Italian Tartufo

photo 1It seems like many months ago now, but recently I travelled to the Umbrian countryside with a group of friends to enjoy the (mostly) hot sunshine, (consistently) fabulous food and (vast amounts of) Italian wine.

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We arrived in the tiny airport of Perugia and easily navigated our way to the town of Citta di Castello. Driving past fields of smiling yellow sunflowers, we quickly veered off the beaten track onto more rustic territory. After an almost vertical climb up a long mountain road, down a narrow, gravelly dirt track, our little Fiat Punto just about survived its journey to the beautiful villa, Casa Ramino.

Set atop the sprawling Italian countryside, the villa easily housed twelve of us with enough room for fun and games in the vast garden and swimming pool. Perhaps more importantly, the kitchen was large, welcoming and extremely well equipped with a breath-taking view of Umbria’s luscious green landscape.

Our evenings were spent around the generously sized kitchen table, sharing huge dishes of pasta or risottos, grilled meats, Italian cheeses, fresh bread and huge salads, washed down with a bottle or two of local Chianti or ice cold rosé.

For me, cooking for twelve is easier than cooking for two. Measurements are tossed aside in favour of bold sweeping combinations of flavours, spices and seasonings, all resonating through smells, tastes and textures rather than recipes, cups and measures. It is a chance to experiment with prominent side dishes, large platters of mozzarella, pesto and basil salad or sweet, soft and crunchy panzanella. Spicy, garlicky white bean mash or a rich and creamy truffle risotto. Cooking for a crowd can be a relaxing way to wind down to an evening aperitif, a moment of solace in a busy house, culminating in a shared feast fortified by great wine and company.

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(Excuse the wonky photo!)

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With our remote location, and preference for mid-day drinking, needless to say we rarely ventured too far from the villa by car. Nevertheless, one sunny lunch time we took it upon ourselves to try a little local restaurant in the tiny hilltop village of Monte Sante Maria Tiberina.

Up a windy cobbled path, Oscari’s affords spectacular views over the countryside whilst serving a small but delicious range of pastas, bruschetta and grilled meats, all influenced by the local speciality tartufo (truffle).

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We were confidently assured that the chicche (truffle ravioli) was the highlight of the menu and I can without doubt urge you to travel there and try it. A rich and creamy sauce, enveloping perfectly al dente pasta, moulded around an almost meaty, satisfyingly savoury, truffle filling. You would be hard pushed to find a more idyllic meal in a more idyllic setting.

We also tried truffle gnocchi, wild mushroom ragu, pan-fried veal, griddled lamb and truffled steak. All of which were faultless.

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Unfortunately, and with my apologies, the chicche is the only one you will see a picture of as we demolished dish after dish without hesitating for photographs.

After a wonderfully leisurely lunch, we walked off our over indulgence by exploring the little mountain village and all the views it had to offer us (walked off may be a slight exaggeration). Before heading back to the villa for a glass of rosé.

This holiday has certainly inspired me to dig out my pasta machine. Once my kitchen has changed location I hope to put my Italian inspiration to good use. Watch this space…!


The Very Best Fish and Chips

Seaside adventures are my new favourite pastime for a Spring weekend. Mine passed by in a haze of Cornish eating opportunities entwined with coastal walks and cozying round a log burning fire.

My first visit to Polzeath and the surrounding seaside villages certainly didn’t disappoint in terms of fabulous food; Cornish cream teas, pasties and ice creams, were all devoured with giddy excitement.

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The highlight of my weekend was a trip to Rick Stein’s Fish and Chip Restaurant in Padstow. I doubt there are enough superlatives to describe my meal there, suffice it to say (as clichéd as it is) that these were the best fish and chips that I have ever tasted. It wasn’t because we ate them in the salty sea air whilst enjoying the best of the British sunshine, in fact, we sat inside, on a cloudy day, with little pathetic fallacy to enhance the food. Yet, the batter here is like non other I had ever tasted; light and fluffy, dry and crisp, it encased the freshest white and flaky fish. Served alongside creamy tartare sauce, with just the right amount of bite, and real home-made mushy peas, this culminated in a meal that turned our rowdy crowd of 5 to muted silence whilst we demolished our paper boxes full of delectable goodies.

To rewind slightly, we started with some fantastic shellfish. Fat and juicy griddled scallops alongside perfectly pink prawns and sunshine yellow aioli. Washed down with Chalky’s own beer (that’s Rick Steins’ former doggie), or elderflower fizz for me, our starters quickly disappeared from their shells.

