Thursday, 25 November 2010


Every year it happens to us. We make a holiday meal such as the one you are stressing over today in America: the turkey is in the oven, the potatoes are a roasting or mashing or sweet and under the marshmallows, and then it occurs to us? What do I got to do with those sprouts? Well for sprouts or cauliflower or any of those root veg such as beets, carrots, parsnips or sun chokes here is an easy, heavenly treat....

What you need
250g ( 1/2 pound ) streaky bacon, large dice
1.5 kilogram ( 3 pounds) Brussels sprouts, washed, ends trimmed off and cut in half
salt and pepper
spice of choice ( fennel seeds, cumin seeds, black onion seeds, etc)

What to do
  1. Turn oven to 200 degrees Celsius ( 385 F)
  2. ON large baking tray spread out bacon and place in oven till fat is rendered and bacon starts to crisp slightly.
  3. Toss Brussels sprouts on top of bacon ( add splash of olive oil if you have been skimpy on the bacon)
  4. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and spices
  5. Roast in oven till lightly browned ( 1/2 hour)

More dishes to wash
  • Substitute in small rough chop of carrots, beets and turnips for a colourful change.
  • Sprinkle some Stilton or other blue cheese over vegetables just before serving.
  • Try this recipe with cauliflower, and toss hot vegetable quickly with spinach for a seasonal wilted side "salad" dressed with a squeeze of lemon and a few pomegranate seeds

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Celebratory leftovers...rice and beans

After spending all of todays sunlit hours sitting at my kitchen table writing a policy paper on national anti-obesity campaigns such as EPODE, Lets Move and Change4Life I realize that so much is written, so much ss theorized, so much has already been said, so much has led me to... hunger dammit!!!! We don't need to reinvent the wheel or even always make a new dinner, I need F-O-O-D. Nothing fancy, but a simple meal to commemorate finishing the draft of the paper....
I just want some simple leftovers, easy food, healthy and that so wrong. Must I create a policy memo/five course meal for this or can we just get down to business and start enjoying what's left in the refrigerator? Yes, I know the got lots of strange stuff hiding on those shelves;turning colours;changing textures...well use em or lose em I say.
We have enough food waste and food want in the world so for me, today, its time for rice and beans. And since its autumn and my box of veg is filled with cabbage, carrots, and onions well we need to have that just about every night as well. So as I type and eat the last remnants of the weeks bacon, rutabaga( swede) and red cabbage soup I will toss together the following great recipe for Rice and Beans stuffed in cabbage rolls...

1 T olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and fine dice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 carrot, peeled and fine dice
1 pepper, seeded and fine dice
1 hot pepper, seeded if desired, and fine dice
2T tomato puree
1/2 bunch cilantro, cleaned and stems and leaves separated
2T paprika , hot
1T cumin seeds
2 cups leftover brown rice
2 cups leftover beans
salt, pepper
fresh lime juice at end
12 large outer cabbage leaves, boiled or steamed till soft

  1. Heat large fry pan over medium high heat and add 1 T olive oil.
  2. Add onion and garlic and cook 5 minutes till softened and browned.
  3. Add carrot, hot pepper, cumin and pepper and cook down further five minutes, deglazing pan with water, beer or wine as necessary to prevent burning.
  4. Add tomato paste, paprika and cilantro stems to pan and cook down two minutes.
  5. Add rice and beans to pan and heat thoroughly.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, taste.
  7. Finish with fresh cilantro( coriander) and lime juice.
  8. Wrap in cooked cabbage leaves and serve.

