1. Roasted Pumpkin and St Agur Salad

     This salad is all about balancing bold flavours while also letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Nothing fancy, just a little bit of thought.

    The sweet roasted pumpkin is matched up against the savoury, salty tang of the blue cheese, the bitter toasted walnuts and the sour dried cranberries and pomegranate  molasses. All the flavours are covered. The serving size is perfect  as dinner for two, sat out on the patio as the nights turn long and warm, and to be enjoyed with a glass of soft Sauvignon Blanc, a crisp wine to cut through the rich flavours. For best results, use whichever pumpkin and greens are in season.

    Roasted Pumpkin and St Agur Salad

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  2. Porter Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Whisky Frosting

    I recently went out for dinner and we had this chocolate stout cake. It was dense, sweet, malty, moist, bitter (maybe slightly too bitter) – but mainly just a delicious piece of cake. Something worth baking at home, with a couple of little changes.

    First thing’s first – it’s the beer that gives this cake depth of flavour by introducing some of its fruity and malty notes, so the beer is one of the most important ingredients to think about.

    In Harold McGee’s book ‘On Food and Cooking’, the beer style chart lists stout as being mainly dark and bitter. Porter on the other hand has a bit of caramel sweetness to balance the bitterness from the dark roasted malt. It also has a bit more fizz, which might help to leaven the cake. I’ll tell you what – it works. I’ll never again bake a chocolate cake without it… and the whisky in the frosting? Well, it’s the icing on the, you know, cake.

    Porter Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Whisky Frosting

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  3. Smoked Mackerel, Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

    I just had the blissful experience of having my mom and step dad come to stay with us in London. It had been a year since I last saw them and oh my days was that way too long. They stayed for a month and it was bliss.

    Having people to visit is such a wonderful opportunity to go out and enjoy London for her best attributes, especially in her bleakest months. I’ve got to hand it to you, London, when given a chance you really know how to show a girl a good time in January!

    We learned a heartbreaking and eye opening story of India’s past with Dara at the National Theatre, Emily Carr showed us the importance of the forest, the coast, legends and the totem pole to the NW Native American at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, we stood aghast yet again in front of the many historical pieces in the National Gallery and had a modern look at art through Taylor Wessing’s Photographic Portrait Prize. To say the least, I feel enriched! As does my waistline because the other thing everyone loves about a visitor is having the excuse to ride with them on their holiday, eating rich foods and drinking wine on weekdays (‘I don’t ever do this normally’…she lies) and having dessert after every meal.

    I also had foot surgery… so have been laid up, unable to stand long enough to cook and itching to get back into the kitchen. Though I have managed to meditate (staring aimlessly at the wall is a good pastime if you’ve really got nowhere to go!) and read quite a lot, so it’s not been all bad.

    Suffice to say I am well rested and looking to come out of this forced hibernation into the spring with gusto! … and perhaps eat a few dishes to help me feel remotely healthy after three weeks on the couch. Bring on the fresh stuff!

    I’ll not say that I am a ‘Super Food’ fanatic but there really is something to be said about packing in the vitamins, so here is a salad that’s pretty much ‘all that’ (the 90’s are back in right?).

    It’s got a balance of bitterness from the radicchio, sweetness from the roast parsnips that are still sticking with us for the rest of winter, sulfur from the broccoli, oily and salty umami from the fish and zing from the grapefruit. Serve it with rye crisp breads or sourdough toast and pomegranate vinaigrette and you’ll feel as zingy as the grapefruit yourself!

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    Smoked Mackerel, Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

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  4. Garlic Roast Chicken

    In my book roast chicken should be top on a cook’s basic recipes list. Not only is it delicious comfort food but you can make so much with the leftovers! Sandwiches, salads and curry can be made with leftover meat while stock made from the bones of a whole chicken can be used for any number of soups, gravies, and risottos. Talk about a good investment- one chicken can make up to 4 meals!

