Slivers of beetroot with everything…


Beetroot is just coming in to season now. I know that lots of people buy those shrink wrapped pre-cooked things, but for me nothing beats (geddit?) the texture and flavour of fresh, raw beetroot.

The leaves are tasty too, so if your greengrocer has beetroots with the leaves on, don’t waste them… I cook beet leaves in the same way as I cook spinach; just toss them in a little hot oil in a pan for a couple of minutes. Then season with salt and pepper and sprinkle a few sunflower seeds or pine nuts over them to serve.

Lately I’ve been slicing raw beetroots very thinly using a potato peeler. (Today I made the mistake of doing that while wearing a pale grey dress. I now have a rather attractive pale grey and red spotted dress.) The flavour is very strong, so even a paper-thin slice has plenty of sweet tanginess. Last week I served raw slivers with oven-roast lamb merguez sausage and a little rocket as a starter – the slightly bitter tang of the beetroot and rocket is a perfect balance to the yummy, fatty sausage.

And today, the most colourful salad; frisee lettuce, little gem, avocado, lamb’s lettuce, rocket, basil, sweet red pepper, cherry tomatoes and shaved beetroot. .  I’ll be serving that later with some pumpkin and pine-nut fiorelli and grated parmesan. Head round here if you’re in the neighbourhood! 😉

(If you have supported the recipe cards project, thank you! I’m told your copies should be dispatched to you shortly. The Unbound website says that the box sets are sold out, but contact me directly here and I’ll get you a set.)

Bantered Haddock (not a typo).

As you will know by now, I like to go into the local shops and ask them what’s good today… On Saturday, Marsy (pictured here looking a bit dangerous) at Steve Hatt the fishmongers reeled off (Fishing joke, gedditt?) a list, and it was the haddock that took my eye. The lads asked me how I was going to cook it, and I said, “I don’t know, you tell me.”  Banter ensued. I was warned that Chef Guy (who also works at Steve Hatt) would use lots of French chef words and I wouldn’t understand him. So I plucked up the courage to ask him, and he said, “Fry it. With butter.” Very French. So I did.


Well, I added a few little extra touches of my own as follows:

Serves 4.

You will need:

1.5 kg haddock. Skin on, bones out, cut into 4 evenly sized pieces

A cup of breadcrumbs seasoned with a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and 2 tsps powdered sumac.

3 tbsp oil and a knob of butter (couple of tablespoons for those of you not prepared to guess what a “knob” is 😉 )

What to do (roughly speaking):

Spread the seasoned breadcrumbs out on a large shallow dish

Pat the haddock fillets dry with kitchen paper, then one by one press them firmly but gently into the breadcrumbs, first one side and then the other. Place them on another flat plate while you…

… heat a mix of cooking oil and butter in a large frying pan until it’s really hot.

Place the haddock pieces skin side down into the pan, turn down the heat slightly and cook for 5 minutes

Very gently turn them over with a fish slice and cook for 5 minutes on the other side. To check that they are cooked, gently insert a knife into the centre of one of the fillets and prise it open to take a look inside.

I served the haddock with some tiny new potatoes and a salad of red lettuce, cos lettuce, spinach and thinly sliced sweet red pepper dressed with mustard vinaigrette.

Thanks, chef guy. Thanks, everyone at Steve Hatt, everyone at the Market Garden, and everyone at James Elliott Butchers.

And thanks to all of you for your patience re. the recipe cards. I’m told they should be ready on 23rd June




The Market Garden has recently added a nice little Caribbean section which is where I saw these. Having no idea what they were, not even the soggiest clue, I bought some.

Turns out that eddoes (or malangas in Spanish) are tropical root vegetables, something like a potato or a yam. They are thought to have originated in Asia, but are very common in Caribbean and Brazilian dishes.

The first thing that I noticed was that when I peeled off the fibrous skin was that the flesh  is quite sticky. This is probably because they are very starchy and high in calories.

After boiling them whole for 15 minutes I sliced them into discs about 1 cm thick (the centre was still quite hard), and fried them in oil for about 2 minutes each side. Then I added them to a spinach and chick pea curry. Really yummy – more interesting in texture and taste than potato.

Next week I’m going to use them in a fish curry. I’ll let you know the verdict, and the recipe. Stay tuned

King prawns with tequila and chipotle mayonnaise

I had some sort of pretentious plan to make an ironic, retro prawn cocktail with little prawns and avocado and Marie Rose sauce. And then I remembered that I hate Marie Rose sauce and I sincerely believe that avocados and mayonnaise should NEVER be seen or tasted together, so what was I thinking?

Nevertheless, Steve Hatt had some fine looking king prawns, and I’m planning a trip to Mexico soon, so this happened. . . .

As a starter for 4 you’ll need:

16-20 king prawns. Pull off the heads and pull out the black thread down the back of each prawn (I use tweezers). Leave the rest of the shell on.

1 large garlic clove, chopped very finely

Juice of 1 lime

1 shot of tequila (about 50 mls)

A splash of olive oil

A pinch of salt and black pepper.

1 cup of chopped coriander leaves

500 ml home-made mayonnaise. Leave mustard out of the recipe when making your mayonnaise and instead add 1 teaspoon chipotle (smoked chili) flakes. I’m useless at making mayo but luckily I have a partner who is very good at it. If you must use ready made mayo, just stir in a the teaspoon of smoked chili flakes.

Serve with a salad made from:

2 baby gem lettuces – each cut in half so each person gets a crunchy half lettuce

a handful of rocket leaves

What to do, roughly speaking:

Place the prawns in a large bowl and marinate them in freshly squeezed lime juice for 1-2 hours.

