Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No.9. Baked red mullet.

What are you missing most in this physical-distancing, lockdown world? For me, it’s definitely having people over for food, drinks, conversation and silliness.

Today, I found the up side to not being able to cook for others. I’m calling it risky fish cookery.

You see, when I cook for others I like to be fairly confident that I’m going to serve up something they’ll enjoy. And today I realised that cooking for myself means that I can take chances and learn how to cook those things that I usually avoid.

As I waited in the safely separated and beautifully illustrated (thanks, Jason) line outside Steve Hatt, I was pretty sure that I was going to buy myself a nice, safe salmon fillet. But then, as I waited and looked at the lovely display in the window, my eye was drawn to the gorgeous red mullet. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love red mullet, but I don’t cook it. I associate it with open air seaside restaurants and barbecues, not my kitchen.

CogIyc1RSL2AXfqQAhBCtw_thumb_3c24So, I bit the mullet (geddit?!?!?!) and bought one. So glad I did. It was so easy to cook and so delicious. I really wish you could smell and taste this photo.

Here’s how I cooked it:

Preheat the oven to really hot 230ºC, 450ºF Gas mark 9

1 red mullet cleaned, not filleted

1/2 tomato

1/2 red pepper

1 clove garlic

1 tsp sumac powder or juice of half a lemon

salt and pepper

Chop the garlic finely, slice the tomato and red pepper and place them inside the fish

Rub the sumac on the skin of the fish, or drizzle the lemon juice on it, sprinkle on a little salt and pepper.

Wrap the fish loosely in foil and place it on a baking tray in the pre-heated oven.

After 5 minutes, turn the oven down to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6 and cook for another 20 minutes.

Unwrap the foil and finish under a hot grill for 2 or 3 minutes.


Here’s Jason creating the “distant wait line art” on the pavement from Steve Hatt to Popham Street past the Alpaca pub… genius! Steve Hatt are offering deliveries and click and collect. You can find them here






Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No. 8. Roast Fennel with Pomegranate seeds.

2 things. Thing 1: as well as still supplying and delivering fresh fish, Steve Hatt the Fishmongers have a few fruits and vegetables in stock, including some lovely fennel. Thing 2: I was having WineOnline with Lou yesterday who says she doesn’t like fennel, but had been doing some yummy cookery creation of her own using pomegranate seeds. So, in an attempt to change her mind about fennel, here is an Essex Road Recipe from way back in February 2016…


2 large fennel bulbs.

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground or crushed coriander seed.

Seeds and juice of half a pomegranate.

Trim off the very bottom of the fennel bulbs, and the feathery tops.

Discard any outer leaves that have dark or soft-looking patches. If you choose your fennel carefully and it’s a good batch you may not have to discard any of it.

Slice in half lengthwise, trying to keep the halves intact. Don’t worry if they fall apart, but if they do you’ll need a little less cooking time.

What to do, roughly speaking:

Cover the bottom of a small roasting dish with olive oil and sprinkle in the salt and pepper and freshly ground coriander.

Place this in the oven pre-heated to 210ºC

When the oil is hot, add the fennel and coat with the hot seasoned oil.

Return to the oven and roast for about 40 minutes.

(I was also roasting the halibut as well as potatoes, beetroot and carrots in separate dishes to make the best use of the hot oven.)

Turn the heat up to 240º.

Pour the pomegranate seeds and juice over the fennel and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes until the pomegranate seeds look slightly burnt. Taste one of the seeds to make sure that it is caramelised – chewy with a very slightly charred taste.

Serve while still very hot.

The combination of aromatic, sharp and sweet flavours works well as a side dish with meaty fish such as roast halibut, and with lamb chops or sausages.


Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No.7. WineOnline inspired curried cauliflower and potato.

During one of my many WineOnline chats of the week, a very important question came up. What to do with a cauliflower?

(What do you mean, you haven’t been having conversations about what to do with random vegetables while drinking wine and chatting with friends? What is WRONG with you people?)

So, here’s one of my favourite recipes, largely stolen from Yamuna Devi’s “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine”, one of the cookery books that I use the most, as evidenced by the state of my copy in the photo. It’s also worth checking out Megala’s Kitchen blog on WordPress, as she is always interesting and has some good ideas for cauliflower recipes.