    Since it’s far more cost effective than buying separate pieces of chicken, you have no excuse but to but free range. By not supporting factory farms that are responsible for some real environmental hazards (It’s pretty unreal…) and putting the poor chickens through short yet ghastly lives you can take small steps toward making a difference.

    It’s worth it to promote sustainable farming and animal welfare and you can really taste the difference too. The meat of a free range bird has much tighter fibres because it has exercised, which tends to lead to richer flavour.

    I like to roast chicken with garlic and knobs of butter stuffed under the skin to make it especially juicy and full of flavour. This method helps make the skin crispy too. Yum. Alright, let’s get started!

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  5. Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be Perfect

    It’s Thanksgiving week. Some of you will be celebrating “Friendsgiving” while others fly across country or ocean to join family. I have done my fair share of both. Some will be the family others fly to. It’s all about getting together.

    I remember my first Thanksgiving here in London seven years ago. I was living as a lodger so had no kitchen, but I was utterly homesick so I had to do something. I asked my English cousin if I could cook at her flat and was grateful she said yes. The kitchen was tiny and we didn’t eat until 10pm as I remember, but it was wonderful. There were only six of us around the table but we still cooked a whole turkey. Three Americans and three Brits. I made the cranberry sauce last minute while my husband, then boyfriend, tried to explain cricket to our American guests.

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    One of the Americans that year was a dear friend of mine from the University of Oregon. She was doing her MA at the LSE. Just yesterday she wrote to ask for my cranberry sauce recipe from that year. This made me so happy. The memory of that day is not just mine. It’s a shared memory. A feast is special because it has to be shared.  Who cares if it’s not perfect, it brings us together! It’s Thanksgiving, not “Perfect Food Day”.

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  6. Cooking Adventures

    My goodness how time flies! I can’t believe my last post was in September! I have been getting all sorts of experience in the food, including a fabulously beautiful trip to the Amalfi Coast where I ate my weight in pizza, pasta and gelato. Definitely put this on your bucket list. Visit Positano, you will not regret it. The beauty almost hurts your eyes.

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    I have worked a month as a chef at Kome, a marvelous pop-up restaurant and catering company with food crossing the divide between Korean and Mexican flavours. Then a few more work experiences starting with 10 Greek Street in their pastry section,  a few days with Southerden bakery right near me in Peckham, followed by a life changing week at Restaurant Story with Tom Sellers, who I owe a lot to for nudging my towards starting a career in food. Check out some of the snacks I helped make while I was there:

    Crispy cod skins with emulsion and gin botanicals

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    Eel flavoured take on the Oreo with vinegar dust, delicious I swear!

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    And the beautiful Egg with salmon roe and egg emulsion

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    You would not believe the amount of prep work that goes into making these little snacks. Now just imagine how much work goes into creating one of their main dishes. Snacks of the Sea for example (I think they like the word ‘snack’…

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    Or Almond and Dill (I got to make the dill oil!)

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    There are 10 courses on the tasting menu with 6 additional snacks and every dish is magical. The Story team is so talented and they are more dedicated than most, hence the Michelin star. They are also some of the most thoughtful and humble. I am so lucky to have learned some of the magic. Phew, it’s almost emotional!

    In between all that I have done some exciting private catering and before you know it here we are in November. Very little sleep but a whole lot of fun!

    Anyway now that I’ve swiftly updated you all with the new notches in my CV, on to an updated version of one of my favourite foods in the whole world… pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner (OMG I HAVE NOT EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT THIS YET) and the only thing that could possibly make us feel better about the flames bursting from our pockets as our wallets spontaneously combust is to eat delicious things like pie. So here we are: Vanilla Pumpkin Pie

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  7. Vanilla Pumpkin Pie

    My goodness how time flies! I can’t believe my last post was in September! I have been getting all sorts of experience in the food, including a fabulously beautiful trip to the Amalfi Coast where I ate my weight in pizza, pasta and gelato. Definitely put this on your bucket list. Visit Positano, you will not regret it. The beauty almost hurts your eyes.

