Saturday, 19 August 2017

Lunch at HMP Holloway

From David Ramsbotham's Prisongate: "Our first stop was the kitchen, where the self-confident catering manager, his white, aertex, trilby hat stuck at a jaunty angle, asked me whether I would like to taste lunch. When I said yes, a generous plate of hot and appetising chicken, covered with gravy and accompanied by roast potatoes and vegetables, was produced. He then asked if I would like to taste the vegetarian alternative, an equally acceptable nut cutlet. The inspection team told me later that the prisoners they saw had lukewarm and unappetising stew."


I recall from when I was young a rhyme that began "Have you ever seen a fly with an eyeglass in its eye?" and which included the line "a plate of kedgeree". I have been unable to find the poem in question but kedgeree goes back a long way in my childhood. It was what we would usually eat for supper on Christmas Eve before the ritual of hanging our stockings. For a few years, after my mother had made a trip to America, the kedgeree was replaced with chowder, until my father realised that the cost of the fish involved was more than the cost of the turkey or the goose the next day: and this was supposed to be an abstemious meal ahead of the gluttony!

Kedgeree can be disappointing. I have had it, stodgy and lukewarm, help yourself from a metal serving dish, at one of those Midnight Breakfasts at an all-night Ball.

That stalwart, Elizabeth David, has a splendid recipe in one of her books, Spices, Salts and Aromatics in the English Kitchen. She calls it "Quick Kedgeree" and, unusually for her, is relatively relaxed about what goes into it. "You can apply the same system", she says, "to prawns, mussels, vegetables, chicken, meat". She has one proviso: "Good-quality rice, either long-grained Basmati or the hard round-grained Italian variety is essential. Soft pudding rice will turn to just that - pudding."


Ingredients are 3 smoked haddock fillets, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 medium onion, 4 heaped tablespoons of rice, a scant teaspoon of curry powder, 2 tablespoons of sultanas or currants, seasoning, 2 hard-boiled eggs, parsley, water; a lemon and chutney.


First pour boiling water over the haddock fillets. Leave them two or three minutes, drain them, peel off the skin and divide the fish into manageable pieces.

Heat the oil in a heavy 10 inch frying or sauté pan. In this fry the sliced onion until pale yellow. Stir in the curry powder. Add the rice (don't wash it). Stir all round together. Add the washed sultanas or currants. Pour in 1 pint of water. Cook steadily, not at a gallop, and uncovered, for 10 minutes. Put in thee haddock. Continue cooking until the liquid is all absorbed and the rice tender - approximately 10 minutes. But keep an eye o it to see it doesn't stick, and stir with a fork, not a spoon which breaks the rice. Taste for seasoning. Salt may or may not be required. Turn on to a hot serving dish. On the top strew the chopped eggs and parsley - and, if you like, a nice big lump of butter. Surround with lemon quarters and serve with mango chutney.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Roast lamb with flagelets and anchovies


Half a shoulder of lamb (about 750 g)
A tin of flageolets (drained)
A tin of anchovies (drained)
A clove of garlic (chopped into pointy chips)
A scattering of dried rosemary
Olive oil

Smear the lamb with olive oil. Then spread the anchovy fillets evenly, top and bottom. Spear the lamb with the point of a knife and insert the garlic chips. Scatter the rosemary on top. Roast for about twenty minutes at about 220 degrees. Then put the tin of flageolets around, but not on top of, the lamb. Cook for another twenty minutes. Eat.

Sunday, 1 January 2017


Guacamole in a tub is not worth eating. Pesto in a jar is not worth eating. Foie gras in a tin is not worth eating.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Table mats

My brother William has long had a naughty streak. On one occasion, aged six, he was caught by my mother in the school playground throwing a little girl's mittens into a muddy puddle and then stamping on them while giggling furiously.

But he was a teenager when staying with my aunt CeCe and several cousins. CeCe had straw table mats and Will insisted that they would be infested with weevils. To prove his point, he picked one up and tapped it on the table - tap, tap, tap - and all around it gazed as tiny white creatures began to crawl slowly around. CeCe became mock-furious with her nephew and for ever after, the words "Tap, tap, tap" have been used to tease her.

Saturday, 12 March 2016


One of Joan Aiken's short stories has a character called Gloria who is a lobster. Delightfully, we are told that for her lunch she has mayonnaise.

The first time I ate lobster was on my first night in Portugal in a restaurant a short walk from the house where I was staying with my uncle and aunt and cousin Tom.  We were able to select our lobsters from a tank. They arrived grilled and buttered. I shared one with Tom, who elected to divide it horizontally rather than vertically so he had the claws and I had the tail. This suited me extremely well.

Another memorable lobster supper was in a restaurant called "Lobster and burger". The menu was limited to a choice of - lobster and burger. I chose the lobster roll: sweet-tasting lobster in a soft white roll. Delicious.

Roald Dahl writes entertainingly about lobster in "My Uncle Oswald". This is what he says: "by the way, don’t you love it when you are able to draw the flesh of the claw out of the shell whole and pinky-red in one piece? There is some kind of tiny personal triumph in that. I may be childish, but I experience a similar triumph when I succeed in getting a walnut out of its shell without breaking it in two. As a matter of fact, I never approach a walnut without this particular ambition in mind. Life is more fun if you play games."

Sausage rolls

Sausage rolls can be a delight or not worth eating. As a general rule, the smaller they are, the better. I tend to like the artisan ones with roughly cast pastry.