Kale Pesto, Basil is so last season!


Kale pesto is a bit of a New Thing. Kale as you will all know is very of the minute: kale smoothies, kale chips, kale this, kale that and now kale pesto.
Being hungry, having just the right ingredients in the fridge and not wanting to buy anything as I’m off on holiday soon I though I would give it a try.
Naturally, living in Islington, I didn’t just use any kale but Cavalo Nero adding to that fresh Parmesan, extra virgin oil, toasted pine nuts, French garlic, Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black Nero di Sarawak pepper, as I said, just a few bits and pieces from the average North London store cupboard
I served the pesto over high end Italian egg pasta and it was delicious. The “word on the street” or actually Twitter, was right, kale pesto is the new black and basil is so last season…….
But, and to my mind this is a big but, I’m not sure the kale features in the finished sauce at all, apart from adding a distinct chlorophyll hit. It’s good, tasty and quick to make and if you don’t count the cost of the other ingredients inexpensive so make a batch of kale pesto and you’ll be very on trend!

Kale Pesto
  • 75gm pine nuts
  • 75gm parmesan, grated
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 100gm kale
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 50 ml ground nut oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sea salt
  1. Lightly toast the pine nuts until a pale brown.
  2. Cut the thick stems from the kale and chop roughly.
  3. Put the nuts, cheese, garlic and kale into a food processor and whiz until finely chopped.
  4. Now, with the motor running drizzle in the oil a and then add the lemon juice.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve a good tablespoon of sauce on each portion of freshly boiled tagliatelle saving a couple of spoonfuls of the cooking water to help with the emulsion



More Friands , Chocolate this time!

Chocolate Friands

Chocolate Friands

I posted a recipe for friands just before Christmas and have been experimenting with more varieties. I’d never heard of a friand till last year: Financiers, Cup Cakes, Whoopie Pies yes but Friands? As ever when I hear of something new I was intrigued. Intrigued enough to search Paris for exactly the right mould in which to cook them, my research telling me they should be oval in shape. I was obsessed, making my poor husband and the friends we were staying with tramp though damp streets. Even the legendary Dehillerin only had round moulds, two other cookware shops looked at me strangely and I was just about to think of lunch, actually I’m always just about to think of lunch, tea or supper, when I came across Mora 13 Rue Monmartre 75001 Paris. It would seem that Mora is a place of pilgrimage for pastry chefs throughout the world and I can see why. It’s quite wonderful, more modern than Dehillerin and so easier to search, it is definitely on my list of places to spend time in when I’m next in Paris.
Once I had the moulds I immediately forgot about making these cakes, life taking over as it often does, but having made them in the pre-Christmas melee and been successful I began to see why they might be so popular. The batter is wonderfully simple to put together and behaves in such a good tempered way, letting you bake the cakes in batches without any loss of quality.
I used my Kitchen Aid mixer to whisk the egg whites but a hand held electric mixer would work as well. I also always use salted butter preferring the depth of flavour that touch of salt gives to sweet dishes. The choice of chocolate is important too: there is no point is making anything with poor quality ingredients so chose a high cocoa content at least 70%.
You can buy egg whites quite easily now so there is no longer a problem of having 10 or 12 egg yolks left over. Friands keep well in an airtight box and freeze beautifully.
I served mine with raspberry coulis and whipped cream . Clotted cream, especially Rodda’s would be sublime!

More Friands , Chocolate this time!
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 8
  • 300 gm egg white
  • 350 gm icing sugar
  • 300 gm butter
  • 80 gm dark chocolate 80%
  • 200 gm ground almonds
  • 50 gm cocoa
  • 40 gm plain flour
  1. Melt the butter and chocolate together and allow to cool a little.
  2. Prepare your friend moulds, lightly greasing if necessary.
  3. Make sure you bowl and whisk are grease free.
  4. Begin by whisking your egg whites to a soft peak, the foam should be very white but not dry.
  5. Now sift over the icing sugar, cocoa and flour.
  6. Pour on the butter and chocolate mixture.
  7. Using a spatula or metal spoon fold the ingredients together
  8. spoon into prepared moulds
  9. Cook for 15- 20 minutes
  10. Cool on a rack
  11. Serve with cream and raspberry coulis