    IMG_8595

    I have worked a month as a chef at Kome, a marvelous pop-up restaurant and catering company with food crossing the divide between Korean and Mexican flavours. Then a few more work experiences starting with 10 Greek Street in their pastry section,  a few days with Southerden bakery right near me in Peckham, followed by a life changing week at Restaurant Story with Tom Sellers, who I owe a lot to for nudging my towards starting a career in food. Check out some of the snacks I helped make while I was there:

    Crispy cod skins with emulsion and gin botanicals

    IMG_2741

    Eel flavoured take on the Oreo with vinegar dust, delicious I swear!

    IMG_2739

    And the beautiful Egg with salmon roe and egg emulsion

    IMG_2738

    You would not believe the amount of prep work that goes into making these little snacks. Now just imagine how much work goes into creating one of their main dishes. Snacks of the Sea for example (I think they like the word ‘snack’…

    IMG_2734

    Or Almond and Dill (I got to make the dill oil!)

    IMG_2769

    There are 10 courses on the tasting menu with 6 additional snacks and every dish is magical. The Story team is so talented and they are more dedicated than most, hence the Michelin star. They are also some of the most thoughtful and humble. I am so lucky to have learned some of the magic. Phew, it’s almost emotional!

    In between all that I have done some exciting private catering and before you know it here we are in November. Very little sleep but a whole lot of fun!

    Anyway now that I’ve swiftly updated you all with the new notches in my CV, on to an updated version of one of my favourite foods in the whole world… pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner (OMG I HAVE NOT EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT THIS YET) and the only thing that could possibly make us feel better about the flames bursting from our pockets as our wallets spontaneously combust is to eat delicious things like pie. So here we are:

    Vanilla Pumpkin Pie

    Damn I miss home this time of year. The crashing of pans followed by the clinking of glasses and catching up with my American family… This time of year is when London really does feel a bit sad in comparison. Y’all just don’t know what Thanksgiving means! And you’re missing out…

    At home, Thanksgiving is the time when we invite our whole family including every possible cousin within a 100 mile radius around our table to gorge on my mother’s fabulous turkey and stuffing. We break out the old linens, the silver, the china and we try our best to pay homage to the past generation’s parties through a balance of grandeur and generosity fit for such an important occasion. In a world where Christmas is often quiet and close, Thanksgiving makes up for it by swinging open the arms of the home and inviting everyone in we can fit. We gorge ourselves to the brim with chat and turkey until we can’t possibly fit anymore… and then comes the pie.

    Pumpkin pie is one of those sacred American dishes. You have to have it, no ifs, ands or buts. However, sometimes it can be more of an after thought to all that turkey and stuffing. So, I’ve opted to shake it up a bit, adding a vanilla pod to the mix to ramp up the warming aromatics that make this pie so deserving of centre stage. It’s one of the acts, not an encore! The culinary rules say that since dessert is the last thing to cross our pallets, it had better be impressive, with flavour that beats out everything you’ve eaten thus far this meal. I think this Vanilla Pumpking Pie is just the ticket.

    INGREDIENTS

    One Quantity Basic Pie Crust (See my post on Short Crust and follow directions for Basic Pie Crust)

    425g Solid Pack Pumpkin Puree

    2 Large Eggs

    284ml Single Cream (or Evaporated Milk)

    180g Caster Sugar

    1/2 Teaspoon Table Salt

    1 Vanilla Pod, seeds stripped for use

    1 1/4 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

    1 Teaspoon Fresh Grate Ginger

    1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves

    METHOD

    First thing, preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f

    Pumpkin pie is terribly easy because all you do is mix your spices and vanilla seeds together with your sugar in a bowl, stir in the pumpkin, then stir in lightly beaten eggs. Try not to incorporate too much air as you want zero bubbles with any baked custard (yes, that is what this technically is). Don’t throw away that vanilla pod case! Put it in a jar of sugar and use this in whatever you like. It add extra oomph to pancakes especially.