One cauliflower. Wash, trim off the coarse outer leaves, cut out the woodiest part of the core and cut the rest into florets. (You can keep the outer leaves and woody core for an ingredient in a vegetable stock or soup in case this lockdown goes on for months!)

3 potatoes, peeled and cut into spears the size of giant chips.

2 medium-sized tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or half a tin of chopped tomatoes.

The frying spices (if you have them – if not add half a teaspoon each of dried chili powder, powdered ginger and cumin at the same time as you add the tomatoes later in the recipe)

2 green chilis

1.5 cm ginger root scraped and shredded

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon black mustard seed

The “add them later” spices and flavours

–       ½ teaspoon turmeric

–       2 teaspoons coriander

–       ½ teaspoon garam masala

–       1 teaspoon brown sugar or honey

–       11/2 teaspoons salt

Freshly chopped or dried parsley or coriander.

Squeeze of lemon.

Oil or ghee for frying

What to do. Roughly speaking.

Heat a generous amount (about 3 tbsp) oil in a large saucepan until very hot.

Add the frying spices (above) and fry stirring constantly for 2 or 3 minutes, or if you don’t have the frying spices go straight to..

Place the potatoes and cauli in the hot oil, turn down a little and fry, moving them around gently for about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and all the “add them later” spices and sweetener and half the chopped fresh parsley or coriander leaf. If you’re using dried parsley/coriander leaf add it all now.

(If you didn’t have the frying spices, then at this point also add your dried chili powder, powdered ginger and cumin powder.)

Turn the heat way down low. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. Try one of the potatoes to make sure they’re cooked.

You might need to add a little water during this 20 minutes to stop things sticking to the pan.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and the remainder of the chopped fresh herb.


Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No. 6. Gratitude tuna.

26th March and I’m grateful that Steve Hatt Fishmongers is still open. (Delivering when asked in order to help keep us safe.)

Now, just because I’m physically distancing and not cooking for people doesn’t mean I can’t treat myself to total deliciousness. So, this evening, after a couple of glasses of WineOnline with friends, I’m going to fry this beauty of a tuna steak which has been marinating for a couple of hours in lemon juice with a little grated fennel, freshly ground coriander seed and black pepper.


Heat a little mixed olive and sesame oil in a frying pan until smoking, gently place the tuna in there and turn down the heat a little. Fry for about 4 minutes on one side. Then turn the heat down to a low sizzle and place a lid or cover on the pan. I like to let it cook on this side until the top side begins to brown and then serve (probably about 8 minutes altogether).

If you prefer, you can flip it over after 4 minutes, give it one minute on the other side and then turn the heat down, cover and fry for another 2 or 3 minutes.


Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No. 5. “Cook it don’t chuck it” part 2. Green bean risotto

The last time I was in Chapel Market, the veggie stall family were selling 2 large bags of green beans for £1.50. So, of course, I went for the bargain and then realised that it’s really quite hard to eat that many green beans when you’re just cooking for yourself.


Luckily, risotto freezes. And I had arborio rice and parmesan in the house.

(If you have the Essex Road Recipe card deck, then this is the same as whistling green pea risotto, but substitutes green beans for the asparagus and green peas.)


1 large onion

4 sticks of celery

4 garlic cloves

1 litre of hot stock (I like to use veggie stock, but you can use chicken) – keep this by the stove in a jug, or in a pan on a low heat.

2 big handfuls of trimmed and chopped (about 2cm length) green beans – probably about 30-40 beans.

400 g risotto rice

a glass of white wine

100 g grana padano or parmesan cheese. Grana padano is less salty and a little creamier.

A knob of butter.

salt and pepper

What to do. …roughly speaking:

Chop the onion, celery and garlic very finely.

Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan until smoking, and add the chopped veg. Stir it all around quickly for a few seconds and then turn down the heat, put a lid on the pan and sweat the veg for about 5 minutes. Take off the lid, turn up the heat a bit and add the rice. Keep stirring. Add the wine. Keep stirring. When the rice has absorbed the wine, start to add the stock – a little (about 100 ml) at a time. Wait until the rice has absorbed the liquid before you add any more. Taste the rice from time to time to see how you’re doing. When the rice is almost cooked (after about 20 minutes), add the chopped raw green beans. Keep cooking until the rice is cooked (when it’s no longer gritty in the middle, its done). You may not need all the stock. Or you may need a little more.. The beans should still be slightly crunchy. Turn off the heat and add the butter and most of the grated cheese – mix it all around thoroughly. Taste it and add salt and pepper if you like.

