Category Archives: Food and Drink

Dancing In The Middle Of The Room

On the Threshold of Eternity

On the Threshold of Eternity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brothers (The Black Keys album)

Brothers (The Black Keys album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the past ten years I have been firmly behind the door when it comes to good music.  In the middle of a bad depressive illness anything that provoked an emotional response was definitely most unwelcome and music was a huge factor.

Recently, however, as life has become enjoyable and I have acquired an iphone, I have been attempting to make up for lost time (and spending a fortune in the process).  My latest ‘find’ is The Black Keys, who are just so sublime I can’t begin to tell you.  I have just downloaded ‘Brothers’ which is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard.  I was disappointed to find out online that I missed their UK tour dates because I would have lived on bread and butter for three weeks to go and see them.

Another recent discovery is the Alabama Shakes who are equally fantastic – I was dancing in the kitchen the other night, whilst cooking myself a rather nice supper – steak, rocket and watercress salad, wine – and I realised that life is sometimes rather grand and,  in thinking that,  it is now a definite given that I am recovered, if somewhat broke.  Music, as well as steak, is the food of love.



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Beautiful Bread

Just had to quickly post this. My friend, Brenda, told me about an amazing bakery that had opened down the road. It’s an artisan bakery and sells the most fantastic bread I’ve ever eaten.
It’s only open between 1p.m and 6p.m because they do all the baking in the morning. Brenda told me to get there in time for the door opening because the bread goes very quickly. Sure enough, when I got there at five to one there was a queue, and people were buying more than one loaf.
I decided on a large sourdough loaf which was still warm, and when I got home I had three slices in quick succession. It was divine.
It’s so fantastic that this bakery is so successful. Apparently they couldn’t get a business loan so the partners scraped the money together themselves. Now they are about to take on their fourth employee and are going from strength to strength.
So, anyone in Sheffield looking for the best bread in existence, get down to Seven Hills Bakery on Sharrow Vale Road, Hunters Bar. You will not regret it.

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Another Nigel Slater Success

I just had to share this, even though I only posted yesterday. It’s one of the most fantastic salad dressings I’ve ever had and it’s so simple to make.

With all credit to Nigel Slater, this is it.

Tarragon vinegar or white wine vinegar – 1 tbsp
Dijon mustard – 1 tsp
One egg yolk
Olive oil – 100 ml
Grated Parmesan – 3 tbsps
Lemon juice – 2 tsps
Thick slices white bread – 2
Olive oil for frying bread
One medium fennel bulb
4 large handfuls salad leaves – rocket, watercress
Parmesan shavings

For the dressing, whisk vinegar, mustard, egg yolk, olive oil and a grind each of salt and black pepper. Beat in the grated Parmesan, stir in lemon juice and put aside.
Cut the bread into squares and fry until golden. Mix salad leaves together with the fennel, add dressing and croutons and top with parmesan shavings.

I added finely sliced wet garlic and chopped chives to my salad. Also, having just bought some very good bacon, next time, I’m going to smoke a couple of rashers over hickory chips, cut it into cubes and add that as well. Bliss.

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Lovely Lunch – Smoked Mackerel On Toast

Spiced Mackerel

In order to create the lunch that I wrote about in my previous post  I went shopping and spent the best part of an hour trying to find herring fillet.  Eventually, I had to give up and chose mackerel instead, unsmoked, as I was going to do that myself.  When I got home I decided to double check the recipe and discovered that it was mackerel I was supposed to be using anyway.  Considering the grumpy mood I was in it didn’t help – I’ve always prided myself on being able to memorize my shopping lists – is this a sign of deep middle age, that I need to list all the lists that I need to make?  Depressing.

Anyway, I digress.

It’s been ages since I used my smoker, and the mackerel, smoked for half an hour over oak chips, was gorgeous – I could have quite happily just eaten it on it’s own. Anyway, here is the recipe, fully credited to Nigel Slater, and it made a very generous lunch.  I should have been sociable and invited someone over but …

Smoked Mackerel On Toast

200g smoked mackerel

3 tbsps grated Parmesan plus a little extra

3 tbsps double cream plus a little extra

6 chives

black pepper

2 slices decent bread


Put the mackerel in dish and flake with a fork.  Add the Parmesan, double cream, chives and a grind of black pepper and mix.

Lightly toast the bread on both sides.  Pile on the mackerel mix, add a little more Parmesan on top and a little bit more cream.  Put back under the grill for a few minutes until the Parmesan is melted.

