Carrot halwa

29 May

carrot halwa

My husband loves carrot halwa and always orders it when we go for an Indian meal.

I agree that it’s less sweet than many Indian desserts, which counts in its favour. But having tasted his portion any number of times, I never once regretted ordering the kulfi.

This all changed when we started making carrot halwa at home… Continue reading

Penne a la vodka

22 May

penne a la vodka

Penne a la vodka was all the rage when I first moved to London. After ordering it in restaurants, I had a go at making it myself.

There wasn’t an internet to refer to, but it wasn’t complicated to work out what was in it – tomatoes, onion, garlic, chilli, cream… and vodka.

For some reason, I had the idea that the vodka should be set alight like the brandy on a Christmas pudding.

I’d cook down the tomato sauce, then pour the vodka over top and set a match to it. Blue flames would dance impressively across the surface and die down, after which I’d stir through the cream. Continue reading

Courgette fries with spicy mayonnaise

14 May

courgette fries

According to my daughter, these courgette fries are like “vegetarian calamari”.  I know what she means.

While no one would confuse the texture of squid with courgette, they are similarly satisfying in flavour and crunch. And being baked, they are reasonably healthy as well.

I first ate them at a Vancouver restaurant called Las Tapas that I adored, and have been making my own version ever since.

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Shakshouka

10 May

shakshouka

Shakshouka – eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce – is one of our favourite Sunday brunches. It’s a good, quick supper too, and something I’ll think to make when feeding two.

When that’s the case, I preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and make the sauce in my cast iron frying pan. After cracking the eggs over the sauce, I pop the frying pan in the oven (uncovered) for about five minutes until the eggs are cooked through.

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Bean and pea salad with miso dressing

5 May

green bean, pea and peashoot salad with miso dressing

Lightly cooked green beans and peas on a bed of fresh peashoots with walnuts and a miso-sake dressing makes a fresh, healthy lunch.

I go with whatever combination of beans I have to hand – mangetout and podded edamame are both good and give an interesting visual and texture contrast. Continue reading

Chocolate pear puddings

3 May

chocolate pear pudding

Chocolate pear puddings are a good recipe to have up your sleeve when you hadn’t been planning to make dessert, but pester power prevails.

They’re quick to make, use basic store cupboard ingredients, and are definitely more than the sum of their parts.

Other soft fruits work as well – I’ve made these puddings with raspberries and bananas when I was pear-less and they were just as nice.

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Spinach soup

29 Apr

spinach soup

I have two spinach soups in my repetoire – this soothing, mellow one with leeks, potatoes and a splash of cream – and a spicier, Asian-influenced soup with citrus and ginger.

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Japanese curry

26 Apr

Japanese curry

Making Japanese curry from scratch for the first time was the high point of my week.

I discovered Japanese curry when I lived in Tokyo after finishing uni, and became an instant convert. I love the thick, slightly sweet taste of the sauce, and the way it sticks to the vegetables like a thick coat of paint.

What makes Japanese curry unique is the roux, which is sold in thick bars. I’ve always lived where Asian ingredients are easy to come by, and usually have a packet of Japanese curry in the cupboard.

You fry, then simmer, your veg, meat or tofu to the point of tenderness, dissolve a chunk of roux in the pan and instant curry goodness ensues. Continue reading

Kung pao chicken

23 Apr

kung pao chicken

I adore kung pao chicken – the hotter and more mouth numbing it is, the better I like it. However, the rest of the family don’t share my tolerance for hot food.

To make kung pao chicken the whole family can enjoy, I use a few dried chillies for base heat when cooking, remove the girls’ portions, then stir through additional fresh chillies for the grown-ups.

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Rocket and fennel salad with toasted seeds

20 Apr

There has been a fennel bulb languishing in the veggie tray for ages. It’s been there for so long, I can no longer remember my reason for buying it.

I now realise that it was  waiting for its moment to shine in this rocket and fennel salad with tahini-ginger dressing and toasted seeds.

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Hot cross bun and butter pudding

15 Apr

hot cross bun and butter pudding

Comfort food is having a bit of a moment around here, which makes sense. And things don’t get much more comforting than bread and butter pudding.

This one is made with a six-pack of hot cross buns that were inexplicably overlooked on Easter weekend. Continue reading

Chocolate chip cookies

13 Apr

chocolate chip cookies

This is a truly excellent chocolate chip cookie recipe. One of the things I like best is how a modest list of ingredients produces such a stellar result.

Even before these locked-down days, I’d come across a recipe with 250g best-quality chocolate, 4 eggs, two types of sugar, and bag of M&Ms thrown in for good measure, and think “of course that’s going to taste good – it’s a bunch of rich, sweet things mooshed together.”

We’ve made these chocolate chip cookies with plain and self-raising flour (no baking soda), wholewheat, and on one occasion khorasan flour. Dark chips, light chips, butterscotch chips or chopped baking chocolate. Whatever nuts we have on hand, or no nuts at all.

