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"To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day."

Somerset Maugham

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Thursday
Aug192010

"The tart" inspired by Elizabeth Hodder's Tomato, onion and goat's cheese tart

On Saturday I put up a recipe for shortcrust pastry from my friend Lizzie’s book, The Book of Old Tarts. That post was really just a preamble to this most important of recipes. It is not just any old tart, it is the tart, or so it has come to be known in my household. Indeed for a long time it was the only tart I ever made, because although I was very tempted by other recipes, it was just so damn tasty I could not think of any reason to make something new. My sister loves it so much that she would brag about it to all her friends, but not a single one ever got to try it because I was not allowed to make it for guests; the tart was not for sharing.

Until this week, I had only made the original recipe once and I now feel rather guilty for having written it off so quickly. The first time I made Lizzie’s recipe I found it a little bland; this is probably because I did not season it well enough, but also because at the time I was a teenager with little appreciation for the less is more approach to cooking. Having made the original recipe for a second time, I can now appreciate that its simplicity is its most appealing quality, a perfect balance of flavours and textures. As Lizzie says in her introduction to the recipe,

Successful tomato recipes are those where the distinctive taste of the fruit surmounts the other flavours. I think this tart succeeds in this, but partly through its soft texture.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug172010

Creamy chicken pie with leeks, mushrooms and bacon

 

Loser that I am, I was actually excited when I heard that the weather was forecast to be wet, windy and, by most people's standards, utterly miserable this past weekend. And when I opened the door to my little balcony on Saturday and was greeted by torrential rain, I was positively over the moon. Why? Because I have been missing my winter comfort foods God dammit! As you may have gathered, I get great joy out of making my own pastry, but apart from the fact that it is incredibly difficult to make decent pastry when it is hot, it is not much fun eating it in summery weather either.

I took this turn in the weather as my window of opportunity to cook and enjoy as much wintery goodness as was humanly possible in one August weekend: Chorizo, chicken and cannellini bean stew followed by apple and pear crumble on Friday; creamy chicken pie with leeks, mushrooms and bacon followed by Dad’s best ever brownies and vanilla ice cream on Saturday; and accidental tomato, mushroom and red onion tart on Sunday, all washed down with plenty of red wine. And to top it all off, I made the tart that didn’t go to plan on Sunday on Monday night as well. So much for the 2kg I wanted to drop for my trip to Croatia in less than two weeks.

This chicken pie is my own recipe and, as such, it tends to be a little different each time I make it. However, I have made it enough times now to have worked out which combination I like best (this one). You may prefer to add or substitute some other vegetables (e.g. carrots, celery, peas, sweet corn) or you may find tarragon too strong, in which case I suggest parsley or thyme. So long as the basics are there (chicken, wine, cream, stock, pastry), it would be hard to go wrong. Have a play around and see what you like best.

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Saturday
Aug142010

Shortcrust pastry from The Book of Old Tarts

Updated on Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 9:11PM by Registered CommenterVix

A very dear family friend, Elizabeth Hodder, wrote a wonderful recipe book called ‘The Book of Old Tarts’. Lizzie has always treated me as if I were her daughter; she is kind, gentle and doting, always willing to listen and give me her worldly advice. She is also extremely knowledgeable and very well spoken. This motherly image I have of her means that I still to this day find myself shocked and pleasantly surprised when she shows her cheeky side. She once sent my Mum an apron which read:

FUCK ME

WHILE

I’M COOKING

I thought this was absolutely hilarious, not so much because of what it said, but because of who’d sent it. The name of her book is another great example of this.  

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Friday
Aug132010

Chorizo, morcilla and potato salad with soft-boiled egg

My cousin came for dinner a while ago and brought some spoils from Borough markets. Amongst them was a large morcilla sausage  (Spanish black pudding) from Brindisa. My invite had been misleading; I'd said I would be “throwing together bits and pieces”, but failed to tell her that these bits and pieces would comprise approximately 6 courses, albeit small ones. Therefore, I very gratefully received the goods, but did not find use for all of them on the night.

Over the last few weeks I have seen the morcilla sitting there and thought that I really ought to do something with it, but knowing it was of a very good quality I wanted to wait until I was ready to do it justice and with this salad I believe I did.

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Thursday
Aug122010

Dotori: Japanese & Korean cuisine in Finsbury Park (the dodgy end)

It is thanks to my friend Alex (aka Blumenthal's biatch), a former chef, that I was introduced to this little gem of a restaurant. The fact that he is a former chef is important, because it means I value his opinion on food. So when he told me that this tiny shop front:

 

... which is on one of the most unpleasant stretches of road in Finsbury Park:

(second only to Fonthill Rd, where the reflection of neon shop lights on patent leather is so bright you have to put your sunglasses on to go inside) was one of his favourite restaurants, rather than just nodding politely and never thinking of it again, I found myself intrigued and requesting further information.

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