Serve immediately or allow to cool and freeze in individual portions in small freezer bags.


Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No 4. Don’t chuck it, cook it!

My elderly neighbour recently went to stay with his son, and kindly asked if I’d like to take the leftover pieces of fruit from his flat, among which were a few peaches and apples that were well past their sell by date.

My first response on looking at their wrinkled skin was “Wow, that looks just like me!” I mean, to throw them out. But then something from my 1950s childhood kicked in. After 14 years, wartime food rationing finally ended in the UK July 1954, just a couple of months before I was born. Thus, I was brought up by adults who were very careful not to waste food, and some of that certainly rubbed off on me.

So, if you find yourself guilty of buying and hoarding too much fruit and veg, don’t add insult to injury by throwing it away. Think of it as an opportunity to create something amazing, or, at the very least, nutritious and unselfish.

Here’s what I did with the fruit:

Slice the apples and peaches – I cut each each fruit into 8 slices.

Remove all the stalks, pips and stones.

If the skin comes off the peaches easily then take it off, but if not just leave it, it’s perfectly edible.

Place the apples in a saucepan with a very small amount of water and a cinnamon stick if you have one. Cook on a medium heat until it begins to bubble, turn the heat down to a low simmer and place a lid on the pan. After 5 minutes add the peaches for another 5 minutes.

Remove the cinnamon stick, taste a piece of the fruit and add a little sweetener (maple syrup, honey or sugar) if it’s too acidic for you. You can mash it up a little more if you like.

I ate it for breakfast with granola. You can also serve it in a pancake, or with this wartime recipe for Railway Pudding, recently rediscovered  by my old schoolfriend Charis, written down for her by her beloved maternal grandmother, Florence Melksham (pictured below).


(Up tomorrow –  find out what I did with way too many green beans).

Shortly after I posted this, one of my fabulous Canadian cousins, Avril Beckon, found the 40 year old recipe below which she says is “a great stand alone sauce to have with pasta and veg” It’s from a restaurant in Edmonton. It’s the bridge between “spirit of rationing” recipes and the first in this series on what to do with all that pasta. Thanks, Avril! fullsizeoutput_2961

Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No. 3. Proper baked beans. (Insert hoarded toilet paper gag here).

I hesitated to share this one. Because toilet humour and recipes make uncomfortable kitchen and bathroom-fellows. But, hey, desperate times/desperate measures and all that.

It seems that there has been a run (geddit?) on tins of baked beans. IMHO the most disgusting convenience food ever; slimy, excessively sweetened yet acidic, too salty, overcooked…..


In contrast, the last thing to disappear from the shelves is dried beans, because most people have no idea what to do with them or have no time to cook them. Well, now you have plenty of time, so, rush out now and buy ’em all like a selfish hoarder, because here is a recipe for your own baked beans… also useful for using up all that tomato sauce that you made on day 1 which you won’t eat because you are already sick to death of pasta. Or, if you are one of those people who has had a few packs of dried beans in the cupboard for several years because you were once going to be a vegan, now is the time to use them.

This recipe is especially useful for those of you running out of space for toilet roll, and/or whose digestion is sluggish from looking at your screen all day while eating frozen pizza.


500 g of the larger beans (lentils, mung beans and the split types are a bit small, adzuki are borderline, pinto, mung, kidney, black, broad, lima, garbanzo, chickpeas, blackeye are all good.)

The sauce.

For the sauce, use the tomato recipe from day 1

For extra flavour in the sauce, chop up a couple of rashers of streaky bacon and fry these with the onions and garlic at step 1 of the recipe, and add a teaspoon of harissa powder with the herbs.

(Or add a finely chopped chilli – a good excuse to do even more hand-washing before you touch anything else.)

What to do. …roughly speaking:

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

Drain and rinse them, 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. The cooking time depends on the size and density of the beans; adzuki probably only need half an hour. You’re aiming for almost cooked but still slightly chewy. If you notice that the beans have used up most of the water, add a little more.

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 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.

By the way, if you are looking for other ways to waste your time while not interacting with other humans, there is an online quiz to help you “Discover Your Bean Personality”, which claims to reveal which bean you are most like. I kid you not.

Kay’s Covid Cookery Course. No. 2. A ridiculous amount of mushrooms.