Enjoy, with the obligatory glass of white wine!



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Simple Things Are Best

Monkfish Presentation

Monkfish Presentation (Photo credit: Kevin H.)

Just a very nice supper this evening – monkfish fillet baked in foil with a tiny piece of fish stock cube sprinkled over the top, plus miniature potatoes and spinach.
Tomorrow is shopping day. My austerity episode is over so it’s all systems go. I’ve found a very nice Nigel Slater recipe for smoked herring, mixed with Parmesan, chives and double cream on sourdough toast so that’s my lunch sorted.  Now I’m just eyeing my recipe books so that I can plan dinner.  I bought a new one today,  just a little one in a bargain bookshop, called ‘Sauces – 100 everyday recipes’.  It has instructions for flavouring oils and vinegars which I know is pretty straightforward really, but it’s good to have a point of reference.  It also gives me a great excuse to buy those really nice glass bottles with stoppers.

English: this is a picture of self made pesto ...

This weekend is definitely going to involve making basil pesto.

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I’m Getting Round To Cooking Properly Again…Just Not Today

Oh I know that I’m supposed to be getting back on track, cooking and all. I went away for the weekend and left the flat in what can only be politely described as a tip, forgetting that the window cleaners would be treated to a full on display of my domestic sluttery before I had chance to return and rectify matters.

Anyway, it matters not after a large G&T so I’m not going to stress about it now. I have to go away again tomorrow as I have a meeting in the grand old city of York. I am a trustee and regional committee member of a large mental health charity so occasionally I have to zip off somewhere and represent Sheffield‘s interests. So this has put off my food shopping trip for yet another day.

I don’t wish to offend anyone of a delicate sensibility but I am planning to cook a recipe from a book I got for Christmas, by Antonio Carluccio and the main component of the sauce is rabbit. I know that there are people who could quite happily eat pork or beef but draw the line at certain animals. However this recipe just looks so fantastic that I can’t resist, so it’s off to the market for me and back via Waitrose for a nice bottle of something to go with it.

I will post again, with photos and recipes in the next couple of days – Tagliatelle al Ragù di Coniglio – I can’t wait!

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‘Leon – Naturally Fast Food’ (Book 2)

I’ve just got back from my sister’s house – lots of lovely food, all the family there.  It was really nice to see everyone together.   My nieces, (8, and 1) and nephew, (5), were as boisterous as usual, but very funny – the youngest one, Laila, has learned to ‘high five’ which she now insists on doing every time she sees me, after carefully handing me her excavated mince pie – (eat the mince, leave the pastry).

But I digress.  I actually wanted to rave about a cookery book I received from my youngest sister and her boyfriend – it’s fabulous, (although I think I say that about all the books I read).  It’s a collection of the recipes from a small chain of very well reviewed fast food restaurants, Leon, which I am ashamed to say I’d never heard of,  but both my sisters assure me that the food is wonderful.  The book I have is actually book 2, and I now have book one on my Amazon wishlist.

As well as the recipes there are a couple of pages dedicated to lists of store cupboard essentials, plus party menus, drinks and,  most importantly, the ethos of Leon, which is to provide high quality fast food that is as fast to prepare as it is to cook, and nutritional to boot.  I am so looking forward to starting on this book, as well as ‘Italia’ and ‘Kitchen Diaries’.

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Normal Service Will Be Resumed Shortly…

Among the wonderful presents I’ve received this Christmas is ‘Antonio Carluccio‘s Italia’, one of those cookery books you can read after eating a five course meal and it makes you feel so hungry that you could eat said meal all over again.  It’s truly stunning.

Each chapter outlines the culinary heritage of each region of Italy, with history, recipes and beautiful photography.  I was sitting up last night at half twelve with a large plate of buttered water biscuits, a thick slice of roast ham and two mince pies, making plans as to what I was going to cook first and trying not to drool on the pages.  I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to the New Year and all the cooking that I have planned.  The first thing I have to do is to invest in some decent notebooks so that I can collate all the recipes that are scribbled on various greasy scraps of paper – I go to people’s houses and beg for bits of paper so that I can copy things down and then get home and just leave them on the kitchen table.  Perhaps a travelling notebook is in order…

Anyway, as of next week, I will be happy at home with a full fridge and heaving cupboards, and I will share some of the recipes in this book.

Wishing you all a very happy New Year!