  • Serve with home made salsa and/or guacamole.
  • Use as a stuffing for peppers, courgettes or onions and top with melted cheese.
  • Served open faced and topped with a fried or poached egg for a tasty Sunday brunch treat.
  • Yup your right I did not in the end reinvent the wheel, i just changed my normal vegetarian stuffed cabbage to cabbage stuffed with rice and beans and smothered with salsa and feta cheese!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Apple Fest Chutney

As the days become shorter and the air gets a bit colder, autumn is a wonderful time to shift gears. Yesterday at the Portobello Road Apple festival we did just that. As the sun and temperature began to dip we shifted away from some apple based salads and into sampling of our preservables: pickled fennel made with apple cider vinegar and the crowd favourite camelized fennel and apple chutney. We served the chutney on slices of award winning Braeburn, Gala, Jonagored, and Cox Apples from the National Fruit Show. Serving up a nice chutney was a great way to strike up a conversation with some of the thousands of people who tasted our food at the Festival. A chutney elicits strong reactions from its often strong flavours. Strong memories of grandmotherly made jars of chutneys, pickles, and compotes from years gone by. Try this chutney, can a few jars, and get prepared for enjoyable meals during the cold dark and cozy months ahead...


Serves ALOT ( be prepared to can and/or give to neighbors and friends)


2 T English rapeseed (vegetable) oil

7 Fennel Bulbs (or onion), stalks and core removed, thinly sliced

15 Bramley apples, washed, seeded, and sliced

125g brown sugar

1 t

2 lemon, zested and juiced

2 lime, zested and juiced

1T cumin powder ( or toasted cumin seeds)

50g fresh ginger, grated

1/2 bunch mint leaves, washed and finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat large saucepot over medium heat, then add rapeseed oil.
  2. Add fennel to pot and slowly cook down till wilted and well browned, adding splash of water as necessary to prevent sticking.
  3. Add sugar to sauce pot and melt. Then add sliced apples and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Add all other ingredients except mint into pot.
  5. Put on very low heat and stir carefully/occasionally until apples are cooked.
  6. When ready mix in mint and adjust Seasoning.


· Serve this with your favourite roast pork or turkey dish.

· Can or freeze the chutney to preserve for the months ahead.

· A great accompaniment to your Ploughman’s!!!!

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Day one of the Portobello Road Market Apple Fest is over and what a wonderful day. Needless to say we ate a few apples, served thousands of people samples and cant wait till tomorrow to try out a few more recipe surprises. Hats off to all the volunteer, from cooks from Flavour Gateway in Tower Hamlets ( check out their food at Weavers Field in Bethnal Green) to Masters in Food Policy students at City University who helped make it all happen.

Today was not just about apple and squashes. It was actually about saving local jobs, local fruit and veg, local cultural history, and reconnecting people with the flavours of the season. Not the flavour one finds in the freezer aisle of the supermarket, or the jarred apple sauce we feed our infants. No. I am talking about the flavour of home made food that is made with skill, but more importantly with lots of love.

Below is a very simple recipe for a wonderful dessert that anyone can make for their friends and family. Give it a try; cook with your loved ones both young and old, and enjoy the process and the "fruits" of your labour!!!!

Apple Crumble

Serves 6



4 large Bramley apples (or other apples/stone fruit) washed and seeded

1 lime (or other citrus) zested and juiced

4 T raisins (or other dried fruit)

1t mixed spice (or just plain Cinnamon)


75g whole meal flour

25 g oats

50 g sugar

50 g butter

1 t mixed spice


  1. Heat oven to 190 Celsius/375F/Gas mark 5
  2. Thickly slice apples and toss with zest and juice of lime, raisins, 1t mixed spice, and place in baking tin.
  3. Rub butter into the flour, stir in sugar, oats and mixed spice and rub till crumbly.
  4. Cover apples with crumble mixture and press firmly to create a sealed layer over the fruit.
  5. Bake in oven for 40 minutes until brown and let rest 10 minutes before serving


Try serving this with natural yogurt instead of custard.

Try to make a different fruit based crumble for each season.

Mix up your dried fruits, your spices, and your citrus with each crumble.


One day till the Festival and we began the big preparations. What does that mean? It means dozens of squash to roast, onions and apples to sweat down, seeds to season and roast, vegetable stock to simmer...and generally speaking playing with lots of wonderfully local and seasonal English produce.