    Cover the pumpkin mixture and pop it in the fridge to infuse while you sort out your pie crust. Ta dah!

    Roll out chilled pie crust and line a fluted 28cm pie tin. Excuse the horrible lighting/sharpness of this photo… I have been playing with a new lens. Cover this with cling film and pop it in the freezer for 5 minutes or the fridge for 15 if you, like me have zero room for anything in your freezer, not even ice. Keep the scraps of dough for patching after blind baking.

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    After chilling the pastry until firm, line it with a parchment paper cartouche ( a round piece of paper used in cooking), crinkled so it can be pushed into the corners well, and fill with baking beans to the rim. Blind bake (without filling) at 200°c/400°f for 15 minutes or until the sides are set up. Then remove the beans with a large spoon and the cartouche and bake for another 5-10 minutes until lightly golden with no gray patches of raw pastry left behind. You don’t want a soggy bottom! Lower the temprature of your oven to 160°c/325°f.

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    Now patch up any cracks with scraps from the raw pastry and pour in the pumpkin mixture until it is full as you can make it without slopping over. As this is custard, you don’t need to worry about it rising but it could souffle if cooked at too high a temperature or for too long. So leave about a half cm or quarter inch of pastry at the top. Bake this for 40-50 minutes until the center of the filling wobbles only slightly or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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    This is definitely one to practice before Thanksgiving since it’s so delicious and a perfect dessert to follow any special autumn meal. Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream or for even more excitement, cinnamon ice cream.

    Recipe adapted from Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie Recipe

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  8. Carrot Cake with Apricots and Pecans

    Carrot cake is an all American classic and a signature of Autumn, with its orange and brown colours reflecting the changes in the trees. We had it as our wedding cake two Septembers ago we love it so much, so I suppose I get a hankering for it this time of year in part out of reminiscing… Here is a photo of that gorgeous wedding cake, made by Sugar Rush Bakery in West Seattle, sadly now closed. It was so delicious!

    Maggie and Hugo wedding 2-198-Edit
    Photo by Marla Smith Photography

    There are hundreds of wonderful recipes out there filled with raisins and walnuts but I prefer to make mine with apricots and pecans. My recipe doesn’t make as big as the one above but it is just as delicious. Sweet but not sickly and good enough to eat for breakfast. Come on, it’s got veg in it!

    Oh, and just a little hint – if you want it to be really moist make the cake the day before, cool it and wrap it in cling film and leave it out, then frost it the next day. If you have time, it’s worth the wait. Doing this allows the flavours and the moisture to develop.

    This cake also freezes wonderfully if well wrapped so you can make it far in advance. Just leave it wrapped and out on the counter for at least 12 hours to defrost fully before use and frost it on the day.

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    Top it with a generous amount of cream cheese frosting and eat it within three days for best results (as if it will last that long!).  Refrigerate it if it is at all hot out and you aren’t eating it within the day of making. The frosting will keep up better this way anyway.

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  9. Short Crust and Cherry Pie

    It’s that time of year when we are all getting just a little tired of the fresh fruit bowl… pie season! Let’s start with making the perfect pie pastry, then fill it with what you like. Today, I’ll be filling my pie with cherries, which have been in amazing abundance this year.

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    Below are my favorite recipes and methods for perfect short crust pastries. Like my grandma’s recipes, the base of these start with a combination of butter, flour and salt with additions of lard, egg yolk and sugar to make them as flakey, rich or sweet as you want them for different recipes. For the purposes of this lesson, I will be making the Double Rich Pie Crust recipe.

    RECIPES

    Basic Pie Crust 250g plain flour, 1 large pinch salt, 140g cold unsalted butter or 100g cold unsalted butter and 40g cold lard, 2 large egg yolks, 3 TBS chilled water (or 5 TBS chilled water, no egg yolks)

    Double Rich Pie Crust 500g plain flour, 1/8 tsp salt, 280g cold unsalted butter/200g cold unsalted butter and 80g lard, 4 large egg yolks, 5-6 TBS chilled water (plus extra)

    Sweet Rich Pie Crust To the 250g flour recipe, add 1 TBS caster sugar with salt.

