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Monday, 25 October 2010

A bit of fizz?

So someone's about to get wed, has a new job or maybe has won the lottery!

Naturally, we have to get some sparkling liquid with which to commemorate the occasion and for most people, this usually means Champagne.
But if you thought the best sparkling wines come from the Champagne region of France, you'd be wrong - very wrong indeed in fact!

The picture above should give you a few clues. And here, by way of another clue, are just a few some of the awards this sparkler has won.

International Wine Challange 2010: Trophy for best sparkling rose in the world (including champagne). 2005 International Wine Challenge Gold Medal: the only Gold in the whole world for a sparkling wine from outside Champagne.

So, where is this fantastic place?

Well don't think Raymond Blanc, think Rick Stein, because the best producer of sparkling wines in the world is in ...............CORNWALL!.

The Camel Valley Vineyard just outside Bodmin is a superb little vineyard that I have visited many times.

Their chief winemaker these days is Sam Lindo who is the son of the owner. Sam did me a very big favour a couple of years ago. For my 50th birthday, I held a wine quiz and for the Rose, I chose Camel Valley's rose to die for, which takes just like ripe strawberries.

The problem was that Camel Valley had not yet bottled their rose for 2008. However, when I explained to Sam that I was running a quiz for charity, he made up some bottles of his 2008 especially for me!

The top prize for the quiz was a bottle of their 2005 sparkler called 'Cornwall' which was the one that won the gold medal. A mate of mine who is a toastmaster won the quiz and claims that he will never ever buy champagne again for big events.

Mind, neither will the British government, because they now use Camel Valley 'Cornwall' (which is their name for their champagne), for all their major events.

To find out more, got to

Who says good food is expensive?

Now, I know I have written about risottos before, but tonight I thought I would add another entry - and for good reason as will soon become clear. Oh, and by the way, this is also for Gina.

This is vegetable risotto for one.
Handful of chopped vegetables of your choice
20 grams of Arborio Rice
1 Vegetable Oxo Cube dissolved in 500 mls of hot water
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
50 grams grated Mature Cheddar
150 Ml of white wine or a tablespoon of lime or lemon juice if you don't want alcohol.
Olive Oil

So, finely chop onions and garlic and pop them into a frying pan with some quite hot olive oil and salt and pepper and cook until they are soft but not brown.

Then, take your rice - and you literally want a handful. Add it to the mix and coat well with the oil.

Now, turn the heat up a bit and sling in either the wine or the lime juice with black pepper in it, if you don't want alcohol. If you ARE using wine, remember the golden rule.

NEVER cook with any wine that you would not be willing to drink yourself! Now, for me, thats not too much of a problem, because as everyone knows, I drink various kinds of gut rot! But, if you only drink Cloudy Bay, then you have to be prepared to put Cloudy Bay into your food!

Let that all fizz away until the wine is soaked up and then add the stock, a bit at a time and stir. If you are using hard vegetables like carrots, add them now as they will take a long time to cook.

As the stock soaks up, add some more and add the vegetables in order of the time needed to cook. So, if you are using lets say, string beans cut up, add them in the middle, but finely cut broccoli is best left until almost last because if you put it in too soon, it will turn to mush.

So, once the rice is cooked, boil the liquid down slowy as this will release the starch in the rice to give the dish a creamy texture. Then, just at the end, while the mixture is still quite watery, add the cheese in and reduce to a creamy mix and serve with some chopped parsley over the top.

Now, I must admit, I did not end up with too much of a classic this evening. However, I don't know about anyone else, but I do think that there is a bit of a dark art to producing risotto. Sometimes you get it just right, but at other times it rather lacks something. I think in my case this evening, I was trying to cook it quickly and of course, good risotto's are never done quickly. But it still tasted pretty marvellous and quite sweet because of the vegetables I used.

So, why did I write about risotto AGAIN?

For this simple reason - it was so cheap.

I've already got the onions, garlic, oil, cheese and stock and i decided against wine or lime juice. So, all I needed were the vegetables.

Now, I knew I had a few things in the cupboard at home that needed using as well as a couple of bits in the freezer, but this rather generous tray would bring a lot to the party - so I brought them. And thats all I brought.

So, tonight's dinner cost me a whole TWENTY FIVE pence!

I saw a Vegetable Risotto on the menu of a 3-Starred Michelin chef the other day. It was £15.00!