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan until hot (not smoking)

Add the chopped garlic and after about a minute, lift the prawns out of the juice and drop them into the garlicky oil. Keep the lime juice in the bowl. Turn the heat down a little and fry them for 4 minutes. Keep them moving so that they turn pink on all sides.

Turn the heat right up again and add the lime juice, shot of tequila, salt and pepper and half the chopped coriander leaves.

Place a lid on the pan, turn the heat right down and cook for a further 2 or 3 minutes.

Take off the lid and sprinkle with the remainder of the coriander leaves.

I served them with a small lettuce and rocket salad, and with the chipotle mayonnaise in small bowls on the side to dip the prawns into. Peel the remaining skin off the prawns to eat them. (You’ll need finger bowls or paper napkins to clean your fingers.)

After this our main course was slow cooked lamb-shanks served with new potatoes, roast purple potatoes, roast fennel with pomegranate seeds and green beans.

Minnesota Baked Beans (not actually from Minnesota).

We had visitors from Minnesota! (I know, I had to look it up, too. It’s in the U.S. and it’s so far north that some of it is further north than bits of Canada. It’s so cold there that our guests from Minnesota came to London in December for the blistering heat.  Then they went to Scotland. These people are tough. And nuts. Tough nuts.)

They brought us the best gift that anyone can bring; a type of food I had never seen before. Namely, Red Lake Nation wild rice from a food company owned by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.


And they brought Award Winning Maple Syrup. Not just Award Winning Maple Syrup but NATIONAL AWARD WINNING MAPLE SYRUP!!


That, as we say in the world of improvisation, is an offer.

I was making chicken fajitas and thinking of re-fried beans (the recipes for these 2 are in the Essex Road Recipe deck which you can pre-order here) when Him Indoors said, “What about baked beans?” and you know he didn’t mean those disgusting slimy sugary things in a can…

So, I began the insanely long yet satisfying process of making our own baked beans with Award Winning Maple Syrup served with Red Lake Nation Wild Rice.

Thank you, Mame, Eric and David.


500 g white beans.

The sauce.

4 rashers streaky bacon

2 medium onions

4 cloves garlic

5 medium tomatoes

Teaspoon salt

Teaspoon ground black pepper

Teaspoon harissa powder (or paprika if you don’t have harissa)

2 teaspoons maple syrup or brown sugar

Tablespoon cider vinegar

What to do. …roughly speaking:

Soak the beans in plenty of cold water for 12 hours (or overnight).

Drain them, rinse them and drain again, then place in a large saucepan with lots more fresh water. Bring to boil for about 10 minutes, then turn down to a simmer for about an hour. If you notice that the beans have used up most of the water, add a little more.

The sauce.

Peel the tomatoes. You can do this by dropping them into a pan of boiling water for a minute and then taking them out again. The skins will split and, once they have cooled a bit will be quite easy to peel. Chop the tomatoes, removing the tough stalky bits, and set them aside in a bowl.

Chop the bacon into small pieces (about 2 cm cubes). Fry the bacon pieces in a large frying pan or saucepan for 4 or 5 minutes. Keep them moving and/or add a little cooking oil if they start to stick. Add the finely chopped onion and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper, harissa powder and stir it around. Keep the heat up fairly high for a few minutes to drive off some of the liquid. Now turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and add the maple syrup or sugar and cider vinegar. Mix this in well, put on a lid and simmer for about 40 minutes.

Taste it and add a little more salt and pepper if you like.

(I then blended about half the sauce with a wand blender, leaving it with some chunky bits, but you don’t have to do this.)

Preheat your oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas 7.

Spread the strained, cooked beans out on the bottom of an ovenproof dish or deep roasting tray (the beans will still be a little bit hard) and pour the sauce over them. Mix it around so that the beans are well covered and coated in sauce, and cover tightly with a lid or foil.

Place in the hot oven for about 15 minutes and then turn it down to 180ºC/350ºF/ Gas 4 and cook for another 60-75 minutes.

We ate them with wild rice (takes about 45 minutes to cook) and chicken fajitas. But I’d say they would also be really good with baked potatoes.

Bream with blackberries

I was watching a TV show with my mum about how fish like to eat autumn fruit. And because of that, I thought I’d do a fish and fruit experiment, so I made this. I LOVE it. You need a skilled fishmonger (thanks, Marsey!) to fillet the bream for you.

For more of this kind of thing you can head over to Unbound and pledge for a collection of tips on how to improvise with food, and a collection of 52 improvised recipe cards.

Ingredients for 2 hungry people or 4 people with normal appetites.

4 bream fillets. Bones out but skin on. Squeeze a little lemon juice over them just before you cook them.

2 shallots and 2 cloves of garlic very finely chopped.

A punnet of blackberries, rinsed and drained.

Salt and pepper.

Olive oil

Pre heat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the shallots and garlic for a few minutes.

Squeeze a small amount of lemon juice over the bream fillets, move the shallots and onions to the perimeter of the pan and place the fillets, skin side down, in the middle. Keep moving them very slightly as they cook so that they don’t stick, but be careful not to break them. Fry them for about 4 minutes skin side down, then very carefully turn them over. At this point the skin will have come loose so scrape it off gently with a spoon and throw it away. Fry for another 3 minutes and then gently lift the fillets out onto a piece of cooking foil and wrap them loosely. Pop them on a shelf in your hot oven for about 10 minutes.

While the bream fillets are finishing off in the oven, tip the blackberries into the pan with the garlic and onions and mash them up as you fry them for 3 or 4 minutes.

Serve with the smashed fried blackberries on the side. We ate them with purple potatoes and carrots (which I’d roasted in the 200ºC oven for about 45 minutes) and a salad.


Frying the blackberries…                                 serving with roast purple potatoes & carrots