Griddled Scallops

Griddled Prawns Battered Haddock and Chips Grilled fish and chips Rick Stein'sLobster

We finished our lunch with a visit to the fishmongers and deli by the restaurant, leading to some very heavy shopping bags to carry home…



BBQ Asian Sticky Ribs

Sunshine and Sundays go hand in hand with barbeque food. By this, I’m not referring to charred sausages, tainted more by charcoal that BBQ sauce, or dry, singed beef burgers sandwiched between rolls which have long since curled around their edges, dried out in the midday sun. To me, the BBQ season invokes my love of experimenting with meat, fish and marinades. Although meat tends to take centre stage, and for good reason, I still find it exciting to create and produce interesting salads and vegetable dishes to serve alongside the main stars of the show. Specialities of mine, and I must admit, my “go to” BBQ sides, include; sourdough, lardon and roquefort salad (a feast in itself), roasted garlic new potatoes with crispy pancetta, chargrilled asparagus spears and spicy buttered corn on the cob.

This weekend however, I chose to give meat centre stage with my version of Asian style bbq ribs. Now, any of my friends will tell you just how obsessed with ribs I am, having once won an eating competition involving baby-back ribs and BBQ sauce. Usually I prefer a sweet and smoky, hicory style, bbq sauce, smothered over my slow cooked, meltingly tender and juicy ribs. Yet, this week, I wanted to experiment with a different style of marinade so turned to the Far East for inspiration.

The marinade and glaze for these ribs was something I threw together with a general notion of sweet, salty and sour notes, the holy trinity of Asian cookery. Rounded off with a hint of spice through fresh red chillis, these are a delectably moreish starter to any good BBQ. The ribs are slowly cooked in their marinade to gently coax the meat away from the bone. They are then lovingly turned and glazed over hot coals to create a sweet and sticky, finger licking glaze. The recipe below is by no means set in stone, please feel free to ad lib with the quantities and ingredients, substituting where sensible for ease of buying new ingredients.

Rice wine vinegar would be ideal in the marinade but unfortunately white wine vinegar was all I had to hand, likewise sweet chilli sauce in the glaze could be substituted for some extra honey and dried chilli flakes.



BBQ Asian Sticky Ribs
(Serves 2 to 3 as a starter)

For the marinade
c.500g pork ribs
2 red chillis, finely sliced (seeds and all)
2cm piece of ginger, roughly chopped (skin on)
2 garlic cloves, bashed with the back of a knife, (skin on)
2 tbsp Chinese 5 spice powder
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp tomato ketchup
3 tbsp soy sauce
Good pinch of salt and pepper

For The Glaze
2.5 tbsp honey
2.5 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

To Garnish
1 red chilli, finely sliced (seeds and all)
50g salted peanuts, crushed

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and massage into the ribs. Leave to marinade for at least an hour or up to 8 hours.

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line a roasting tin with foil and place the ribs in the tray, pour over all of the marinade (ginger, chillis and all), cover tightly with foil and cook for around two hours or until the meat is tender and is just starting to come away easily from the bone. Remove from the tin, discarding the marinade ingredients.

Asian BBQ Sticky Ribs

Whisk together the glaze ingredients and lightly brush over the cooked ribs. Place onto a bbq at a medium heat and brush again with the marinade. Turn after 5 minutes and brush with the marinade again. Turn after another 4-5 minutes and brush with the remaining marinade.



Asian BBQ Sticky Ribs


The ribs are ready when they are a deep and charred shade of sticky mahogany brown.




Serve sprinkled with the chillis and peanuts and dive in, napkins at the ready.





Anglo-Italian Porchetta

The past week or so has been a flurry of excessive birthday feasting, drinking and celebrating and, as such, has meant that my time for anything else, including blogging, has unfortunately been rather limited. To make up for it I am going to share with you an Anglo-Italian feast I prepared on Sunday night for the finale of my birthday celebrations. Inspired by many different foodie birthday gifts and a fabulously snazzy new camera from my better half I roasted up a stuffed porchetta, crispy crackling, gravy (of course) and crushed garlicky new potatoes. This twist on a Sunday roast provided much needed emotional and physical sustenance to rectify a weekend of over indulgence. It is one that should be enjoyed with close friends, anyone else will probably not appreciate the excessive use of garlic in the recipe….