Who says good food has to cost a fortune!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Leek & Potato Fritters with Rosemary & Thyme

Makes 4 Fritters
400 grams potatoes
200 grams leeks
10 grams fresh Rosemary
5 grams fresh Thyme
1 Large Egg or two small ones
5 grams of butter
30 grams of Matzo Meal or ground cream crackers
Salt and pepper

Peel and thickly slice the potatoes. Place in water and boil for about 4 minutes. Halve and slice the leeks and add to the potatoes and cook for another few minutes until the leeks are cooked and the potatoes are cooked but still firm. Drain and set aside

Finely chop the rosemary and thyme and add it to the potato and leek. Drop in the butter and let it melt through the mixture. Spoon in the Matzo and stir well. Finally add in the egg and stir it will. Season with salt and pepper.

Take an egg ring and put it into a frying pan with some oil and heat. Use a fish slice to scoop out a good quantity of mix. Sprinkle the top of the mix with some Matzo and flip over into the ring. Press down until the mixture fills the ring.

Fry without disturbing the mix for about 4 minutes on a medium heat. Sprinkle the uncooked side with some more Matzo.

Remove the ring and flip the fritter over. If you have cooked it well, the fritter will stay in the same shape. Cook for another 4 minutes.

Remove from heat and drain off on both sides with some kitchen paper.

Serve with tomatotes and a green salad. Another accompaniment is brown sauce. However, you MUST chill the brown sauce in the fridge before serving as it will make such a difference to the taste.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010


Sorry its been so long, but its been out of my control. I am back now though and raring to go!

Now, when you go into a meat eating place, the vegetarian option is usually a mushroom risotto. They will usually charge you around 8 - 10 quid for this, but yet it costs pennies to make.

So, try this.

Mushroom Risotto for One

5 or 6 Organic Chestnut Mushrooms
20 grams of Arborio Rice
1 Vegetable Oxo Cube dissolved in 500 mls of hot water
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
50 grams grated Mature Cheddar
150 Ml of white wine or a tablespoon of lime or lemon juice if you don't want alcohol.
Olive Oil

Chop the onion finely. Before you do so, put a tablespoon of good quality olive oil into a pan and heat it.

Drop the onions in and give them a good stir, getting them soft without burning them.

Drop your rice in and coat it with the oil.

Next add your garlic and let it cook for no more than a minute.

Now, chuck in the wine and let it fizz and boil over the rice until its all gone

Start to add the stock, a bit at a time.

Keep stirring and adding stock until the rice is nearly done.

At this stage add in the sliced mushrooms and give everything a good stir

Add any remains of stock and then let is all gently boil down. Stir it all the time.

Just before the end, lob in the cheese and give it a good stir. Season to tastes.

When that is done, pour onto plats and serve with a green side salad and a thick slice of lightly toasted olive bread.

This recipe involves a bit of alchemy. BUT, when you get it right, you will get it sooooo right that people will just pull every last bit off the plate.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Sometimes something simple, just works

So got back from a parents evening, starving and can't be bothered to cook.

Got some pasta wheels left and rather fancy some broad beans. so, boiled pasta wheels and broad beans together. When they were done, pour over some dried basil leaves and a tablespoon of olive and a bit of salt and pepper.

Its not exactly fine dining, but it tasted rather good! I think this is something that needs a bit of extra work on to make it a really special dish.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Vegetarian cooking for kids on trips

As a former youth leader, one thing that always puzzled me was the apparent difficulty caterers on camps and residential trips had in catering for vegetarians.

The article below (also by me) shows how it was done.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

At least doctors can bury their mistakes.

Me, I had to eat mine.

Now, I don't know where I got this idea from - but it perfectly demonstrates that even the best of cooks sometimes get it wrong.

But, unlike the doctor, we can't bury our mistakes - WE HAVE TO EAT THEM!

Well, the idea seemed sound. Basically, take some wild mushroom tortellini, cook it and surround it in a wild mushroom sauce.

Trouble was, somewhere along the line, I got it all jumbled up and the picture above shows the mess I made.

If that were not bad enough - I forgot that I had the garlic flat bread in the oven.

It was only supposed to be in for about 8 minutes, but ~I forgot about it and the picture on the right is the end result. It looks like the surface of the moon! Oh well, never mind eh!

Well, the tortellini actually tasted ok, but the bread was solid an inedible.