If you are in London tomorrow or Saturday, stop on by the Portobello Market and get some free samples of the luscious fruits of our crumble ( tomorrows blog recipe), Harvest Squash soup (recipe below), baked apples (yesterdays blog), and of course lots and lots of award winning apples to sample....


Serves 6


1 butternut squash, halved and seeded

1 acorn squash, halved and seeded

50g honey (maple syrup or brown sugar can substitute)

1 large onion, peeled and finely diced

1 shallot, peeled and finely diced

1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped

2 English eating apples, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped

200ml white wine (or substitute apple juice or apple cider)

1 Litre vegetable stock

1 T English rapeseed oil (or other vegetable oil)

Cinnamon and Salt


  1. Heat Oven to 190 C/375 F.
  2. Place squash in a roasting pan cut side up.
  3. Pour 250ml water in bottom of pan. Pour honey and salt in cut side of squash.
  4. Cover pan with aluminum foil or lid and roast till cooked (roughly 1 hour)
  5. At same time, sweat onion, shallot, garlic and apple in oil till translucent.
  6. Add white wine to onion pan and cook till almost evaporated
  7. Peel cooked squash and put the flesh in with the onion mixture.
  8. Add enough vegetable stock to cover the squash
  9. Simmer for 30 minutes
  10. Puree soup till absolutely smooth
  11. Finish with cinnamon and salt. Add a splash of lemon juice if necessary.


· Try making your own stock by cooking down clean trimmings from vegetables and fruits for an hour in a large pot of water...strain and use the liquid for soups and sauces!!!

· Try using different types of squash and pumpkins for this recipe

· Lemon juice and other acidic ingredients can often help balance the flavour of a soup or sauce!!!

Monday, 18 October 2010

APPLE FEST and early am oat inspired confessional

Easy...tasty...and worthy for breakfast, lunch or dinner!!! What could it be but baked apples...

Cut some big ole bramley apples in half...Toss with a bit of mixed spice, a pat of butter and sprinkle of honey or sugar and bake for 1/2 hour at 375 F in a pan spread with 1/2 inch of water or cider. That's it...have with ice cream for dessert. Have with yogurt and walnuts for breakfast. Mash with chopped pickled onions and have a bit on whole meal bread with mature cheddar cheese for a cheese and quick chutney sandwich!!!!

All week I will be blogging apple based recipes. Why? Well come on down to the Apple Fest at Portobello Road market that I am helping to run this weekend and find out how eating apples and other local produce can help your local economy, save a farmer, better your health and enjoy the wonders of local and seasonal products!!!!

MORE DISHES TO WASH ( AKA early morning confessional)

Alright, I only put my soaked oats, yogourt, and baked apple on that nice plate for the photo...I then foolishly tossed it all in a bowl to have as i normally do with a cup of tea and the nytimes online before I ride my bike to work. The truth is good food is worth a bit of effort. But usually like these tasty apples, it takes hardly any effort at all. The only effort is when we all try to get a bit poncy with our slow down, enjoy the apples, eat em if ya got 'em, and if you dont come on by the Portobella Road Market this weekend to get some!

Saturday, 10 July 2010


So often what we need is right in front of us. So often our cravings take us to eating that which is unhealthy. The unhealthiness is not of function of the food, but the process and processing that takes place in making the mass produced variety of it...think burger, think kabob, think chicken and chips. Do they all need to be unhealthy, are they by nature unhealthy....NO.

I need pizza. Not the cardboard and canned variety so often seen across my present city, but a healthy one with home grown veggies and a bit of flavour. I live in the U.K.. Don't get me wrong, I love London and its amazing farmers markets, the bounty of seasonal food, the temperate climate. But pizza....NO. Not a fan of the things that pass for pizza here.

I crave thin crust, I crave a bit of homemade sauce. I crave it now. What I crave often leads to late night bad food choices here in London, but this pizza craving is so easily taken care of.

