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Showing posts from May, 2010

A SMOKY DIP

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I claim complete authorship of the following recipe, and in an entirely immodest way. It came about somewhat accidentally: with the recent heatwave, I have been cooking in the garden, on the barbecue. I love cooking and eating outside, enjoying a chilled glass of something while the food sizzles on the grill (and I'm a purist about barbecues: I have a Weber kettle barbecue and cook over charcoal). On the evening of the first day of the heatwave, I spatchcocked a chicken and immersed it in a Turkish-style marinade for a few hours before committing it to the coals. I served it with saksuka, a Turkish cooked salad of aubergine, red pepper, garlic and tomatoes, Ottolenghi's yoghurt sauce (see separate post) and couscous with sweet onions. Sadly, by Monday evening the weather was on the turn and I shivered in the cooling breeze, a Margarita in one hand, as I cooked tuna and prawn kebabs. I put a sweet potato wrapped in tin foil in the bottom of the barbecue and forgot about it. I w…

JACKY'S SPAGHETTI ALLA CARBONARA

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The origins of this recipe are obscure and there are many urban legends associated with it. Some say it was made for Italian charcoal-makers, others that it was devised for American soldiers stationed in Italy during the war, who demanded a pasta dish with bacon and eggs. Whatever its origins, it's a tasty and simple dish, but like so many tasty and simple dishes, it is important to make it properly. There are a number of variants too: some recipes call for the use of cream, others for egg yolks only, the inclusion of mushrooms, peas or broccoli.

This is my friend Jacky's version. She includes a little chilli, which gives the sauce a nice kick. I like to serve it with a handful of rocket and a drizzle of chilli oil. And, of course, lots of freshly grated Parmesan. The sauce should not be runny: it should just coat the strands of pasta with its golden eggy-ness.

Approx 225g of dried pasta (spaghetti is not obligatory: I like to make this with big Penne)
150g smoked pancetta, bacon…

WHAT THE GIRLS ATE ON TUESDAY....

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The recipe in this post is unashamedly and unapologetically lifted from the Waitrose website. I am including it because it is totally delicious, not least because I ate it for a lunch with Best Girlfriends, sitting outside in the warm May sunshine, on Northcote Road in Clapham, deep in the throbbing heart of Nappy Valley. While waiting for Lucy to complete our trio of lunching ladies, Sarah and I, up from the leafy 'burbs, did some girls' twitching: that is, looking at the other women cruising along the street to see what they were wearing. Comments ranged from "OMG look how many pregnant women there are round here!" (we were in Nappy Valley, after all!) or "There's a lot of blonde women!" or "Nice shoes!". One thing we were all agreed on: there were an awful lot of trendy baby buggies.....

We had lunch at Brew, a rather chic little cafe on Northcote Road. Its extensive menu includes scrummy things like portobello mushrooms in balsamic vinegar …

OTTOLENGHI'S YOGHURT SAUCE

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This is one of those delicious, easy-to-make accompaniments that once tried you will want to make all the time. It is from one of my favourite recipe books, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, which is full of interesting and unusual dishes based on the food served in the eponymous cafes in Notting Hill, Kensington and trendy Islington. I haven't actually eaten at an Ottolenghi cafe - yet - but I have walked past the cafe on Ledbury Road, W11 quite a few times. If you have heard of Ottolenghi, it's probably because of the giant meringues which they make and display in the window, great balls of sweetness piled up on elegant glass cake-stands. Yoram Ottolenghi, the owner, is Israeli and the food is most definitely inspired by the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, the kind of food which I love: full of spices, piquant flavours, and fresh herbs like coriander and dill.

In the recipe book, this yoghurt sauce should accompany Chickpeas and Spinach with Honeyed Sweet Potato, a vegetar…

PENNE GIARDINERA

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OK, so spring is nearly over and summer is supposed to be a'cumen' in - except it ain't. We had a brief taste of summer sun in April when the volcanic ash cloud closed the airports and us Londoners who live beneath the flight path to Heathrow enjoyed a weekend of silent, deep blue skies. It felt like returning to an earlier, simpler time....

But I digress. Back to the food. This is ripped off from a dish I eat regularly at Carluccios cafe in Bentalls, Kingston. The cafe, one of a chain of many, is conveniently located in the heart of ladies' fashions, a quick dash in kitten heels from Max Mara, LK Bennett, Hugo Boss and Phase 8. I meet my best friend, and companion in shopping crime, here so often that the staff know us. In fact, Sarah goes there so frequently that the staff have her Americano with hot milk on the side brewing as she sashays through the door.

Today, I hotfooted it (not easy in high-heeled black patent wedge peep toes) from Notting Hill where I had spent …

LOVABLE JAMIE

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Jamie Oliver! Dontcha just love him, the mockney geezer, sporting a rakish straw cockle-seller's hat in his latest series.

Actually, I've got a lot a time for Lovable Jamie. Not so much for all the worthy and admirable things he's done, like his campaigns to improve school dinners, or to get more men cooking, or his Fifteen restaurants. I like him because he loves food, he positively oozes enthusiasm like the innards of a well-ripened Brie, and because his recipes are always tasty, easy to prepare and imaginative.

I remember when he was first on telly, as The Naked Chef, "stripping food back to the bare essentials". He was a little ill-at-ease with the camera to start with, but you could see he was confident around food, and the end results were always mouth-watering. I bought a Smeg range oven just like his, and made my own pasta, and watched every episode of the cheeky chappy with increasing enjoyment. I have most of his cookbooks. My, how young and slim he looks…