.

Transfer the shank straight into a small roasting tin with the wine, shallots, garlic and herbs. Leave some of the tarragon for the lettuce. Cover the tin with foil and place in the oven for 1 1/2-2 hours until the meat is light pink and tender. Remove the foil and reduce the juices for 10 minutes.

While the juices are cooking, make the polenta. Boil up the water and pour in the polenta flour, whisking until thick. It will keep thickening, so once you've reached a sticky, but still wet consistency, take off the heat and stir in another knob of butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the remaining bit of butter in a clean frying pan and add the lettuce and the rest of the tarragon. Braise until gently wilted and browning at the edges. The lettuce should still have a slight crunch. Remove from the heat.

Take the osso bucco from the oven.

Serve up the polenta in a warmed dish, placing the lettuce on top. Then lift the sweet and succulent shank from the roasting tin and put on to the polenta and lettuce. Pour over the reduced juice with the shallots and garlic, and garnish with thyme flowers.

Osso bucco works deliciously served with orzo, or for a more traditional Milanese version, cooked with tomato and served on risotto. Don't forget to eat the marrow from the bone!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Remember the days of butterfly cakes? The small cases filled with a strawberry-sized scoop of soft batter? Top of the sponge carefully cut to make two wings, stuck back in with a spoonful of butter icing and sweet jam? Two wee bites of the cake and you've finished. So light, you might as well be the butterfly on the cake.

Now all we see are giant cupcakes, layered high with a mountain of sickly icing that, when you go to take a bite, smothers your upper lip and nose. You have to finish it all in one go - there's too much icing to wrap it up and take it away - so by the time it's been eaten, you'll never want to see another cupcake again. They may look dainty but, boy, unless you're laden with a knife and fork, it's a messy business.

It's time to bring back the fairy cake. Plain sponge, white transparent icing, a few silver balls and a blob of butter icing. Who's with me?

makes about 30

250g soft unsalted butter, cut into cubes
250g caster sugar
5 large free range eggs
250g self-raising flour, sifted
2 tbsps baking powder
vanilla extract (optional)

500g icing sugar, sifted
6 tbsps warm water

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/ 400 degrees F/ Gas mark 6.

Mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Use an electric beater for best results. Add the eggs one at a time and mixing it into a wet batter. Then fold in the flour and baking powder until all the ingredients are well combined. Do not over-mix - you do't want the mixture to be airless. Add a touch of vanilla extract for sweetness.

Lay out the cases in a fairy cake tray (shallow indents rather than little cupcake ponds). Take a melon ball scoop or two teaspoons and divide the mixture into prune-sized amounts between each case. Place the tray in the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cupcakes have risen and are a golden colour. Remove and leave to cook in their cases on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, sift the icing sugar into another bowl and add the water. Mix with a metal spoon in to a thick paste. When the cakes are cool, fill a cup with hot water. Dip a silicon palette knife into the water, dip into the icing and spread thickly onto the cake top, leaving no gaps.

Decorate with those lost and forgotten shards of sugar -

silver balls
hundreds and thousands
chocolate drops
iced gems
sugar lemons

- and gobble sweetly.

Dear old fairy cake friend, we love you.

Friday, May 6, 2011


It's been the most glorious week for food and drink.

Copenhagen first, spent floating on a heavenly cloud of light-headed middle-of-the-day schnapps. The weekend started with a 'mield and nische' local brew, and ended with a Norwegian fire-breathing dragon Aquavit, drawing out the inner Viking with every thimbleful.

There was beer too. Cold and light, and not just Calsberg. We had home-brewed dark beers to drink with meat, and sweet, bubbly ones to go with dessert. Everyone on the street held a can and those who sat at tables had a tall glass tankard in hand. Pretty difficult not to get involved.

Thankfully, enough food went around to keep feet still on the ground. At Schonnemans we ate delicately sliced smoked halibut with radishes and cucumber, hearty lamb meatballs and 4 types of herring - the caramel on one herring still lingers 7 lunches later.

A long dinner at Fisk Bar gave us beautiful snow crab wrapped like spring rolls in celeriac, and Tusk served alongside sweet, acorn-sized new potatoes. A round loaf of rye with creamy butter sat in the middle for between course nibbling.

Beautiful beetroot and horseradish salad was served at Pate Pate to kick off yet more delicious fish, and the forkful of foie gras with fried egg was pure heart attack love ache.

We peered through the windows of Noma without disappointment and longing, but feeling happy and lucky that we'd eaten at the old, real Danish kitchens with sandy floors, that serve up some of the most delicious food in Copenhagen. Dreaming now of my second trip.


Thursday night, Pigs in Pinnies - Alice Brady, Clara Paul, and I - welcomed in the beginning of a new supper club venture, hosting the dinner at Ledbury Church for Salon London.

Leaves, herbs, and fruit were all picked from Portobello market and the smoked trout arrived on the day from Alice's uncle's Wandsworth fish restaurant, Brady's. Feeding 35 guests the food we love got us hungry for more nights with a bit more linger. So here's hoping this will be the first of many more to come.

Goats curd with honey rosemary dressing on a salad of friseƩ and radicchio with homemade sourdough

Smoked trout on horseradish-dressed new potatoes, with sorrel and watercress

Lemon posset with shortbread


To top it all off, tonight was a plate of deliciously simple ham hock, puy lentil and green bean salad and a glass of homemade lemonade at the Havelock Tavern, after throwing my weight around the Brook Green tennis courts with Miss Potter.

I will be attempting to do it all again next week from my flat kitchen with a recreation of the caramel herring. Too good not to.