We are talking about flat bread pizza. No fiddling around with rising doughs... just quick simple kneading dough since i need pizza!!!! Flat breads can be made in a pan, in your oven, or as we do on the BBQ. Combined with a BBQ inspired sauce and some cheese and you have pizza faster than it takes for your family to decide on a pizza to order and have it delivered!!!


200g ( roughly 1 and 2/3 cups) strong whole-wheat flour

200g (roughly 1 and 2/3 cup) strong white flour

2 pinch salt

60ml ( 1/4 cup) olive oil

240ml (1 cup)water

1T dried mixed herbs


  1. Heat pyramid pile of coals in your BBQ and continue recipe (Do not cook over BBQ till coals are glowing grey and you have flattened the pyramid out, banking coals to one side to create a high and low heat area in your BBQ area so you can control your cooking).
  2. Sift flours into bowl, add salt, and make a well in the middle.
  3. Add oil and water into the “well” and slowly incorporate into dry ingredients.
  4. Shape dough into a soft (not sticky) ball, adding bit of water or flour as necessary.
  5. Knead on floured surface (or in mixer with dough hook) till smooth and elastic (5 minutes)
  6. Let rest for 30 minutes (if you have the time and are not in a pizza frenzy as i can be).
  7. Roll out ½ cm/ 1/4 inch thick.
  8. Clean and oil the grill rack.
  9. Place dough on BBQ for 30 seconds to 1 minute till lightly browned on one side.
  10. Flip dough over to uncooked side, quickly brush with sauce and toppings, and cook covered for 30 seconds to one more minute.


For softer pizza: Place toppings on pizza once dough is placed on BBQ during step 9.

For indoor pizza, crank up your oven to 200 Celsius ( 400 F) and cook with same method albeit a longer cooking time.

Funky summer pizza: roast whole beet root bulbs with fennel seeds, splash of olive oil, and dash of balsamic vinegar. When finished, peel and puree. Saute the beet root greens. On your flat bread pizza spread the beet sauce, layer the greens and then sprinkle with Stilton cheese...

Having a curry, make some of this flatbread pizza better known as Chapatis!!!

Are you gluten free...easy, sub gluten free flour and add a teaspoon of xantham gum to the liquid mix.

Toppings...come on of course use the grill...meatballs, portabella's, courgettes, name it...

We almost forgot the easiest sauce ever....on the grill while you are rolling out your dough place a half dozen halved tomatoes ( a splash of olive oil and a crack of black pepper never hurts), and one large onion...cook till charred and soft. Puree this with a garlic clove, a couple tablespoons of tomato paste ( puree) and some fresh herbs...DONE and ready for the BBQ again!!!

So the truth of the matter is in summer, its hot ( okay warm here in London) and I seem to crave real flame focused food. Often beer induced, charcoal crusted cooking outside on the BBQ. No pots to wash, no pans to clean up, just me and the BBQ cooking everything from sauce to dough, side dishes to desserts ( have you marinated a peach ever with lime and lime zest and grilled it??? Try it and serve with some Greek style yogurt with mint!!!!) Crank up the heat and enjoy the BBQ now, today, before the air turns chilly and your cravings turn to the hearty fare of winter....


After the fourth of July has passed and its shocking lack of festivities here in London...I started thinking about "American" foods and my brain turned to thoughts of sustainable food staples from other times and places.
Humble foods like Bangladeshi dahl with rice (see blog post from June 2009) or Malian peanut sauce with millet ( see blog post august 2009). Simple, tasty and good old fashion black beans came to mind and all their south of the border convoluted and maladapted influences made me really hungry. The end result was me making one of my favorite summer comfort beans served simply with tortillas, salsa and guacamole.