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Microwave banana pudding

13 Apr

microwave banana pudding

Microwave banana pudding has been a little spot of brightness in these worrying days, scratching a sticky toffee pudding itch we hadn’t known was there.

We’ve made this recipe from the BBC Good Food website four times in the past three weeks. It’s a great way to use up old bananas, takes 15 minutes start to finish, cooks while you have dinner, and tastes fabulous.

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Chicken soup with kneidlach

12 Apr

chicken soup with kneidlach

I leave the chicken soup with kneidlach to my mother-in-law – a marvellous cook whose chicken soup draws superlatives from anyone who has the good fortune to taste it, whose fluffy kneidlach could potentially float up from the broth in their airy pillowiness.

But faced with a chicken soupless Passover this year, I dusted off my kneidlach making skills and took one for the team…

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Crumpets

8 Apr

Crumpets are one of those British foods I’ve never warmed to. They somehow manage to be both spongy and rubbery, under- and over-cooked, and despite their blandness, leave me wishing they tasted of less.

Crumpets would never have made my list of things to cook at home, but Lyra was keen so we gave them a try… Continue reading

Turkey soup

26 Dec

Turkey soup

Turkey soup is as much a part of our family Christmas as the main meal, and is one of those dishes that take me straight back to my childhood. There is no other dish that gives me more comfort.

We ate roast turkey only at Christmas and Thanksgiving, so we couldn’t have had turkey soup that often. But perhaps mum froze the stock and used it throughout the year. (And she also made pretty much the same soup with chicken carcasses or ham bones.) Continue reading

Cobb salad

27 Nov

Cobb salad

Cobb salad is a classic American main course salad. Chicken, egg, blue cheese and bacon are arranged in strips across a bed of salad greens, providing a healthy punch of protein. Continue reading

Chinese pork and beans

19 Nov

Chinese pork and beans

Chinese pork and beans is an easy working day dinner, coming together in the time it takes to steam the rice.

The flavours are akin to mapo tofu, though the crisp green beans and peanuts make it a crunchier affair. Continue reading

Bran bread

15 Nov

bran bread

I love the simplicity of this bran bread recipe. All Bran, dried fruit and milk is left to soften before being mixed with some flour and baked for an hour.

It is essentially a baked bowl of soggy cereal, but what a difference that baking makes.

The resulting loaf is toothsome, moist and flavourful. “It’s like a cross between malt bread and Christmas cake,” my daughter said, and she’s spot on.

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Beef borscht

26 Oct

Beef borscht

My mother’s borscht was a vegetarian, austere affair. It was “cheap as chips” as the British say and the recipe made gallons. In my student days, I could live on a pot of borscht for a week.

This beef version is a richer, rib-sticking affair, more akin to goulash. Continue reading

Spiced plum muffins

21 Oct

spiced plum muffins

I make bran muffins most weekends, but occasionally I mix things up with lemon poppyseed or spiced plum muffins.

Plum and ginger always work well together. I love the extra hit the preserved ginger brings, but they are also nice without it. Continue reading

Cabbage and corn slaw

15 Oct

cabbage and corn slaw

Cabbage and corn slaw is an excellent accompaniment to Mexican dishes like enchiladas and burritos, providing a welcome crunchy contrast. Continue reading

Pork and cabbage gyoza

8 Oct

pork and cabbage gyoza

Gyoza are a family favourite, and the four of us can easily get through a large panful for dinner.

They are both steamed and pan-fried, resulting in a juicy interior, silky soft sides and a crisp, golden bottom.

I usually go with the classic pork and cabbage filling, but they are also very good with minced raw prawn substituted for the ground pork.
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Warm cannellini bean salad

6 Jun

This warm cannellini bean salad is of those happy marriages of ingredients that are just meant for each other.

The combination of colours, textures and flavours – floury beans, silky rocket and salty pancetta, loosely bound in a lemony crème fraiche dressing – is a delight. Continue reading

Chicken cacciatore

31 May

chicken cacciatore
Despite transcribing it faithfully from my mother’s spattered recipe card when I was compiling Fern’s Food, chicken cacciatore is one of those 1970s mainstay meals that I’d completely forgotten about.

Braised chicken thighs simmered slowly in a rich, garlicky tomato sauce until falling-off-the-bone tender – no surprise it was a big hit with the family.

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Anzac biscuits

25 Apr

Anzac biscuits

Eaten on April 25 (Anzac Day) to commemorate the sacrifice made by Australian and New Zealand soldiers, Anzac biscuits can be crispy, chewy or crunchy depending on the balance of brown and caster sugar.

This recipe hits the sweet spot between crispy and chewy, which makes them an excellent biscuit choice for homemade ice cream sandwiches.

