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

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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:




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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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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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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Be there in five - olive tapenade

If you have ever bought this in a jar from the supermarket, then please pause for a moment before doing so next time and reconsider. It really does only take 5 minutes to make it yourself (well, 10 if you are pitting the olives) and the result is oh, so much better!

I usually make a batch of it and keep it in the fridge for sandwiches or bruschetta-style toasts, e.g. with roast tomato or Portobello mushrooms. It is great with soft white cheeses, such as goats cheese, feta or cream cheese. It also works quite well with lamb dishes, so long as you don’t use too much; it has a very strong flavour, so can overpower a dish if too much is added.

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Ray's meatballs, inspired by Jamie Oliver


Let's get a few things straight before I start this recipe.

I am in the camp of people who find Jamie Oliver a rather annoying personality (the pseudo-geezer thing), but who appreciate what he has done for food in Britain (example). I like his early books (I only got as far as the first two), but I sit firmly with the Italians when it comes to 'Jamie's Italy'. Basically, if Italy is, as he says, his biggest inspiration ("I should have been Italian"), then why can’t he respect the time-honoured recipes developed over generations instead of coming in and throwing all manner of herbs and spices into dishes that traditionally would have been made up of a few ingredients, cooked simply and allowed to shine. In the words of Angela Hartnett,

Nonna taught me to understand what great Italian cooking is all about: start with the very best raw ingredients and do very little to them; just let them speak for themselves, and make the best of their natural flavours and textures.

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