2 slices of bacon, fine diced
1 carrot, peeled and fine dice
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and fine dice ( use extra onion if you don't have fennel)
1 stalk celery, washed and fine dice
1 onion, peeled and fine dice
1 pepper, washed and fine diced
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2T tomato paste( puree)
2T cumin seeds (toasted if you can)
1 chile pepper, seeded and fine diced
1 tomato fine diced
1/2 bunch coriander, washed and separated into fine diced stems and fine diced leaves
2 cans black beans ( or 2/3 cup dried and then soaked and boiled till soft)
1/2 can or bottle of beer
1 lime
2 stalks, spring onion, washed and finely diced

  1. In a sauce pot, sweat bacon over medium heat till fat renders out and bacon is crispy.
  2. Add carrot, fennel, celery, onion, pepper, bay leaf and garlic to the bacon and sweat down slowly for 10-15 minutes till soft and translucent. If pan starts to brown donate a splash of beer to it!!!
  3. Add the tomato puree and cumin seeds and cook further 3 minutes.
  4. Add chile pepper and chopped tomato and cook further five minutes.
  5. Add coriander stems and let simmer till this mixture is very dry, soft and roasty looking.
  6. Add cooked beans and beer and let simmer 20 minutes.
  7. Season with salt and pepper if necessary, a squeeze of lime and garnish with the reserved spring onion and coriander leaves.
As I eluded to at the beginning...beans are a great staple and plentiful, and if you do your homework or care to wonder...they are very sustainable in comparison to that big old feedlot beef many think is a staple to their diet. So make them a integral part of your weekly menu is a variety of ways...
  1. Served cold and tossed on your salad and eaten with some tortilla chips,
  2. Old school London style beans on toast( maybe add 1 T molasses to the finished product)
  3. Fry up the leftover beans and mash up for refried beans
  4. Roll beans up into a burrito with rice, shredded fresh carrots and onion, salsa, and a splash of cheese
  5. Use as a healthy side dish for your grilled pork or lamb chops
  6. Serve with some grilled corn and a fresh salad
  7. Add some vegetable broth and fresh spinach to the dish and turn into a hearty healthy soup
  8. Served with salsa, guacamole and some fresh tortillas
In other words, in the immortal words from Cool Hand Luke....GET AT DEM BEANS!!!!


If you are lucky enough to be close to the sea then this is another season to enjoy. Close to London, in Cornwall and elsewhere, the sardines are coming in plump and tasty. This is what I cherish, nice local fresh and tasty fish that gives me all the omega fatty acids i need without buying a silly fish oil pill!!! Sorry, but its true, the fish cost 4 pounds for a kilo, which is ridiculously cheap, and if you buy the pills shipped in from New Zealand or wherever, they cost much more and you still need to cook yourself some dinner...I prefer to swallow my medicine one forkful at a time!!!!

So as part of a nice fresh Friday night meal all on the BBQ, as it was too hot to cook indoors,we made two fish courses...firstly, grilled/BBQ sardines with herbs and then we threw a big ole squid, some peppers, and mushrooms on the BBQ and served that with grilled feta, home made tortillas, and a salsa vinaigrette...

Below is the simple method for grilling sardines on your BBQ:

1 kg( 2 pounds) fresh sardines, gutted and rinsed ( head and tail on please)
4 T olive oil
2 sprigs green onion ( or fresh onion and garlic)
1/3 bunch coriander ( or your favorite fresh green herb)
1 lemon ( or any other citrus you desire)
salt, pepper

  1. Heat BBQ till mound of coals are grey and hot, push them to one side to form a hot side and a cooler side.
  2. While BBQ is heating, rinse sardines, pat dry and sprinkle liberally with salt.
  3. In mortar and pestle (or food processor) add chopped up green onion( stems and bulb), coriander, juice of half the lemon and 2 T olive oil...blend till rough paste.
  4. After grill is ready, rinse salt off sardines, drizzle with olive oil and fresh salt and cracked pepper.
  5. Make sure grill is clean ( with a wire brush or wad of aluminum foil!!!) and then rub some vegetable oil over grill rack to prepare for the fish.
  6. Place fish on a moderately hot section of grill and let cook for 2-3 minutes depending on sizes of fish.
  7. Flip each fish, brush with a bit more olive oil and finish cooking for 2-3 more minutes.
  8. Place on platter with fresh lemon and herb relish and serve immediately.
  1. These are small fish and the spine should pull off in one flick of your fork.
  2. Try this method with lots of fish this summer....grilling/bbq with simple fresh herbs and citrus is a great way to enjoy a hot summer.
  3. Think ahead and BBQ some veggies as well...asparagus, peppers, bok choy, tomatoes....and serve with a simple vinaigrette ( lemon, herbs, olive oil, s,p)
  4. We made fresh tortillas and often make flat breads on the grill...i will save this for an upcoming post...but any bread on the BBQ/grill with a splash of olive oil is a wonderfully easy treat!!!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


