Monday, December 27, 2010

Spicy carrot cake with lemon icing

This is perfect for one of those dark autumn afternoons in front of the fire. It's sweet, sticky, spicy and gooey.

225g grated carrots
6 tbsp olive oil
125g soft brown sugar, preferably rapadura
225g wholemeal flour
2-3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
2 to 3 tbsp honey
4 tbsp fresh orange juice

For the icing:
175g icing sugar
Juice and rind of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3 and line an 18cm cake tin with non-stick paper. Mix the carrots, oil and sugar in a bowl, then add the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, honey and orange juice, and mix until everything is well combined - it will be quite sticky.
Spoon into the prepared tin, level the top, and bake for an hour and a quarter or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (cover the top of the cake with foil if there are signs of burning). Leave to cool in the tin.
Mix the icing sugar with the lemon rind and enough of the juice (about six to eight teaspoons) to make a thick coating consistency. Spread over the top of the cake and leave to set.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Brussels sprout and potato bubble and squeak

I can't claim any originality for this particular recipe as it's by Angela Hartnett, but it's great the morning after the night before. Top it with a fried egg and lots of brown sauce. Your Boxing Day hangover will thank you for it. Serves four.

50g bacon, finely chopped
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
50g butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme, picked
350g cooked brussels sprouts, chopped
450g cooked potatoes, lightly mashed (you can use leftover roast potatoes for this)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Plain flour, for dusting
Olive oil, for frying

In an ovenproof frying pan, lightly sauté the bacon and onion in a little butter until the onion is soft and translucent. Stir in the thyme leaves, then the sprouts and potato, and season generously. Set the pan aside and, once the mix is cool enough to handle, use your hands to mould it into four large patties.

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Dust the patties in flour, and fry lightly in butter and a touch of oil until golden brown on both sides (the oil helps prevent the butter from burning). Transfer to the oven for four or five minutes, to make sure they're heated through, and serve hot.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Protests hijacked by violent thugs.

“I may be permitted here to express my personal opinion. I shall no doubt not be accused of not loving liberty, but I know that not all movements of peoples lead to liberty.

But I know that great anarchy quickly leads to great exhaustion and that despotism, which is a kind of rest, has almost always been the necessary result of great anarchy.

It is therefore much more important than we think to end the disorder under which we suffer.
If we can achieve this only through the use of force by authorities, then it would be thoughtless to keep refraining from using such force”

Armand II, Duke of Aiguillon, 1789

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pasta with Tomato and Bacon

Servings: 4

5 slices bacon
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes or chopped fresh tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
225 g spaghetti
Dried basil
Dried oregano
Dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese

1. Grill cook bacon until crisp, break into 1/2 inch pieces, and set aside. Sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat until tender. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in bacon and tomatoes. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
3. Stir basil, oregano and parsley into tomato sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook 5 minutes more. Toss with hot pasta. Top with grated Parmesan cheese when serving.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chorizo And White Bean Soup

Serves 4

This is one of those easy, versatile soups that you can play around with, use rosemary instead of thyme or add shredded cabbage or greens just before serving. Ideal for a last minute supper.


Glugs of olive oil
1 chorizo sausage (about 150g/5½oz), chopped
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp paprika or Hot Smoked Pimenton
2 or 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 litre/2 pints chicken stock
2 x 400g/14oz tins cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (or equivalent in dried beans soaked overnight and cooked)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat some olive oil in a large pan over high heat and cook the chorizo for 3-4 minutes until crisp. Set aside in a bowl, leaving the delish red oil in the pan.

2. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onion and celery to the pan and season well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-7 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, thyme and paprika and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute.

3. Return the chorizo to the pan with the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for ten minutes. At this point you could add some thinly sliced cabbage to bulk it out a bit. Add the beans and cook for another five minutes.
Check the seasoning and serve with bread and lots of olive oil.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Roasted pumpkin and thyme soup

Make Halloween Soup!


2-3kg unpeeled pumpkin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
8 sprigs fresh thyme leaves only, plus extra leaves to garnish
2.25 litres/4 pints vegetable stock
300ml/½ pint single cream (Optional)
175g/6oz Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated

Preparation method
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6

2. Cut the pumpkin or squash into chunky wedges and scoop away all the fibres and seeds. Rub the wedges with oil, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then place them into one large or two smaller roasting tins, skin-side down. Transfer to the oven to roast for 30 minutes, or until tender.

3. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, slice away and discard the skin and cut the flesh into small chunks.

4. Splosh some olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion and half the thyme leaves and cook gently for about ten minutes until the onion is very soft but not browned. Add the roasted pumpkin, any juices, and the stock. Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

5. Leave the soup to cool slightly, then add the remaining thyme leaves and liquidise in batches until smooth. Return to a clean pan and bring back to a gentle simmer.

6. Stir in the cream (optional) and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls and place a small handful of the grated Gruyère into the centre of each. Scatter a few more thyme leaves on top and serve.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Spaghetti Al Crudo

This is amazingly simple. I've just made a huge bowlful using some tasty tomatoes but without the capers and anchovies. It's very delish.

Spaghetti with tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies. Crudo means raw, and in this recipe the sauce is uncooked. Look for a spaghetti with a surface that is slightly rough, rather than very shiny, because you need everything to cling to the pasta. Use quality ingredients, especially the tomatoes and basil.

Serves four (or six as a starter).

2 tbsp capers (baby ones, if possible)
4 tbsp black olives, pitted
5 anchovy fillets, finely chopped (Optional)
2 large ripe tomatoes, or 3 smaller ones (the best quality you can find), finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato passata
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g spaghetti
1 bunch basil
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Put all the ingredients except the spaghetti, basil and half of the oil in a sauté pan and mix together, but don't heat. Taste and season.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil (use a little less salt than usual, because the anchovies will add salt later), drop in the pasta and use a fork to curl the pasta around the pan so that it gets submerged quickly. Cook for about a minute less than the time given on the packet (usually five to six minutes), until al dente. (It was 9 mins with the pasta I used.)

While the pasta is cooking, put the sauté pan containing the ingredients for the sauce over the top of the pasta pan, so the steam just warms everything up a little and the flavours start to infuse.

When the pasta is cooked, drain, but reserve the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauté pan and toss through, adding a little of the cooking water as necessary to loosen. Add the rest of the oil and toss through again. Tear the basil leaves, scatter over and toss through again. Serve straight away.