Roast Porchetta with Mushroom and Thyme Stuffing served with Crushed New Potatoes

Anglo-Italian Porchetta with a Mushroom, Garlic and Thyme Stuffing 

1.5kg Pork Loin Roasting Joint (off the bone, skin on)
125g mixed mushrooms roughly chopped (any mixture will do, oyster, porcini, chanterelle, shiitake, chestnut etc.)
1.5 lemons, zest only
40g unsalted butter
1 small white bread roll (slightly stale)
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 tbsp fennel seeds
3 small carrots
2 sticks of celery
2 onions
8 cloves of garlic
500ml cider
250ml hot chicken stock
Coarse Salt and Pepper

Usually porchetta would be made from boneless pork loin with the belly still attached to create a handy pocket for the stuffing. Unfortunately regular pork loin joints were all I could get my hands on so I used two pork loin joints to make up the 1.5kg weight. Firstly score the skin (making sure not to cut through to the meat) with a Stanley knife – regular knives are rarely sharp enough for this. This will help to crisp up the crackling later. To create room for the stuffing I butterflied the meat by cutting into the loin to open it out like the page of a book.

Butterflied Pork LoinButterflied Pork Loin Butterflied Pork LoinPork Loin with Mushroom Stuffing

To make the stuffing, sauté the mushrooms on a medium to high heat in a little olive oil. Add three crushed cloves of garlic, the butter and around one tablespoon of thyme leaves, torn from the stem. Turn the heat down to medium and fry for around 7 minutes. Grate in the zest of one and a half lemons and season with a little salt and plenty of black pepper. Leave to cool. Meanwhile blitz your bread into breadcrumbs in a food processor. If, like me, your bread isn’t stale, tear it in half and place in a low oven for around 5 – 10 minutes to dry out. Once the mushrooms have cooled, stir in the bread crumbs. Preheat the oven to its highest possible temperature. Pack as much stuffing as you can into your butterflied pork and tightly roll back into a roasting joint. Tie up with string. Rolled and Stuffed Porchetta In a roasting tray place your roughly chopped, unpeeled vegetables to make a trivet for the meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a few sprigs of thyme. Drizzle with olive oil and place the meat on top.

  Onions, carrot, celeryPorchettaLightly crush the fennel seeds with 2 teaspoons of course salt and rub into the pork skin. Scatter the tray with the remaining garlic cloves, unpeeled.

Place into your preheated oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 180°C. After 45 minutes, remove from the oven and pour 250ml of cider into the tin (not on to the pork). Place back in the oven for another 45 minutes.
Roasted PorchettaOnce cooked, remove from the oven. Your pork will be done but the crackling will need a final blast. Remove the string and carefully cut away the crackling. Place on a baking tray and back into the oven at 220°C for 20 minutes whilst your pork rests under some foil.
Meanwhile make the gravy. Put the roasting tray on a low heat, hold at an angle so the liquid falls into one corner and whisk 2 tablespoons of flour into the juices. Next pour in the remaining cider and turn up the heat. Stir vigorously to release all the flavourful bits stuck to the bottom of the tray. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Strain, taste and season.
After the pork has rested, cut into 1cm slices and serve with the crispy crackling and gravy. To make the crushed new potatoes, simply boil Jersey Royal new potatoes in salted water until cooked. Lightly crush with two generous knobs of butter, 2 minced garlic cloves, a handful of thyme leaves and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as appropriate.
Roast Pork Loin with Mushroom Stuffing
Roast Pork Loin with Mushroom Stuffing
Porchetta with Wild Mushrooms, Crushed New Potatoes and Cabbage


Kitchen Garden Experts

This week I was kindly sent a new cookery book to review; Kitchen Garden Experts, Twenty Celebrated Chefs and Their Head Gardeners by Cinead McTernan


Kitchen Garden Experts, Twenty Celebrated Chefs and Their Head Gardeners. Photography by Jason Ingram

As a keen cook, learning about how and where fruit and vegetables are grown comes hand in hand with developing recipes in the kitchen. However my gardenless home and lack of green fingered expertise mean I would probably not have picked up this cookery book had I been on my usual hunt to expand my collection. I am very glad though that it was brought to my attention. Not only are the photographs an absolute delight, but the writing is addictively insightful. From Raymond Blanc’s foreword, to the kitchen garden “secrets” in each chapter, this book leaves me wanting to share new garden tips with all my green fingered friends.

