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"Diet sensibility-wise I find myself straddled several yards short of the spooky Eat Nourish Glow brigade ... yet far from a woman who eats a double-stack patty with onion rings dipped in chipotle mayonnaise at lunchtime guilt-free. Although, if I’m honest, I can, and have done, and several photos of me exist on the internet standing at parties with my arms around gaunt, size 6 showbiz chums resembling, in relative terms, an amiable Tyrannosaurus rex that has entered a toddler’s sandpit."

Grace Dent

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Wednesday
Apr272016

Spring potato salad

You might not be ready to ditch the winter coat just yet, but you can at least enjoy the abundance of fresh vegetables available at this time of year.

This potato salad makes the best that spring has to offer: jersey royals, wild garlic, asparagus, fresh peas and watercress in a simple dressing so you can really appreciate all the wonderful flavours. Add some spiky artichokes from Sardinia and you have a truly decadent lunch or dinner. I could stop there, but bacon and a soft-boiled egg takes it to the next level. 

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Tuesday
Apr122016

Monk's beard with burrata

Monk’s Beard, also known as Friar’s Beard or Goat’s Beard, is a delicious Mediterranean plant, mainly cultivated in Southern Italy, Spain and Northern Africa. It looks similar to chives, but the flavour is somewhere between samphire (salty with a hint of the sea) and spinach (minerality).

It is generally served blanched, lightly fried or steamed, so that it retains its crunch. I like it best with a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon, as in this salad, but it also works well with anchovies, garlic, chilli and/or fresh herbs. With any of these additions, it makes a great side for white, flaky fish.

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Wednesday
Apr062016

Hummus with spiced lamb and pine nuts

The new series I am writing for Borough Market, Box Clever, is encouraging me to be much more adventurous with my packed lunches and how I pack them. Don’t you just love these Indian tiffin tins? I bought them for pretty pictures, but I find I am using them all the time.

I first tried this dish in a little family-run Lebanese restaurant called Emma’s on Liberty in Enmore, Sydney. They called it “traditional houmous” but it was so much better than any hummus I’d tried before. It did make me wonder why I’d been eating the unadorned version my whole life. Never again.

The dish is more often called hummus kawarma or hummus b’lahmeh, both of which mean hummus with lamb, but I am sure there are many other names to match the myriad recipes. There are almost as many versions of this dish throughout the Middle East as there are recipes for hummus. Chopped lamb or minced? Pine nuts or pomegranate seeds? Chunky or smooth? Tahini? Herbs? Spices? It depends who you ask.

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Sunday
Mar202016

Cake baking and decorating with Juliet Sear

Last Saturday I went to an Easter baking and cake decorating class at Borough Market. The teacher was Juliet Sear, one of the UK’s leading cake designers and baking experts. She sells to some of the country's most prestigious department stores, Fortnum and Mason and Harvey Nichols, and has baked cakes for numerous celebrities. She is also a food writer, consultant, has done stints on TV and teaches baking master classes. Anyone else feeling a little incompetent? 

I felt very lucky to attend this event at Borough Market’s invitation. It's the first cooking class they have done in their event space, The Cook House, which until now has mainly been used for tastings, dinners and photo shoots. It is a lovely space; tastefully furnished and full of light. It's great for cooking lessons with a well equipped demonstration kitchen on one side and a dining area, which can also be used as extra workspace, on the other.

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Friday
Mar112016

Artichoke spaghetti with chilli, lemon and parsley

I made this pasta a few weeks back for my cooking demo at the Natoora shop in Chiswick. Everyone loved it. One man loved it so much he bought every ingredient on the recipe card so he could recreate it at home.

For such a simple pasta, it took a while to perfect. The first one was too dry, the second too lemony, the third was just right. This is the third recipe.

In the pictures, the artichokes are the mammole variety. They are similar to globe artichokes, in that they have meaty and tender outer leaves which can be eaten raw or cooked. A colleague who was watching me do my practice run for the shop asked why I had used mammole if I was only using the heart. He suggested tema or spiky artichokes instead. He is Italian so I thought I’d best not argue.

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