It’s important to use whole rolled oats – not the instant ones – otherwise, the biscuits spread too much in the oven. Continue reading

Roasted kale, carrot and apple salad

5 Apr

Roasted kale, carrot and apple salad

I have a salad for lunch most days. When it’s cold wet like the last few days have been, I make it a warm one.

The kale is transformed by its time in the oven, softening and developing a deeper, woodsy flavour that contrasts nicely with the crisp apple and toasted seeds.

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Pork bits Hawaiian

13 Mar

pork bits Hawaiian

“Are we having Hawaiian pizza for dinner?” my daughter asked when she got home from school.

She was in the zone – I was making pork bits Hawaiian, a childhood favourite of mine that I hadn’t thought of in years. Continue reading

Hasselback potatoes

9 Mar

Crispy on the edges, soft and buttery within, hasselback potatoes can make any meal feel a bit special. Continue reading

Parsnip soup with sautéed greens

5 Mar

parsnip soup with sautéed greens

I’ve made this parsnip soup with sautéed greens so regularly for so many years, that it was a surprise to realise that it wasn’t on this website. Continue reading

Beetroot and celery salad

24 Feb

beetroot and celery salad

I wouldn’t have thought of combining beetroot and celery, but thumbing through Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking I was intrigued by her description of this “admirable winter salad”. Continue reading

Japanese sesame spinach (horenso no gomaae)

20 Feb

spinach gomaae

This dish of blanched spinach in a sesame seed dressing takes me straight back to my time living in Japan. Tokyo was (and is) an expensive city, and we ate in most nights — Japanese food mainly.

The local shops didn’t sell anything else, and anyway, it was fun to buy unfamiliar ingredients and figure out what to do with them.

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Lemon poppy seed muffins

14 Jan

I almost always make muffins for breakfast on Saturday morning.

For years, my go-to recipe has been these blueberry bran muffins, but in last few months lemon poppyseed muffins have been giving them a run for their money. Continue reading

Trifle

22 Dec

I make trifle only once a year – over the Christmas holiday, when a big creamy, custardy, boozy bowl of indulgence seems like just what Santa ordered…;-)

This is a very different trifle to my Grandma Ivy’s, which calls for red and green jello, candied fruit and optional coconut macaroons(!).

(If I’m to realise my ambition of cooking every family recipe in Fern’s Food, I’ll have to give it a go some Christmas, but we’re keeping it classic this year.) Continue reading

Endive, pear, walnut and blue cheese salad

19 Dec

Endive, pear, walnut and blue cheese salad

This is one of my favourite winter salads, especially at this time of year.

Fresh and light without being worthy, endive, pear, walnut and blue cheese salad is nice counterpoint to the the rich food we’ve  been indulging in.

It’s also delicious, with each ingredient bringing something to the party. Continue reading

Onion-tahini sauce

31 Oct

Onion tahini sauce is a legacy of my student days, when I would make this dish most weeks.

And not just because it was dirt cheap. The tahini, cumin and soy sauce come together in an unexpectedly delicious, savoury, satisfying way, delivering a wallop of what I now know to be umami. Continue reading

Fake soufflé

13 Oct

Fake soufflé was one of mum’s dinner party staples in the 1970s, but I remember she found the name embarrassing.

As if she was cheating her guests by not providing a “real” soufflé instead of this light, fluffy, delicious concoction.

I think fake soufflé could do with a rebrand. Continue reading

Salmon with crab apple jelly and horseradish glaze

9 Oct

salmon with crab apple and horseradish glaze

Coating salmon in a sweet-tart glaze before baking in the oven is one of my favourite ways to cook it.

And this combination of crab apple jelly and horseradish is probably my favourite glaze to coat it with.

Crab apples were plentiful where I grew up. They’re not much good for eating, so my mum either pickled them whole or cooked them into a lovely tart jelly.

I occasionally see crab apple jelly for sale in the UK. Whenever I do, I always buy a couple of jars. It also works well with apricot jam.

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Japanese hot dogs

5 Oct

Japanese hotdog
On our trip to Vancouver last summer, Japadog was on my list of things to do/try while we were in town.

For various reasons, I didn’t manage to eat one until we were at the airport, about to fly home. Probably just as well…

Japanese hot dogs are delicious, extremely moreish, and could definitely see myself working my way through their kurogoma kimuchi dog (turkey sausage with kimchi and black sesame seeds), ebi tempura dog (prawn tempura on rice) and yakisoba dog (“popular Japanese noodles and aribiki sausage”).

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Pita bread

1 Oct

pita bread

Despite doing a science degree at university (or maybe because of it), I find regular moments of magic in cooking.

Egg whites stiffening into peaks, eggs and oil transforming themselves into mayonnaise, sugar melting into caramel – these things bring me genuine, uncomplicated pleasure.

Watching pita breads blowing themselves up like little balloons through the glass door of the oven is another one.

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