Each chapter is dedicated to a different restaurant and its Head Gardener and Chef, reviewing fruits and vegetables in equal detail . From cucumbers at L’Enclume, Cumbria, and courgettes at The Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire, to peas at the River Cottage, Devon and plums at Skye Gyngell, Hampshire.

In all honesty, even for an experienced cook I found that a lot of the recipes were not relatable or achievable. However, that isn’t necessarily the aim of this book. These recipes are from the restaurants visited in each chapter so fundamentally come with layers and processes of advanced, time-consuming cookery. Yet they are beautiful to look at and provide proof of what can be achieved with great skill, care, time and passion.

That said, there are definitely some that I will be adding to my repertoire;


Photograph by Jason Ingram

Two-Way Runner Beans from the Monachyle Mhor Hotel, Perthshire


Photograph by Jason Ingram

Charcoal-Cooked Lamb Rack with Savoury Potatoes from Jekka McVicar and The Company Of Cooks, Gloucestershire.


And others which I can only bask in the glorious photographs of;


Photograph by Jason Ingram

Poached Rhubarb with Buttermilk Pudding, Honeycomb and Ginger Wine from The Grove, Pembrokeshire.


Photograph by Jason Ingram

Assiette Anne-Marie from Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire.

In essence, I would vociferously recommend this book for any keen gardeners out there, foodie or not. This book will provide a story of the seasons through the windows of some of the most well-respected restaurant gardens in Britain. In turn inviting you to make the most of what you grow in the kitchen, inspiring beautiful and tasty meals that celebrate the best of home-grown produce.

Kitchen Garden Experts is out on 1st May 2014, published by Francis Lincoln  The Kitchen Sanctuary readers can order the book at the discounted price of £16.00 including postage and packaging* (RRP £20). Telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote APG130.

Happy reading!

*UK only, please add £2.50 if ordering from abroad

London Lately

I must admit that I’ve been quite mischievous in not sharing with you all of the fabulous eating experiences I’ve had in London lately. Mostly because I am too wrapped up in the eating to take photos and partly because time seems to have flown by without a second to stop and write about it.

Excuses aside, I’d love to share my food adventures from a few weeks ago with you when a friend from home (up north) came down for a long overdue visit. Blessed with glorious sunshine I took her straight to the South Bank Real Food Market on Saturday afternoon, somewhere I haven’t been for years and which I probably overlook due to my aversion to busy places at the weekend. Crowds aside, we were greeted by a fantastic array of colours and aromas, every stall offering something completely different. After several laps to ensure we were making a well informed decision we chose our lunch. A glass of chilled prosecco from Grays and Feather and a hot,spicy chicken tikka naan wrap from The Indians Next Doorphoto 4photo 1 photo 3Finding a tiny little spot of free space we perched on the popular staircase in the spring sunshine to dive in to our naan wraps. The chicken was incredibly well cooked, juicy yet charred with a healthy level of spice, cooled with a yoghurt raita and simple salad, all encased in the freshly baked naan bread. A recipe we both decided we would be recreating at home.

We then wandered in and around the stalls, marvelling at the beautiful displays of produce on offer whilst I dilly dallied taking photos:

photo 3photo 5photo 4photo 2Deciding on one purchase from the market, we headed straight back to Cocoa Hernando to gobble up yet more samples of their new chocolate Herb and Spice Collection. With my friend deciding on “Mexico” (dark chocolate and chipotle chilli) and me firmly settled on “Himalaya” (milk chocolate with pink diamond salt) we set off along the river to walk off our lunch.

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That evening we had tickets to the new show Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (well worth a trip) at the Savoy Theatre. I chose Covent Garden as the handiest area for dinner and used my friend’s imminent birthday as an excuse to take her to Opera Tavern to celebrate with copious amounts of pink prosecco. The Prosecco Rosato, Beato Bartolomeo was absolutely delicious accompanying the plethora of tapas dishes we ordered. Unfortunately for you, this was one of those occasions where I was too excited by the food and polished off most of the dishes too quickly before realising I hadn’t taken any photos. My favourite dish by far was the confit of Old Spot pork belly with rosemary scented cannellini beans, needless to say there are no photos of that particular dish… Second favourite were the deconstructed “patatas bravas”, crispy chunky chips with a sumptuous tomato sauce and homemade aioli (blurry photo below).

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Dessert included more prosecco and a delicious rhubarb, marscapone and salted shortbread eton mess.