A sleepover, a Christmas break, a special treat- call it what you will


Christmas 2013 was packed with incident from the moment I flew to Seattle to stay with and then bring home for the holidays my grandchildren and my daughter.
About 5 years ago I moved from Suffolk back to my beloved Islington. Both my daughters lived a short bus ride away so a smaller house seemed ideal. Well positioned and close to busses, restaurants, shops and the canal I have loved if from the first. A compact house that provides us with lots of entertaining space but few bedrooms. My husband’s dressing room serves as a guest bedroom on the occasions when friends stay and until Microsoft whispered siren words in my son-in-law’s ears all was well.
For the two weeks over Christmas and New Year we were rather stuffed in, with my granddaughter sleeping in our room and my very noisy grandson sleeping with his parents next door. Bathroom chaos ensued each morning and the laundry needs of two under fours turned my kitchen into a drying room.
I was quite desperate for that simplest of things, a good night’s sleep and so I decided to book Bob and I into a hotel for the night. I chose South Place Hotel for it’s location, only a mile down the road, and it’s pedigree, belonging as it does to the excellent D andD stable.
Turns out my choice was inspired South Place is a delight. Tucked just between Moorgate and Liverpool Street stations, it is the first hotel opened by this group and I think they have made a very good start.
We had, on request, a wonderfully quiet room that faced the courtyard complete with the regulation huge bed, crisp cotton sheets, bath the size of the Ritz, double shower, Bang and Olufsen television and sound system, electronic blinds, bath products the whole Shebang, but it was the care that was taken of us by the staff that made this the most wonderful break.
From the moment we arrived I felt cherished, Check in was simple and efficient, room service arrived promptly, our meal served with just sufficient fuss and when I was going to bed, unfashionably early for a Boxing Day evening I asked at reception if the kitchen could find me some lemon and honey to soothe my cough. Within minutes the beautiful tray pictured below arrived in my room with the exhortation that if I needed any replenishment during the night I must pick up the phone.

My cough didn't stand a change

My cough didn’t stand a change

The food was lovely: We ate downstairs in the grill room, the landmark Angler restaurant being closed, but after the previous days excesses a lobster roll just hit the spot for me.  Breakfast was delicious what more need I say then Arbroath Smokies and doughnuts?
I was telling a friend about my stay and she wisely opined that it sounded as if we’d been away on a mini break. Indeed we had had a mini break, a mile down the road where travel consisted of waiting for the 43 bus. No Gatwick airport horror for us and this year especially that was bliss indeed.

South Place Hotel
3 South Place London EC2M 2AF
020 3503 0000


Baking Christmas friands with my daughter in Seattle


20131213-180346.jpgMany of you will know that my daughter and her family moved to Seattle in May of this year. It’s been a tricky time for them: moving with a small child and a two month old baby is not easy, moving to a place where you know noone adds another layer of difficulty.

Six months on, and after some trying times things are looking up. I’m on my second visit and will be flying home with most of the family for Christmas in London. Before we leave though I was keen Jade showed me how to make friands.
Having worked full time in London Jade had had little time for adventurous cooking but once the baby, Gabriel , began sleeping better Jade embraced baking with a passion, friands being her speciality.
Friands are small cakes made with egg white and almonds I believe they are French in origin and can be very simply flavoured or have a variety of ingredient added. Jade has been experimenting with different recipes and is proving herself to be her mother’s daughter by inventing her own variations. She stared with lemon friands with raspberries moved on to baked pumpkin friands for Halloweeen and today we made spiced apple friands stuffed with mincemeat and some chocolate ones packed with chocolate chips and frosted with white chocolate ganache and peppermint snow.
I was impressed by how good tempered the mix is, no folding in ingredients, no worries if you need to bake the cakes sequentially. To make life easier I’ve used a carton of egg whites but if you are making egg nog this Christmas you’ll have plenty of leftover whites.
Spiced apple friands with mincemeat

225 gms egg whites
175 gms ground almonds
250 gms icing sugar
125 gms very soft butter I prefer salted
100 gms plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
Grated zest of an orange
50 gms apple purée
Begun by whisking the egg whites to soft peaks. The fold all the remaining ingredients bar the mincemeat. There seems to be no need to be too careful just mix everything in well. Spoon the mixture into well oiled friands tins or muffin tins filling about a third full. Add a spoonful of mincemeat then top with more mixture.
Bake the cakes in a preheated oven 350 F 180C gas MFK 5 for 25 minutes. Cool for five

Continue reading

Pie, Jay Rayner, Arsenal and Me : a love affair.

perfect pie and mash

perfect pie and mash

I’ve been thinking about pie a lot recently.Partly the cold weather is to blame for whilst I will eat pie at any time of year as soon as the leaves start to turn and fall pie seems to become the answer to so many questions.
Need something to warm you through? Pie. Need a good idea for supper? Pie. Want to put a smile on someone’s face? Pie. Filling up before a cold two hours watching Arsenal? Pie. You see I’m trying to think of a question that doesn’t have pie as it’s answer and I can’t.
But more than all the reasons above, I’m thinking pie today as I’ve just reread a review of a pub in Oxford written by Jay Rayner, one of the restaurant reviews I love the most, and he waxes lyrical about the very life enhancing qualities of good pie. Following that with my first ever trip to the legend that is Piebury Corner for a pre match “Tony Adams” and then Thanksgiving and I think you will have to agree, pies are among us, there is no escape.