I hide away for nine months, incubating food thoughts, training hundreds of school chefs, young moms, nutritionists, social enterprise managers, and the like, and I return to the blog with a picture of goose fat taken on a vacation last month in Budapest ?!?!?!?!

Am I having recollections of the goose that laid the golden fat...or am i trying to remind us of the real look of what we love( deep deep down within). Admit it, we all have a bit of a vice ... we all love it...saturating our cheese, creating our mayonnaise, layering our cakes, filling our sundae's, oiling even our omega favoured fish, scooped out of our avocados, and being used each and every day in hundreds of ways. So what gives?

I overdosed...yes...the fat was just toooooo much...the goose platter of goose cracklins, goose liver pate, goose fat spreads, and then the goose oozing out of me as I sat in the steam rooms of the Budapest spas...But even as we try to cut back, I am not cutting cold turkey(or goose) or attempting to eliminate fat nor flavour from food. But how to make a simple sauce, richly flavoured , creamy textured, but healthy with lower fat and lowered salt?

WHITE SAUCE/BECHAMEL/CREAM SAUCE... call it what you will, we will make a basic quick and easy, cheap and cheerful item that can be your goto pasta white sauce, your lasagna filling, fish or chicken finishing sauce and so much more. This is the recipe I have passed on to hundreds of chefs...not a new creation but a remembrance of old school methods long forgotten. Working with school chefs each and every week, not only teaching, but creating dialogue of what can be done with the food and the future generations that they feed, how to make it simple, tasty, cheap, and healthy. Making the sauce with no gluten, lowering the saturated fat, no added salt, and lots of added flavour all within five minutes...i may have O.D.ed on the fat, but i am not having me.


2 Tablespoons corn flour ( corn starch)
300ml/½ English pint semi skimmed(2%) milk
50g/2 oz/ mature cheddar ( or your other strong cheese), grated
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard (or less if too spicy)

1. Put corn flour/starch in measuring jug
2. Add a little cold milk to make a paste
3. Add the rest of the milk and stir.
4. Pour into saucepan and bring to a low boil . Turn stove top to low heat, stirring sauce continuously with a whisk or wooden spoon. If the sauce thickens too quickly, add a few teaspoons of milk or water to thin out again. As it thickens, take off heat and continue stirring.
5. Add the mustard and grated cheese and cover with cling film (to prevent skin from forming)

This is a great simple white sauce to use with pasta and your tuna past bake( tuna noodle casserole for those on the west side of the Atlantic!), the binding sauce for a old school fish pie, for lasagna or with so many easy adjustments to use with what you have at hand, such as....

Follow Steps 1 - 4 of the recipe and then add one of the following to flavour the sauce:

  • carmelized onions and garlic
  • saute of mushrooms deglazed with red wine
  • home made pesto
  • simply fresh herbs and good grind of black pepper

Or for dessert, after step four of the recipe ...add 1 tsp vanilla essence and 2 Tablespoon sugar to make a vanilla custard sauce, add cocoa powder as well for a chocolate sauce...all with semi- skim milk !!! Great with crumbles, cakes, and cookies!!!

A lower fat sauce with no gluten, no annoying step of making a roux, no time, no problems and an ability to make sauce for dinner and dessert at the same time...that's a no brainer! Enjoy the new recipes, review last summers blog entries for ideas, and get into the summer swing of things with lots of slowfood and fast cookin...