The next day, still in search of more new eating experiences, we ventured to Shoreditch to experience Dishoom. If you have never been, I implore you to visit. The restaurant is themed around the old style cafes of Bombay, opened by Persian immigrants and frequented by all walks of life. The details of the restaurant fit out are impressive from the dark wood furniture to the old fashioned books on the walls. The decor is entirely welcoming and invites you to leisurely while away the hours with a paper and a chai latte.

The brunch menu is so different to anything I’ve seen before that it took us the length of one pot of tea to decide what to 1photo 5

In the end, each of us decided on a bacon naan, with chilli tomato jam and cream cheese, as well as the butter, honey granola and Keralan vanilla yoghurt. Both were exceptional. Well worth a visit!

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Seasonal Savvy – Slow Roasted Shoulder of Lamb

I must confess that I am not entirely convinced by those who wax lyrical about their obsession with “seasonality” or “local produce”. Any good cook already worth their salt will be au fait with these topics in the kitchen, drawing on a wealth of experience in eating, cooking and buying food over the course of any year. I hold an apprehension that those who are overly vociferous in declaring their enthusiasm for eating “seasonally” and “locally” are likely lacking in knowledge elsewhere and seeking to make amends for it.

My cynicism aside, I think it’s important that all of us understand the basics of seasonal eating. Aside from helping you to understand where your food has come from it also ensures that you are getting the best quality and value for your money when you shop. Astringently red strawberries in January, shipped from the far corners of the globe, will never taste as good as the darker hued berries grown in Britain and picked during our summer months. In January your money would be more wisely spent on Seville oranges to make marmalade or pomegranates and blood oranges for an exotic fruit salad.

I think an enhanced awareness of the seasons in the kitchen would be a welcome addition to the currently limited food science (or home economics) curriculum taught in our schools. Without well-rounded and informative food education I struggle to see how younger generations will learn to sustain a healthy and balanced diet on whatever budget they grow up to face; something Jamie Oliver is keen to address with his global Food Revolution Days.

An effortless introduction to seasonal eating lies in the food and meals we associate with holidays and festivities throughout the calendar year; pumpkins and squashes for Halloween; chestnuts, cranberries and clementines at Christmas or lamb and new potatoes for Easter and Spring. Our traditional annual celebrations are peppered with seasonal produce and are a great starting point for seasonal education. April is abundant with lamb, rhubarb, watercress and Jersey Royal new potatoes to name a just few. Whilst May will bring asparagus, gooseberries, radishes and sardines.

I am, by no means, evangelical regarding seasonality, finding it both limiting and daunting to live a life tied inextricably to the seasons. I am as culpable as the next person for a reliance on our year round access to limitless fresh fruit, meat and vegetables from across the globe. Yet, what I am advocating, is a mindfulness towards better food education and embracing great seasonal food at its peak where possible (and feasible).

With that in mind, and Easter already round the corner, I used a dinner party feast as an excuse to test out a lamb recipe I’ve been salivating over for far too long. I was introduced to this way of cooking lamb by a friend last year and it has stuck with my ever since. A shoulder joint is massaged with a spiced garlic and rosemary rub and roasted on a low heat for seven hours until the meat falls effortlessly from the bone, creating the most tender tangle of sweet lamb.

Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Recipe 

Slow Roasted Shoulder of Lamb
Serves 4 – 6

photo 32 kg shoulder of lamb (bone in)
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
½ cinnamon stick, broken up
1 ½ tsp black peppercorns
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp paprika
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Leaves from 2 large rosemary sprigs, finely chopped
2 tsp sea salt
3 tsp olive oil
1 pomegranate, halved and deseeded
Handful of chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Toast the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds along with the cinnamon and peppercorns in a dry pan over a moderate heat for around a minute or until fragrant. Pound to a coarse powder using a pestle and mortar, then stir in the cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic, rosemary, salt and olive oil.

photo 4Lightly score the skin of the meat with a sharp knife (I had my butcher do this for me due to a lack of sharp knives), making shallow cuts just a few millimetres deep and a couple of centimetres apart. Rub half the spice mix all over the lamb, taking care to push it into the cuts and rub it underneath the joint too. Place in a large roasting tin and into the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove the meat from the oven and rub the remaining spice paste over the meat. Using the back of a spoon is a useful way to smear effectively. Pour a glass of water into the tin, taking care not to pour it over the meat. Cover with two layers of foil and return to the oven. Reduce the heat to 120°C and cook for 6.5 hours.

