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

Somerset Maugham

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Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto with soft-boiled egg

Updated on Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 3:08PM by Registered CommenterVix

I am cooking a special dinner this weekend to say thank you to a friend of mine; I often say thank you with food. I have never cooked for Jane, but although she calls herself ‘Jane the hopeless cook’ I know that her worldly experience means that she certainly knows her food, even if she doesn’t like to cook it.

Under such circumstances, I always find myself fretting over what to cook, basically because I want to cook everything. I had so many different ideas this time that I went one step further than ever before, the geekiest a food geek could possibly be; I entered my starters, mains and desserts into 3 columns of an excel spreadsheet and sorted them into menus that went together, so that I could rule out options that didn’t fit. I cannot believe I am admitting this on a public website. Lucky I don’t have much traffic yet. Not so lucky, most of the visitors to the site know me. Oops!

Anyway, one of the dishes that I wanted to try was this, so I tested it out tonight to see if it worked. It does. In fact, it may even make the cut for Saturday.

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Angela Hartnett’s ricotta and spring vegetable salad

Updated on Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 5:02PM by Registered CommenterVix


My Dad was given a copy of Angela Hartnett’s Cucina: Three Generations of Italian Cooking by a good friend of ours. He was visiting from Australia and left it with me to lighten his load while he was travelling around. When he returned to Australia he forgot to reclaim it and what a happy accident that was. I love it!

One of my favourite of the recipes I have tried is her ricotta and spring vegetable salad. Apart from being quick and easy to make, it is wonderfully versatile. It works just as well as an accompaniment to meat in a main course, in particular lamb, or as a starter and ingredients can be substituted according to what you have in your fridge. Hartnett herself attests to this versatility:

In southern Italy they have firm, salted ricotta, which is grated over salads and pastas like parmesan, but I like the cool, soft ricotta in the salad against the crunch of the spring vegetables. You could also use goat’s cheese, and whatever vegetables are available.

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Rough puff pastry

Updated on Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 8:22PM by Registered CommenterVix

Calorie counters read this recipe with caution, it will almost certainly change your waistline.

I discovered rough puff pastry last year and it changed my life, well that part of it spent in the kitchen which is quite considerable. I had made puff pastry once before, but it was a lot of pain for a short lived gain and I never got round to doing it again. Then last year I was watching repeats of River Cottage Spring on more 4 when Hugh explained that the pastry he was using for a mushroom tart was a quick and easy version of puff pastry. Did I hear correctly? Could this be? It sounded too good to be true. I quickly Googled the term and sure enough there it was in black and white ...and blue ...and purple.

The highest ranked link was to Gordan Ramsay’s recipe on BBC good food, so that is the one I first tried, but I’m afraid to say it didn’t really work. This is because he is not specific enough about quite how ‘loosely’ the butter should be rubbed in and, in fact, I think ‘rubbed’ is perhaps a bad choice of words since it implies rather more force than is necessary. Ramsay does note that ‘you need to see bits of butter’, but it is not clear that these bits should be large chunks. So I ended up overworking the butter and didn’t get the layered effect; a somewhat fatal flaw in puff pastry.

After a moment’s doubt (maybe it was too good to be true after all) I did a search on You Tube to see if there were any demos and found this one by Kate Lamont. As I suspected, the problem was the butter. As Lamont demonstrates, the butter barely needs to be rubbed or worked at all. What you want is large chunks of butter held together by the paste made with the flour, water and lemon juice.

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Simple and delicious smoked mackerel pate

 I can’t believe I ever used to buy smoked mackerel pate from the supermarket when it is so damn quick and easy to make.

A few months ago, the boyfriend and I went on a rather uninspiring daytrip to Maldon. Why? That is a very reasonable question and one I put to him quite bluntly at the time:

“Why Maldon?

“I thought it would be nice to get out of London”

“But why Maldon, what is there to do or see in Maldon?”

“There’s a river and a quay, we could have a picnic.”

“There’s a pond and heath in Hampstead, we could walk there and save the drive.”

 “The sea salt you like comes from there.”

“I have some here.”

... and so forth.

Anyway, you know who won. The boyfriend knows that throwing food into the equation usually tips the balance in his favour, so he offered to buy me lunch. Had I known the choices I would be presented with upon arrival in Maldon, I would have stayed put. However, one good thing was to come of this lack of culinary choices. Mackerel.

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Firezza pizza al metro

Following  an unfortunate accident on Saturday, I was incapacitated in the cooking department last night, so the boyfriend offered to order a pizza delivery. We are fortunate enough to have a Firezza pizza about 5-10minutes walk from our house, which is about as good as it gets in the delivery department; the pizza, not the distance. The fact that it is only a short walk to collect the pizza might also be seen as fortuitous, but we are lazy and pay extra for the privilege of being so. In fairness though, the delivery does arrive piping hot having spent barely 2 minutes in transit.

Firezza deal in pizza al metro, or pizza by the metre, a name which is almost literal but for the fact that each pizza is actually only half a metre (which for logistical reasons is quite understandable) and different toppings are ordered by the quarter metre.

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