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The Best Food For A Self-Pity Festival

Español: Cebolla siendo cortada.


Last night, I decided to make a cheese and onion tart for dinner.  It’s a really lovely recipe and high on my list of comfort food, mainly because it includes double cream and caramelised onions which enhance it to a great degree.  Ive not been sleeping very well and the resultant pityfest inspired me to spoil myself with something rich and highly calorific.


While I was slicing the onions I included my finger, (sorry Richard), and then, just as I’d finished greasing the dish I was going to use, I dropped it on the floor and it smashed into pieces.  (Rule No.1 – Don’t cook if you’ve gone for more than 24 hours without sleep).  So I improvised by using a dish my mother gave me a few years ago – I normally use it if I’m making myself a rice pudding but it’s not too deep and it did the trick.  I had just put the finished article in the oven and closed the door when I happened to look on top of the cooker and there, in a pan, were the caramelised onions waiting to go into the filling.  I won’t repeat what I said next but I had to open the door again and hastily stir the onions into the mix.


Anyhow, all’s well that ends well- it was gorgeous and I washed it down with a very nice glass or three of rosé.  I’m not sure if that’s the correct type of wine to go with cheese and onion tart but I never claimed to be a wine buff and it was fine for me.  The recipe is below, I highly recommend it.


Cheese and Onion Tart



Shortcrust pastry to line 24cm tart tin (200g flour, 100g fat)

2 large red onions, 2 large white onions, finely sliced

3-4 tbsps olive oil

Large knob of butter

1 tsp soft brown sugar

4 spring onions, sliced

1 sprig each of rosemary and thyme, finely chopped

2 large eggs

100mls double cream

150g cheddar cheese, grated


Put the olive oil and a knob of butter into a heavy pan on a medium heat. Add the sliced onions and fry until softened, stirring from time to time. After ten minutes add the sugar, reduce the heat and continue to cook them gently until the onions are soft, dark and sticky.   Remove from heat and set aside.

Make the pastry, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 20 minutes.  When the pastry has rested, roll out and line the tart tin,  bake blind at Gas Mark 6 for 10 minutes then remove from the oven and set aside.


Lightly beat the eggs, then mix in the cheese, caramelised onions, spring onions, cream and herbs.  When the pastry has cooled, add the mixture and return to the oven.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Serve warm with a green salad or whatever you prefer.


Bon appetit!




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Christmas Is Coming – Bah, Humbug

Scrooge and Bob Cratchit illustrated by John L...

Top Bloke

It’s around this time of the season that I begin to think that Scrooge was a really great bloke with some phenomenally forward thinking ideas.  Trying to shop at this time of year is a nightmare.  Every Consumer Temple from High Street to shopping mall is teeming with Consumer Zombies clutching three feet long lists and pushing two trollies at a time.  Newsflash:  The supermarket is not going to run out of food.  Your children will not run away if you don’t buy them a Playstation.  Just because someone is famous it will not make their perfume smell better. Get.A.Grip.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am well into my Seasonal Eating Plan.  Said plan is not an alarming indication that I have problems with eating – far from it – but if you could only see the amount of food that I am expected to put away at my parents’ house you would understand the method.  Basically, The S.E.P begins in October, or thereabouts and it involves increasing my food intake, from what would be considered normal for a 6 footer with a healthy appetite, to being able to  accommodate the equivalent of a Sunday lunch for four at one sitting.

 My mother is a wonderful cook.  She is also a great believer in not being able to see the edge of the plate when she serves Christmas dinner.  It’s no good trying to ask for less – I’ve been trying for twenty-odd years but she suffers from seasonal selective-deafness disorder.   Various entreaties, such as “Please don’t give me too much”, or  “No thanks I’ve really had enough” are met with deliberate ignorance and another pound of goose.  It’s no use, either, if I offer to serve instead, she’s not having any of it.  Each plate of  food is a foot high  monument to culinary glory and no-one is going to thwart her.  OK, maybe a foot is a slight exaggeration but  I can guarantee that  Boxing Day will find me plundering the bathroom cabinet for Rennies and making fervent promises to myself that next year I will be in Spain/ France/ the Arctic Circle, eating  3 ordinary meals per day in a hotel room whilst  watching endless crap TV. And no shopping.
So, in the New Year,  I’ll be making my usual halfhearted resolutions to join a gym, a walking group and a therapy circle for Beleaguered Daughters.  Or making plans to emigrate.

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