Transfer the lamb to a wooden board and roughly shred using two forks. Skim the excess fat off the juices in the tin and pour these juices over the meat. Scatter with a little chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds – I find the best way is to hold each half, cut side down, in the palm of your hand and give it a good thwack with a wooden spoon. Enjoy with salad and new potatoes, or Gigantes Plaki like we did. photo 1

Comfort In Food

Having just returned from an outrageously fun week of skiing, Monday started with a heavier sense of sombreness than usual. To overcome these post holiday blues I turned to the magnanimous Mary Berry and created a comforting dinner to assuage the cloud of despondency hanging over me. Watching cookery programmes has always been an obsessive idiosyncrasy for me, I think there is something inherently reassuring about being guided through a dish, calmly, from start to finish. Mary Berry, the epitome of kitchen serenity, soothed away my post holiday gloom and inspired me to have a go at a retro classic; Salmon En Croute for a restorative Monday night dinner.

Salmon fillets are brushed with sun-dried tomato pesto, topped with thyme roasted vegetables and encased in crisp, buttery puff pastry. Served with a fairly indulgent, creamy red pesto and basil sauce alongside a green salad, this dish is like a warm, cosy hug on a melancholic Monday evening

Adapted from Mary’s recipe to feed two very hungry people.

Salmon en Croute with Red Pesto and Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Vegetables

1 Red Onion
1 Courgette
1 Red Pepper
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme
Salt and Pepper

Salmon en Croute

2 Salmon Fillets (skinless and boneless)
1 Packet of All Butter Puff Pastry
2 Tbsp of Red Pesto
1 Egg (beaten)

Pesto Sauce

250ml Double Cream
Large Handful of Chopped Basil
Juice of Half a Lemon
1.5 Tbsp Red Pesto

Green Salad

1 Small Bag of Mixed Green Leaves
4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tsp Caster sugar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Chop the courgette into roughly 1.5cm cubes and the peeled red onion into wedges. In a small roasting tray toss in the olive oil and thyme then season. Cut the red pepper in half and de-seed. Place this cut side down on top of the courgette and onion and roast for 20 – 25 minutes until the vegetables are golden and the pepper slightly charred. Leave to cool completely then peel the skin away from the pepper and slice into bitesize pieces.

photo 5Roasted Vegetables

Place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up. Halve the puff pastry and roll into two rectangles, one slightly larger than the other around 4mm thick. Place one rectangle onto a large sheet of baking paper and lay the salmon fillets on top of the pastry, leaving a gap of around 5cm between them. Top each with a tablespoon of pesto and the roasted vegetables. Lay the second sheet of pastry on top and carefully seal around the edges so you have two parcels, Cut the rectangle in half and crimp the edges around each fillet. Brush with beaten egg and bake for 25 minutes.

To make the salad dressing, place all of the ingredients in a jar and shake until combined. Taste and adjust quantities to your preference.

Once cooked, remove the salmon from the oven and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes whilst you make the sauce. Gently heat the cream and stir in the lemon juice and pesto. When the sauce is heated through, remove from the heat and add the basil. Serve immediately with the dressed green salad (spare dressing will keep in the jar, refrigerated for up to 2 weeks).

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Butchery at The Ginger Pig

To follow on from my slightly evangelical musings over the quality of shop bought meat a few blog posts ago, I thought it would be fitting to let you in on my experience of a Ginger Pig butchery class, all about beef.

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I was looking forward to a hands on approach to learning whilst diversifying my knowledge of the different cuts of meat, cooking possibilities and differences in taste, and I was not left disappointed. The two Ginger Pig butchers charged with expanding our awareness and familiarity with beef were charismatic, extremely knowledgeable and incredibly down to earth. Once we had all donned our butchers’ coats we were greeted by an impressive table of beef, ready to start our lesson.

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Our evening began with an over view of the different ageing processes; wet and dry. As I touched on in a previous post, supermarkets and many chain stores will use a “wet” ageing process to increase profit margins at the expense of quality and flavour. In the wet ageing process meat is cut and vacuum packed before being “aged”. This means that no weight is lost, ensuring that profits are not affected by the ageing process. However, in this vacuum no moisture can escape and no bacteria can breed around the outside of the meat, leading to no enriching of flavour or tenderness. By “dry” ageing beef, The Ginger Pig (like most good butchers) will lose some of the meat to bacteria and evaporation, yet this leaves you with much more tender and flavourful beef. We were shown two dry aged fillets (made up of the Wellington, Chateaubriand and mignon, or tail), one at around 30 days aged and another at around 70 days. The differences were striking and the amount of waste from the older fillet had drastically increased. We learnt that the longer the beef is aged the more gamey the flavour, the raw meat has an almost cured like smell and tasted heavenly simply seared in a piping hot pan and generously seasoned.