My pie is a beef pie, a cow pie of great meatiness and a perfect pie with which to welcome to Islington a new resident at the butcher’s shop on the corner of St John’s Street and Myddleton Square. When I first moved to Islington a previous incumbent ran this place but sadly it closed. The shop itself is listed so as Turner and George are the very essence of new wave butchers the building is perfect for them: each tile has remained in place, the money is collected in a booth at the rear and the butchers block could have been in situ since “Late Bland” was still with us. Turner and George have wonderful meat, well sourced, well hung and well prepared. I’m thrilled to have them so close and am hoping we will have a long and happy relationship.
I use feather blade for my meat cutting the pieces about 3-4cm in size , but shin would work too. The recipe is in two parts first the meat is cooked to melting tenderness in loads of butter then it’s topped with butter rich puff pastry. The stuff of dreams and smiles and many contented sighs.

For Thanksgiving I made a pumpkin pie, not hugely popular in my house but I love it and I do the cooking. This year I combined my two tins of pumpkin with a tin of condensed milk, two tablespoons of maple syrup and 3 eggs plus a hearty dose of freshly ground spices:nutmeg, cinnamon and mace.
I didn’t add extra sugar, the condensed milk being sweet enough. I also don’t pre bake my pie case just cook the filled shortcrust pile in a hot oven 200C for 15 mins then at 160 C until the filling is set. If the top cracks, as well it might, pile on whipped cream flavoured with orange liqueur.

Cow Pie
First stew your meat:
1.5 kg trimmed weight feather steak or shin cut into 3-4cm cubes
3 large white onions sliced fine
150gm butter
salt and pepper
Mix everything together and put into a casserole with a tight fitting lid. Place this in a preheated oven 150C 300F cooking for 2 1/2 hours
Allow to cool .
make the gravy:
I tin beef consommé or Fond de Rotis and water or red wine
Lift the meat into a pie dish and return the casserole to the stove. You need to make some gravy now using the juices. I use a French gravy base called Fond de Rotis but a can of beef consommé works a treat too. I like to add the fond plus water and or wine or the consommé to the casserole dish and simmering till I have about 250ml of tasty sauce which I then pour over the meat.

to finish
500 gms ready made all butter puff pastry
beaten egg to glaze

Roll the pastry out till the lid is a little larger than your dish. Butter the rim of the dish and using a thin piece cut from the pastry make a ribbon boarder. Brush this lightly with egg then put on the pastry cutting a vent in the centre. You can be very tidy or “rustic” in your approach to this both work well , make sure the edges are well sealed. Glaze the pastry with beaten egg then pop the pie into the fridge for an hour or over night.

Bake the pie in a hot oven 200C 400F gas mk 6 for 30-40 minutes or until the pastry is arch golden brown.
Serve with mashed potatoes and swede or carrot and some bright, crisp cabbage.

www.turnerandgeorge.co.uk Butchers 399 St John St. EC1V 4LB.
209-211 Holloway Road london N7 8DL

Food From a Cold Climate AKA Cookbook Club chapter four

Signe and her amazing waffle iron

Signe and her amazing waffle iron

We had an excellent evening on Wednesday at Cookbook Club. The theme was Food from a Cold Climate and Signe Johansen came to talk to us about growing up in Norway, how the food is an essential part of the culture, the importance of drinking schnapps when eating steamed lamb ribs and much, much more.

Loads of people brought food we had: Tartiflette, Quince friands, maple syrup, Cornish butter and clotted cream from Rhodda, Arctic cranberry cakes, Quince gin, St Lucia buns, Limpa bread and Signe’s sweet Norwegian waffles served with brown cheese which were spectacularly good and will be on my breakfast table soon.
I made some beetroot marinated salmon, a dish I’d been meaning to try for ages. It was a great success and very simple to do. I read all the recipes I could find on the Internet and ended up adapting one from Nathan Outlaw. His used about twice as much salt as the recipe below and the herb tarragon.The colour was spectacular and the fish beautifully firm. I served it with a dill sauce and some wonderful @Petersyard crisp bread. This will be on my Christmas table it’s delicious and much more cost effective than smoked salmon in these straightened times.
Our next CookbookClub is on December 4th and the theme is A Novel Christmas: food from a book you love that features Christmas. A work of non-fiction is fine but no cook books this time!!