So, despite the disaster, that was my dinner tonight. I think tomorrow, I shall be cooking my signature dish - Eggs with Peppers. Hopefully, I will have better luck. But at least I am willing to have a go at different things. Perhaps thats why it it right far more times than I get it wrong.

Such is the life of a foodie!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Veggie Curry

Well, I did it tonight - my first ever decent veggie curry thanks to my Nepalese house mate.

He showed me how to put spice into the oil in the RIGHT order to get the taste.

I'll put the recipe up soon.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

A scene of utter devestation

Every picture tells a story - and this one is no different.

Its Sunday evening - the worst time of the week as far as I am concerned. There is bugger all to do. All my teacher mates are busy planning next week's lessons and I am bored!

So, get in the kitchen and what can I do?

Grabbed a packet of ready made short crust pastry from the supermarket. Now, normally I make my own based on Elaine Eade's famous 'Chough's' recipe. Elaine is the Matriarch of Chough's Bakery in Padstow, which produces the finest pasties in all of Cornwall. However, I really cannot be arsed with making my own, so an off the shelf solution is called for.

What can I put in them? Well, last night I did a veggie version of Raymond Blanc's Stuffed Tomatoes. It was totally gorgeous and the best of it was that I had loads of stuffing and ragu sauce left over.

Well, only one thing for it innit, bruv! I have the bowl of stuffing out of the fridge and thats the first two pasties dealt with.

Now, in Blanc's recipe he uses dead pig. No chance of that I feel. Instead, I boil some lentils in a stock cube to give them a bit of flavour. Then I add some grated cheese, sweetcorn, tomato puree, a few finely chopped brown mushrooms, some finely chopped red onions and a teaspoon or two of dried tarragon as well as half a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and some salt and pepper. Odd mix I know, but even uncooked it tastes good. In the stuffed tomatoes is comes out tasting fantabulosa, so it should work in a pasty.

That sorts two pasties out. I've still got the ragu sauce.

Now, I make ragu (pasta) sauce in EXACTLY the same way every Michelin starred chef in the world does.

I chop up an onion and fry it gently in olive oil. Next, I throw in two cloves of sliced garlic. You are only supposed to do one, but I like garlic. Next, chuck in a can of chopped tomatoes and a bit of puree. Finally lob in either dried or fresh basil according to taste. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes. Done, sorted!

So, have a bit of that left. Stir in loads of grated cheese and that does two more pasties.

Last bit of cheese goes into the last bit of the wild garlic pesto I made a couple of nights ago. That does the fifth one.

Stick them in the oven for 20 minutes. However, my housemate comes past the cooker and decides to turn it off at the mains. Oh dear, never mind. I put it back on again, but the pasties come out a bit burnt as a result of suffering from cookus interruptus.

Still, they taste great. The Cheddar and Wild Garlic pasty tastes totally amazing!

In the meantime, I have to clean up the ruddy kitchen. Cooking's great fun. However, the one thing they never talk about in all the cookery books is the bleeding mess that results from your efforts!

Now, I am famous for using everything in the kitchen to boil an egg and tonight is no different. Still, its therapeutic really and at least I made a totally stunning pasty, so its all worth it really!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Its back!

My favourite ingredient is back in the fields.

Wild Garlic or Ramson (left) is back again for a limited period only.

It grows near water and is very prolific. Right about now, it will be growing in abundance on the banks of streams throughout southern England.

You use the leaves and the taste is much stronger than bulb garlic.

Use it as you would normal garlic, or if you like make a soup or pesto out of it.

To make the soup use a recipe for any green soup, ie, onions potatoes, stock etc and a good handful of the leaves. Sweat everything in a pan with butter, then add the stock and simmer until cooked. Blitz and season.

For Pesto, take a good bunch of the leaves and wash them well. Next, blanch them in boiling water just to take the edge off. Of course, if you don't mind the really wild taste, use them as they are. Mind, I warn you the raw leaves are ferocious.

Whizz the leaves in some extra virgin olive oil with walnuts and extra mature cheddar. Season it and serve with pasta. And just to give it a nice little 'zing' chuck in a few chopped tomatoes and you have a lunch to die for!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Left Over Pancakes Anyone?

So apparently its 'shrove Tuesday' this week.

