A winter wonder: sticky toffee pudding

I don’t often share pudding recipes, probably because I don’t often make them. But what else is winter for, if not pudding? I have made this every month since October and, because winter has been quite rubbish (well, it has for me), I offer it to you as a little treat to get you through to the end of February.

It is such a simple pudding that you can make it even when your guests turn up an hour early, the main course hasn’t been started and you have never made it before…and everyone loves it. You can make it in advance too, and reheat it, but I have never been that organised (see previous sentence…). This recipe, from BBC Good Food, specifies making it in individual moulds but I just tip it into a square (24cm or so) tin, and then cut out large pieces for everyone. If you eat nothing else till the start of spring, you may be a tad undernourished but, my, you’ll be happy.

Pretty as well as delicious!

Pretty as well as delicious!

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Seven-minute midweek cheese sauce for gnocchi or pasta

I have been back at an office 9-5 for four weeks and have, of course, been remembering how very few things are really WTF material. When you’re out all day, commuting for almost two hours, and trying to get life admin (tax return anyone?) done in the evenings, cooking suddenly becomes a luxury.

And, yet, so far, in the last month, time constraints have helped me discover some real gems. In these circumstances, I am driven by two things: the need to use up whatever is in the fridge and, when I can, the desire to make something that will bear a repeat for lunch the next day. This falls into the first category; I always have loads of leftover cheese and cream, and though I can usually find a use for them, I recently came across three recipes on The Wine Society’s website which made me glad I had a fridge-full. The first, a cheese sauce for pasta or gnocchi, made me cheer with delight at its simple, thrifty usefulness. One for the dark nights, when fast, warming food is all you need. Served with gnocchi, this takes seven minutes, including the chopping… Continue reading

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New year, new you? Don’t you believe it…

I was suitably delighted to hear the first dire ‘what not to eat/drink if you don’t want to die’ prediction on last Friday morning’s news: there is no safe alcohol consumption and both men and women should not drink more than 14 units per week (previously men’s limit was higher).

It makes a great headline in January, a month which has now become ‘how-to-flagellate-yourself-every-which-way-month’. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve heard and overheard talking about what they are not doing right now; my least favourite was in the supermarket, where a small girl asked her mum why she wasn’t eating bread, as she had just said, in January. The reply? ‘Well, it’s sort of a tradition’. So from, ooh about six years of age, that child will believe, along with many other things, that cutting stuff out of her diet at the beginning of the year is normal behaviour.

I am not going to go on about what a sad culture we have become if that is the case. I’d rather counter it with some fascinating, and much more life-affirming information that may help you interpret these headlines and either take them, pretty much always, with a pinch of salt (unless that’s out too…) or, at least, be prepared to form your own opinion.  Continue reading

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Perfect, last-week-of-work, pork, chorizo and black olive stew

It’s quite difficult, I have just discovered, to take an appetising picture of a stew. Mind you, ‘stew’ itself is not the most appetising of words or prospects. But please don’t let that header photo, or the name put you off this rather wonderful and simple dish. My friend Ingrid made this for me a few weeks ago and I immediately tagged it in my brain as a WTF recipe because it only has a few steps. Continue reading

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How to feel rich for a quid: make cheese #2 and palak paneer

If labne‘s not your thing, or you want something a little more sturdy that you can cook with, then perhaps try making paneer. Common to south-east Asia, it’s a cheese that is difficult to buy yet really easy to make. Easy and really really cheap. And if you’re a fan of spicy food, it a great ingredient to have to hand, since it both has a lovely fresh taste of its own but goes brilliantly with all forms of spice. It is also really storecupboard-friendly: you need whole milk and acid (lemon juice is good, but vinegar works too), plus a means of straining it. That’s it. Unlike labne, it sets very quickly so you can have it ready in a couple of hours. The recipe is below and it’s one that is very much saved into the hard drive of my mind. Continue reading

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A winter warmer: Alsacian baeckeoffe

I discovered baeckeoffe when I lived in Strasbourg for a year and, whereas other students headed mostly for Paris or the south, I headed east, not because I was particularly imaginative but because I had friends there. It did my French accent the world of good, spending so much time actually talking French rather than speaking English to all the other year-abroad students, but during the long and very, very cold winter I often wondered what on earth I’d done. It started snowing in December and didn’t stop, really, till February. Which explains why Alsace which, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful regions of France with some of the best wines, is also home to some of the greatest comfort food in the world: onion tarts like flammekueche, wonderful pastries like kouglof, and stews, like this, that can keep out several feet of snow. Continue reading

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Roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad

I love a winter salad; I particularly love a winter salad that makes the most of a vegetable that was once, at least in the UK, only known for its affinity with cheese but, these days, is very much lauded beyond that. You now find cauliflower served as steaks, raw in tabbouleh and, like this, roasted and tossed in a very classic Ottolenghi style.

What I particularly like about using such a robust vegetable in salad is that, unlike more delicate ingredients like chicory or greens, leftover dressed cauliflower is usually still wonderful and not in the least bit soggy the next day. So make a bit extra, and take it into work. Easy and delicious, this will brighten your day whatever the (right now, very wet) weather. Continue reading

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