Beetroot cured salmon with dill sauce

1 kg side salmon skin on but boned
150gm salt
125 gm sugar
2medium raw beetroot
Bunch of dill
1 teaspoon fennel seeds crushed
50 ml Vodka

Cut the tops and roots from the beets and then roughly chop them. Place them and the remaining marinade ingredients into a food processor. Whiz together until everything is well chopped Now lay salmon in china dish pour over the marinade turning the fillet to make sure all surfaces are covered.

Cover with film and chill 48 hours, turning about every 12 hours.Now take the salmon form the marinade and discard this.Wash the salmon well under a running cold tap and then pat dry using kitchen paper.

Store on a clean dry plate covered with film in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Put the mustard, honey, vinegar, egg salt and pepper into the goblet of a blender and whiz until smooth. Add the dill and whiz for a few seconds.

Now with the motor running, pour in the oil, very slowly at first then in a thin stream until the mixture thickens. Taste and adjust the seasoning,if the sauce is not quite to your liking I find adding more honey makes it perfect! 

To serve
Thinly slice the salmon and serve with crisp breads and the dill sauce.

My Cookbook Club


Cookbook Club at The Drapers Arms

I am a great fan of book clubs, so a cook book club peopled by those like myself, obsessives who talk of the next meal while eating the present one, has to be a good idea.

We meet every four to six weeks and each meeting is themed so far we’ve had The book I use the most , Spices and Chocolate. Next up are Food from a cold climate on Nov 6th and A Novel Christmas Dec. 4th

I’ve spoken to a couple of publishers who are happy to let us have new books to look at and review on our blogs, if you don’t have a blog it couldn’t matter less, I do want this club to be inclusive and for everyone to feel welcome.

We’ve already had two excellent speakers James Ramsden and Paul A Young talking to us and we hope to continue this trend as the occasion and theme desires.

Were planning to set up a cookbook exchange or swap, I can’t be alone in having books I don’t use that others might want.

Many more ides will evolve I hope, the plan is to make the club organic, fitting the needs of us members.

We hold our meetings upstairs at the wonderful Draper’s Arms in Barnsbury Street Islington. Transport is tube to either Angel or Highbury and Islington and a wealth of buses on Upper Street.

Nick the landlord is just the best and has offered us the room gratis so there will be no joining fees, attendance fees or any other charges and you can come to all or any of the meetings.

We each put £10 into a kitty to provide wine, beer soft drinks and tips for the lovely Drapers Arms staff.

The pub has a splendid kitchen so snacks etc. are readily available but I think we might also want to cook something and bring it along. This would not be compulsory nor, I stress, competitive but it might be nice to pick something transportable, that will sit happily under your desk for others to try.

The club is open to anyone so do bring friends if they have lively minds, love food and wine and enjoy a gossip. Oh and whilst it would seem, by those that have enquired, that we will mainly be women naturally men are welcome too.

Any questions my email is below



@TPCookBookClub Twitter and no I can’t get the links to work you’ll have to type them in!

Chewy Seeded Bran Muffins



I love breakfast muffins finding that early in the morning I can’t stomach much in the way of food and feel awful if I eat too many of the usual baked breakfast goods. This recipe fits the spot for me, using as it does a mix of bran, seeds, unrefined sugar, black treacle etc. Should you wish to nail your colours to the hair shirt brigade you can by all means use wholemeal flour but I personally find that a step too far.
Simple to put together, these muffins keep well and freeze beautifully. Unusually I find I can reheat them briefly in a microwave without the texture becoming claggy. Serve them split open with plenty of salted butter. I can’t think of one thing that tastes worse for the addition of lots of good butter.

Chewy Seeded Bran

I find this mix very adaptable so here I’ve used walnuts and dates but generally have a look in the cupboard for whatever dried fruit , seeds or nuts I have to hand.  You can chop in a cored apple as well.The buttermilk can be substituted with yogurt or milk with a squeeze of lemon.

110 gm Bran cereal
2 medium eggs
300ml Butter milk
4 fluid oz Vegetable oil
110gm unrefined light brown sugar
2 tablespoon black treacle
170gm plain flour
2 scant teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
55gm 2 oz sunflower seeds
85gm dried fruit (rasins, dates, pineapple etc chopped if necc.)
30gm 1 oz pumpkin seeds
Mix the bran with the buttermilk and leave for 30 minutes.
Beat the eggs, oil, sugar and black treacle, the raisins, seeds etc into the bran and buttermilk mixture.
Sift the flour with the baking powder, bicarbonate and salt and fold these in to the egg mixture.
Spoon the mixture into 10 to 12 paper lined muffin tins.