Now the 16th February (Shrove Tuesday 2010) is for me an entirely different occasion. It was on that day in 1983 that my mum died, so I'll probably be lighting a candle for her in the Jewish tradition (despite the fact she was a catholic). I always remember when I lodged with a Jewish family for 7 very happy years, there would always be a candle lit on a certain day each year to commemorate the death of their mother. So now, I do the same.

Apparently though, this year, its the day before Lent, when we are all supposed to give something up. Well, I ain't gonna give up cooking thats for sure and certainly not after tonights dinner.

So I've been out all day upsetting the Pope. I was at a Protest the Pope Rally in London you see. Its not that we are objecting to The Pope coming to Britain in September per se. He's the head of a large organisation. If he wants to visit the British branch of it, he is perfectly entitled to. Our objection is to the fact that it is going to be classed as a STATE visit and as such, is going to cost Britain AT LEAST £20 MILLION or to put it another way, 1,000 nurses salaries.

The Dalai Lama doesn't get that. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia doesn't get that. The heads the Sikh or Hindu religions would not get a state visit if they came here. And yet, when you think about it, there are probably far more Sikhs and Hindu's in this country than Catholics!

So, why should he get a £20m State Visit? See for further information. The funniest part of it was that we were followed the whole day by three very nice looking young Catholic men in their mid-20's who kept reading the Rosary to us! Why they were doing that, I don't know. It wasn't an anti religious demo - we were just objecting to the fact that UK taxpayers were forking out for the Pope's visit! I asked one of them out several times, but instead of a reply, all I got was a Hail Mary! Shame, such a nice boy!

So anyway, I arrive home starving. Not a lot in the fridge apart from half a lump of Danish blue cheese, some spinach left over from a totally amazing risotto I made last night, some mascarpone, a bit of cheddar and one red onion.

I fancy pancakes, but have no eggs, so off to the late night convenience store and to my surprise they are selling ready made pancakes at half price. I check the label and it's all natural materials. No point in reinventing the wheel. Job done!

So, back I come and first thing I do is chop then wilt the spinach. drop that into a bowl and then add in the mascarpone and stir it in together with the chopped onion, grated cheddar, crumbled blue cheese and a bit of salt, but lots of black pepper.

So now, get the pan hot as hell. Throw in some oil, which smokes within seconds. Drop in the ready made pancake and flip it around for a minute. Turn it over, give it another 20 seconds and then drop in the filling, cover over and cook for about 30 or 40 seconds to give the filling a chance to melt. Drop it onto a plate and put some Pea Oil beside it.

James Martin talked about Pea Oil on Saturday Kitchen. Take a few ounces of blanched Petit Pois and a handful of mint leaves and blitz them with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Sieve everything through a blender and you have this marvellously earthy, minty oil. Anyways, just put some of this stuff next to the pancake.

I tell you, it was just heaven! Ooops, me a total heathen talking about heaven! No wonder the Pope has deleted me from his Christmas card list!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Now this was nice

Pasta with Coriander Pesto

Half a bunch of Coriander leaves.
150 ml of Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves Crushed
40gm Pine Nuts
40gm grated cheddar

Some Pasta and some Cherry Tomatoes

Stick the pasta onto cook. Once it starts boiling simply wizz the garlic, coriander leaves and olive oil into a paste. Dry fry the nuts till they are nicely browned stir them into the paste along with the grated cheese. Add a bit of salt and pepper.
Drain the pasta when its cooked and stir in the paste. Serve it on a hot plate and drop the quartered cherry tomatoes on top. Serve with some crusty white bread (not garlic bread as it will overpower it).
Now whats really nice is if you get good quality firm cherry tomatoes from the fridge. You get the amazing taste of the pasta with the pesto, the crunch of the pine nuts and the smoothness of the cheese together with the coolness and sweetness of the tomatoes.
Amazing taste from just a few things!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The bargain of a liftime?

So anyway, there I was......
It was Saturday afternoon at the Cuffley Scouts Jumble Sale. I was helping out, but we'd opened for business and the crowds had come rushing in.
"No, its too much" said the woman. "Will you take a pound for it?".
"I'm only asking for £3.00 for it" said the woman on the stall.

As soon as I looked across and saw what the argument was about, I reached for my wallet. I took out a £5.00 note and gave it to the stall holder. "Don't worry about the change my dear" I said and grabbed the box.

The box contained a brand spanking new Le Creuset 22cm casserole pot, still in its box. A day or so later, I checked out the John Lewis website to see how much I COULD have paid for it. I think I got a bargain!