    Cherry Pie Filling About 1kg/2lbs fresh, tart, whole cherries 1 TBS Almond Liqueur 3 TBS Corn Flour 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 150-200g/1 cup-1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (depending how tart cherries are) 2 TBS granulated sugar (for topping)

    METHOD

    First thing’s first – pop a small jug or cup of water in the fridge to chill down. You’ll need it very cold. Now, follow this same method for each pie pastry recipe and you’ll get there. Start by choosing either the slow manual or quick machine method for rubbing fat into flour, then follow the steps after. For now, let’s focus mainly on the quick method. I’ll add some more photographs of the slow method a bit later… To start, measure flour and salt into a large bowl and cut up cold unsalted butter into cubes. If you don’t have unsalted, for heaven’s sake just use salted and omit the salt in the recipe. Life’s too short for needless extra trips to the grocery store…

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  10. Pâte sucrée

    The patisseries of Paris make everyone swoon and Pâte sucrée is the base for those fabulous tarts and biscuits that stand at the front of the shop window. Rich yet light, works perfectly with chocolate, fruit, cream, custard, cheese cake, citrus filling and tastes as delicious raw as it does cooked – it really is a wonder of the pastry world. Trust me, when you learn to make this pastry you might not go back to any other! Save for the near-holy american apple pie that is, which undoubtedly calls for short crust… or does it?

    It’s not the easiest to make but when you get it right it is oh so satisfying. The recipe and method I am using is adapted from the Leith’s How to Cook book, which I highly recommend. You can of course make it in a Magimix or other food processor if you want to, or bung the wet ingredients in a bowl and knead in the dry, but it won’t be as good. Besides, pastry making really is for those who get pleasure out of the cooking process as much as the eating, so I’m going to show you the old fashioned way.

    As with most good things baked, butter, eggs and sugar enrich this dough to decadence. Use it for mini fruit pies as I have here, citrus or chocolate tarts, accompaniment biscuits… anything you think needs a sweet base really. One thing to remember though: as this pastry has more sugar than a usual one it should be blind baked (i.e. without filling) at a slightly lower temprature of 190°c/375°f and on the top shelf of your oven for high heat. If you are using a fan oven adjust accordingly, usually down 20°c.

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    INGREDIENTS
    (Adapted from Leith’s HTC)

    250g plain flour
    1/8 tsp salt
    125g unsalted butter (cool but slightly soft)
    125g caster sugar
    3 large egg yolks (cold)
    3 drops vanilla extract

    METHOD
    (Adapted from Leith’s HTC)

    Have out: weighed ingredients, a pallet knife, cling film (two layers) and a butter knife for the initial stages.

    Start by sifting the flour and salt onto a clean smooth surface, then use your fist to make it into a large ring. You’ll be working in the middle of the ring so make sure to leave plenty of space. Now for some hand movement instructions. Remember when you used to make shadow puppets when you were a kid? Make a goose. Ok now you are going to keep the goose’s beak almost all the way shut while you push down with the pads of your fingers rather than your nails. Once you get started you’ll get what I mean… a bit like pecking.

    First separate cold eggs, reserve whites if you like and keep egg yolks cold until ready to use.

    Put the cool butter in the centre of the circle of flour and push it into the surface with the pads of your fingers so it is smooshed down. Then pour the sugar over the butter and, using only one hand, mix it it in with your finger tips.

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    Use a few scooping motions if needed to flip sugar back over the butter and pinching motions to smoosh it together. You want to do this step efficiently so that the butter does not melt or become greasy.

    Peck in sugar

    If necessary use your second hand to help move more quickly but ideally keep it to one so you have your other hand free to move flour away if you need to.

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