Bake in a pre-heated oven 180 C Fan200°C 400°F gas 6 for 25-30 minutes.


Capanata di melanzane




Cookbook club this week features chocolate and whilst the majority of  dishes brought by members will doubtless be sweet I wanted to balance the evening by making this Sicilian dish, Capanata cooked by every island housewife. If you call into to visit a family in their home you will be offered a drink, often of a sweetish wine, and a spoonful of capanata. I’ve been making this recipe for many years and it stands out for me as it has some bitter chocolate stirred in at the end. This thickens and softens the sauce that coats the vegetables. I think I was told at the time that I first made it that the addition of chocolate  was an African idea but as cooks in Sicily take their recipes from a host of both Mediterranean and European cuisines this may not be the case.
When staying in Sicily recently I asked my hostess’s cook if she added chocolate to her Capanata and was laughed out of the kitchen!

1kg aubergines
vegetable oil for frying
4 Stems celery
125ml Olive oil
1 red onion chopped finely
1 tablespoon sugar
400g tomato passata
30gms dark chocolate
100ml red wine vinegar
50g capers packed in brine very well rinsed
100g pitted green olives

Peel the aubergines, cut them into cubes and fry in batches, in hot oil until golden brown. This step is made much easier when you understand that whilst the cubes of aubergine will suck up the oil like a sponge when you first put them in the pan once they are cooked through almost all the oil is released back into the pan. Lift the golden brown cubes of aubergine from the pan with a slotted spoon and place in a sieve over a bowl to drain.
Using a peeler remove the strings from the celery stems and discard. Cut the celery into small cubes and fry them in the same oil and drain in the sieve.
Heat the olive oil in a clean pan; add the chopped onion . Cook for about 5 minutes until the onion softens and begins to colour. Add the passata, the sugar, the chocolate, some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Now add the remaining ingredients vinegar, capers, chopped olives, celery and aubergine. Cook over low heat for about 30 minutes.
Spoon into a serving dish and serve with bread.

Well, Summer’s over and here I am again

It’s been a bit busy this year, which in many ways sums up the random nature of life. It seems only minutes ago I was weeping at my daughter’s departure for Seattle in May than here we are in September and my summer has been busier than I could have imagined or planned for.
Nature, we’re told, abhors a vacuum and this would seem true in the case of my calendar. No sooner had I waved the family off when I took a call from a TV company about a wonderful new series that has more than filled my time. It will be on BBC2 next spring and I hope you all watch and love it.
But back to today and I thought a recap of where I’d eaten on my days off could be a place to start.

The Clove Club


Issac McHale and his team started the Clove Club in Shorditch Town Hall in 2012 in a space I knew previously as the upstairs part of a night club called the Whirlygig where my children would go on Sunday evenings and I would wait, rather nervously, outside to drive them the short distance home, Hoxton not being quite the on trend place it is today.

As is de rigueur these days Clove Club cures all manner of meats on the premises and we started with a selection of these. They were all very tasty but eclipsed by the wood pigeon sausage with greengage ketchup. This was a revelation, quite reviving my tired palate with it’s luscious texture, pork fat being called in to duty here to add succulence to the rich, gamy breast meat of the pigeon. The sharpness of the ketchup was the perfect foil. We had the requisite tiny portion but I could have eaten much more.
Small plates are a pain to me, but with tasting menus they do allow for a lot of dishes to pass in front of the diner without overwhelming him. So many small plates arrived, we tasted then and they in turn were replaced by others.
 I’m not sure I “get” spinach powder. It’s hardly much of a vegetable when served in all it’s leafy glory, powdered it seems even less there, but it did look very pretty on a plate of Dover Sole

 The heritage tomato salad was truly and deeply tomatoey ,Chicken was served with golden skin and sweet sweetcorn but I did not much care for the Mackerel enrobed delicately in it’s cucumber quilt. The heritage tomato salad was truly and deeply tomatoey 
Desserts were just as innovative : meadowsweet custard with raspberries, Ewe’s milk mousse with blackcurrants, verbena and Beremeal crumbs, a rare grain from Orkney and a simple but sublime blackcurrant leaf ice cream.

Then there were chocolates and lozenges, the service was both delightful and eager for our enjoyment.
 We ate in the front room as it was lunch time, for dinner the back room, with it’s open kitchen, is called into service.

The Clove Club
Shorditch Town Hall EC1V 9LT