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After our little starter of fillet steak we were then shown an enormous side of a cow. Weighing in at a hefty 40kg we were then challenged to lift it for 10 seconds, which my friend and I happily accomplished.

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The knowledgeable butcher talked to us in detail about each section of the cow; the forerib to rib-eye to sirloin and rump. Excitingly I was given an opportunity to use a saw to cut through the bone and then slice down the sirloin with the sharpest knife I have ever touched. For safety reasons we were given metal armour gloves for our none knife hands, which we all gladly wore.

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After our demonstration we were then each given a rib of beef to “chine” and French trim. Chining is the process of cutting through the fat and back bone to release the “paddywack”, a gelatinous type tendon which should be removed before cooking. French trimming involves cutting the meat away from the protruding bones and scraping off any sinew or smaller bits of meat. This not only creates a beautiful presentation but ensures that no burnt bits of meat are stuck to the bones during the roasting process. Our off cuts were saved to make beef stock and gravy and our joints tied up using the complicated butchers’ knots, for which I enlisted the help of our kind teacher…

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We ended up with a fantastic array of the different cuts from the saddle. The amount of meat from just half of one cow is astounding and we hadn’t even touched on shin, leg, cheek, tail etc..

We then sat down to a magnificent roast rib of beef accompanied by a delicious garlic potato dauphinoise and copious amounts of red wine. All followed by a huge chocolate bread and butter pudding.

I left the evening, laden with my extravagant cut of beef and richer in the knowledge of my ameliorated butchery skills and beef know-how. I would recommend this evening to any meat lover as a fantastic learning and eating experience. I will most certainly be attending their Pig and Lamb classes.

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Pancake Day

Happy belated Pancake Day!

Although I would not classify myself as religious, I will enthusiastically use any excuse to celebrate a day with food. Fond memories take me back to crispy edged crêpes sprinkled with crunchy white sugar and doused with lemon juice after school. Eaten straight from the hob whilst we waited for the next swirl of batter to hit the pan.

Although I still enjoy a thin pancake with a simple lemon and sugar topping, now I am in charge of my own pancake day I like to rebel and explore the endless possibilities of a gloriously thick pancake batter. Tuesday night’s festivities centred around warm gingerbread pancakes, stacked high with golden, crispy bacon and drizzled with copious amounts of maple syrup. The dish was a comfortingly spiced, sweet and salty homage to Shrove Tuesday. Thanks must go to my friends for hosting me in their kitchen and plying me with numerous G&Ts, red wine and great company.

As my friend is slightly lactose intolerant we used lactose free milk but normal milk would of course be fine. We also toyed with the idea of using almond milk and cutting out the sugar which I’m sure would work equally well.


Gingerbread Pancakes with Streaky Bacon and Maple Syrup

Adapted from Lorraine Pascale’s recipe


225g self-raising flour
2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
1 tsp baking power
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp table salt
½ lemon, zest finely grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
300ml  lactose free milk
1 large egg
Sunflower Oil to grease your pan
12 slices of smoked streaky bacon

To serve

As much maple syrup as you can handle.

Preheat the oven to 100°C (to keep your pancakes warm). Line a tray with foil and lay out your bacon. Turn the grill on to a medium heat.

In a bowl, mix together all of your dry ingredients. Slowly pour in the milk and whisk to form a smooth, thick batter. Whisk in the egg and turn your frying pan on to a medium heat.

Place your bacon under the grill, turning after 5 minutes.



Wipe your frying pan with a teaspoon of oil on some kitchen paper. Using a ladle, slowly pour tablespoons of the batter into your pancake pan. The pancakes are ready to turn once little bubbles have appeared all over the surface.



Continue to cook your pancakes in batches of three (or whatever best fits your pan). Keeping them warm in your low oven.

Keep an eye on your bacon, it should be golden and completely crisp after around 10 minutes.

Once you have used up all of the batter, pile the pancakes onto plates and delicately top with a stack of streaky bacon. Pour generously with maple syrup and indulge.