Monday, 28 September 2015

Food from Madrid

"Nothing could be better than the leg of a little lamb, roasted in a domed oven, with a salad of lettuce and some red wine" - Christopher Howse in the Spectator.

Sunday, 27 September 2015


There are some cooking implements which become venerable and my griddle pan is one. It came from a shop called Aladdin's Cave in Catford where I bought the contents of my kitchen. Besides the griddle, I found a red engine oil can which, for a while, served as an olive oil dispenser.

The griddle itself was square, made of cast iron, with a wooden handle. Now it is coated with the residue of many meals. Probably I have used it most often to make a Nigel Slater recipe: chicken thighs with balsamic vinegar and lemon juice.

4 fat chicken thighs, skin on
Olive oil
Sea salt
One lemon, juiced
About 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Rub the chicken thighs with olive oil and salt. Get the griddle pan really hot and slap the thighs on, skin side down, so they stick to the ridges of the griddle pan. Leave them to smoke and resist the temptation to keep turning them. After about five minutes, turn. The object is for them to be golden brown, particularly on the skin side. When they are cooked, pour over the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. There will be smoke, even, possibly, flames if the oil catches, followed by furious bubbling. Turn off the heat and the sauce will continue to reduce. Eat.

I once cooked this in a dressing gown which caught fire at the final stage. I live to tell the tale.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Cold pork

"William and John left for Yorkshire at half past two this afternoon, cold pork in their pockets." Thus opens Dorothy Wordsworth's Grasmere Journal, and it inspired me, many years ago, to make a point of carrying a cold pork product of some description on a walk of any distance: a Scotch Egg, a Kabanos, Italian salami... Possibly the only thing I haven't taken is the remains of a joint of pork which is, presumably, what William Wordsworth took with him that Sunday afternoon, leaving his sorrowful sister behind him.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Hunter's Pie (2012)

This was the first time I had ever attempted to make a cold raised pie and it involved considerable emotional investment.

In the end, I used about six chicken breasts, a poussin (which was a waste of time - scraps of meat), a guinea fowl, a pheasant, a partridge, bacon and sausage meat. There may have been a quail in there as well.

Cousin Pen helped me strip the carcasses of their meat. Mace, juniper berries and lemon zest.

Now it was time for the scary bit: the pastry. Mum's recipe said rather airily "Make a hot water short crust pastry" and I tried to think of what, precisely, I had seen her do. Inspiration came in the form of the book I suspected she took the method from: Jane Grigson's English food. Ridiculously easy it turned out. Flour, lard and hot water, mixed together then plastered round the bottom and edges of the pie tin. I had wondered whether there would be enough - but there was, just, though I had to make a little more to complete the lid. Sausage meat over the pastry. In went the meat, followed by the stock (Iberico ham bones and water - nothing else), with the lid on top, decorated with a cut out crocodile.

The result was reassuring. A Christmas Pie: deep and crisp and even.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Blyton breakfast

"Porridge and cream," said the woman. "And our own cured bacon and our own eggs. Our own honey and the bread I bake myself. Will that do? And coffee with cream?"

"I could hug you." said Julian, beaming at her.


A wonderful smell came creeping into the little dining-room, followed by the inn-woman carrying a large tray. On it was a steaming tureen of porridge, a bowl of golden syrup, a jug of very thick cream, and a dish of bacon and eggs, all piled high on crisp brown toast. Little mushrooms were on the same dish.

"It's like magic!" said Anne, staring. "Just the very things I longed for!"


"Toast, marmalade and butter to come, and the coffee and hot milk," said the woman, busily setting everything out. "And if you want any more bacon and eggs, just ring the bell."

"Too good to be true!" said Dick, looking at the table.