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

Somerset Maugham

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Entries in onion (9)


The M&2V's Pickled Onions

The M&2V is great at handmade gifts. For my birthday, he carved a wooden block into my initials. When I moved in, he carved the first 3 characters of our postcode onto a new key ring. For Valentine’s Day, he made me a pair of earrings out of black perspex, which read ‘HOT LEFTY’ (we sit at opposite ends of the political spectrum). Usually perspex earrings are made using a laser to cut out the shapes or letters. He used a fine handsaw.

You might imagine I felt rather a lot of pressure when it came my turn to do presents. I am not particularly handy. I can’t draw or paint. I don’t even sew my own hems up – my limit is a button. But I can cook.

The M&2V loves pickled onions. He can easily eat an entire jar in one sitting – something I have asked him to refrain from doing now that we share a bed every night!

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La nonna Pettineo's ragu

For my 30th birthday my friend, Geraldine, sent me a care package from the USA, which included a handwritten recipe and photos of her nonna’s ragu. Like everyone with an Italian grandmother, she says hers makes the best. And like every Italian grandmother, hers doesn’t follow a recipe, so you have to watch her to learn it.

A few years ago, Geraldine and I got into a friendly debate about what constitutes the best ragu and what one should call it. (You can read about that here). I argued with her about it, but mostly for the sake of it. Actually, I was very keen to learn her nonna’s secrets.

When she next visited her, she watched her make it and wrote down all the details step-by-step. The recipe is written in Geraldine’s beautiful cursive handwriting and comes with lots of notes and tips:

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Heritage tomato salad

A few weeks ago we hosted a BBQ and moonlit cinema in Jenny’s magic garden*. It was magical.

My contribution to the feast was two salads, a fig and goats’ cheese salad and this heritage tomato salad. I was working on Borough market during the day and I couldn’t walk past this colourful and vibrant array of tomatoes: 

This salad is so simple it doesn’t really warrant a recipe. It is all about the tomatoes, with minimal interference from other extras. If you want to keep things really simple you could skip the Dijon and onion.

I used sherry vinegar, cause it is my current favourite, but I also like balsamic or red wine vinegar. What’s your favourite? Use that.

I recommend tossing the onions and tomatoes together half an hour before you dress the salad as it gives the tomatoes a great flavour.

It was a pity that it was dark by the time I served it because half the fun is seeing all the different shapes and colours. This photo doesn't really do it justice:

I made this salad for 12 people as a side. I have halved the quantity here, so this recipe should serve 4 as a starter or 6 as a side dish.


750g heritage tomatoes
½ small red onion
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
2 tbsp sherry vinegar, or to taste
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Handful basil, roughly chopped


Side salad

Chop or slice the tomatoes into whatever shape you fancy. Slice the onion into thin, half moons. Toss them together in a large bowl. Cover and leave for half an hour.

Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, Dijon, salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad, add the basil and toss together. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.


Slice the tomatoes into full circles. Arrange it on 4 plates in concentric circles. Slice the onion into thin, half moons and sprinkle the onions over the top. Cover with clingfilm and leave for half an hour.

Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, Dijon, salt and pepper in a bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the salads just before serving and sprinkle the basil over the top. 

* My flatmate Jenny does the gardening at our house. She makes it look so pretty and colourful, it’s enchanting. One of our friends,  Fran, crowned it the magic garden. He’d been zoning out in a deckchair for an hour or so when he finally came to and declared, “Jen, your garden’s like magic, innit!” It is.


Pear and ginger chutney

A few days before New Year’s Eve I took my friend Tina, a chef who is visiting London, on the obligatory foodie tour of Borough markets. This, of course, necessitated a visit to Neal’s Yard Dairy. I didn’t actually need any cheese but it is one of my favourite things to do and, if you are going to try everything in the store, you have to purchase something. So I decided to do some sort of cheese canapé as part of the New Year menu.

I started out with grand plans – a pear, Stichelton and walnut salad on chicory leaves – but I decided that a) chicory might be too bitter b) radicchio, my preferred alternative, would be too hard to find and c) it didn’t go with my other Asian themed canapés. I then thought I might try my hand at making oatcakes, which I’ve never done before, and make them really thin with a slice of Stichelton, a slice of crisp pear and a walnut on top. This would work well at the end of the meal, I thought, alongside the dessert canapé. In the end I couldn’t be bothered making oatcakes (I already had plenty to do) and I couldn’t find any ripe pears so I decided to make a chutney.

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Middle Eastern mezze no.7: Fattoush

For those of you who haven’t heard of this delicious salad, Wikipedia offers a detailed explanation:

Fattoush is a Levantine bread salad made from toasted or fried pieces of pita bread (khubz 'arabi) combined with mixed greens and other vegetables ... To make fattoush, cooks use seasonal produce, mixing different vegetables and herbs according to taste, while making use of pitas that have gone stale ... Sumac is usually used to give fattoush its sour taste.

As you can gather this is not an easy dish to write a recipe for since the only constant ingredient is bread, and even with that there is a choice, albeit an obvious one. Toasted stale bread versus crispy, crunchy, shards of golden goodness; you know which gets my vote. 

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