Don’t get too excited. Just ordinary mushrooms. (Although in these times, perhaps something more magical is called for…)

I walked to Chapel Market to buy vegetables this morning, partly because now more than ever I want to support independent food retailers, and partly because the stallholders always call me “young lady”. They didn’t have much; apparently the bigger supermarkets are snapping up many of the supplies and paying higher prices . But one thing they did have was a huge amount of mushrooms which they were selling at £2.50 for a big tray full.


I chopped about 6 of them into small pieces and added those to the tomato sauce I made yesterday (see yesterday’s page), heating it through and simmering for about 10 minutes. So, it has now been miraculously promoted to mushroom sauce, and it’s going to be even better with your hoarded pasta than the plain tomato version.

The rest of the mountain of mushrooms went into making enough soup for about 8 people, or to feed someone self-isolating for an (admittedly rather monotonous) week.

Here’s how:


About 20 -25 large mushrooms (yes, really!)

2 medium sized onions

4 cloves of garlic

1 cup fresh parsley

1 cup fresh thyme

1 tablespoon *Henderson’s relish (or Lea and Perrins if you must)

1 veggie stock cube

salt and pepper to taste

Boiling water

What to do:

Peel the mushrooms, chop the tips off the stalks, chop into thumb-sized pieces.

Chop the onion, garlic, thyme and parsley very finely.

Heat some oil in a large saucepan, drop in the chopped onion and fry for a minute, then turn the heat down, add the garlic and herbs, place the lid on the pan and fry all this gently for another 5 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and Henderson’s and fry, (still on a low heat) stirring for a couple of minutes.

Add enough boiling water to just cover the mushrooms, add the crumbled stock cube (or a couple of teaspoons of powdered stock, or a cup of your own homemade stock. You don’t want to overdo the stock because mushrooms have quite a delicate flavour which is easily masked.)

Add a little salt and pepper, mix it all up and leave to simmer on a very low heat for about 30 minutes.

Blend with a wand blender, leaving some of the mushroom pieces whole for a more interesting texture. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you like.

If you’re a cream fan, drizzle a little single cream over the top of the soup to serve.

*I’m from Yorkshire. Henderson’s is the only relish.

Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No. 1. Leftover tomato sauce.

About 1 week from now, you will realise that the 15 kilos of pasta that you just bought leave you with no space in your cupboard, and all the tomatoes that you inexplicably shoveled into your supermarket trolley are rotting away in your fridge.

Anticipating a visit from your friends, you opened a bottle of wine and, despite your heroic efforts to polish it off all by yourself, there is some left.

If you could just get rid of some of those dried herbs that you never use, you might be able to make space on the rack for just one more roll of toilet paper. (All your bookshelves and clothing drawers already having been filled with loo roll).

Worry not. Here’s the sauce that makes taste and space. (Ingredients and instructions below video.)

6 medium sized tomatoes. Peeled and chopped finely or blended (it’s easier to peel tomatoes if you first drop them into very hot water for a minute until the skins split)

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons of dried basil and 2 teaspoons of dried oregano (or a small handful each of finely chopped, fresh basil and oregano)

tablespoon of tomato puree if you have it (not essential, though)

generous pinch of salt and black pepper.

small glass of red wine.

2 teaspoons of maple syrup or honey, or 1 tsp sugar

What to do:

Chop the onion and garlic very finely.

Heat a splash of oil in a saucepan and add the onions and garlic. Turn down the heat, place the lid on the pan and gently fry the onions and garlic until they become soft.

Add the herbs, salt and pepper –  mix it around for a few seconds.

Add the blended or chopped tomatoes and the wine and turn the heat right up again. Stirring all the time, let the sauce boil for 2 or 3 minutes to drive off the alcohol and thicken the sauce. Turn down the heat to a low simmer. Add the puree and sweetener and mix in thoroughly. Cover the pan and simmer very gently for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with some of your excess pasta and topped with parmesan cheese (what do you mean, you didn’t hoard parmesan cheese?!?!?!?), and/or baked in the oven with lean, meaty fish like cod, halibut, monkfish.

It also freezes well, or keeps in a sealed container in the fridge for at least a week.

Herby roast swordfish steaks

I know. I said I would stop the Essex Road Recipe project in protest at the closing of the Market Garden. But we just ate the swordfish steaks that I bought in Steve Hatt yesterday and they were so delicious I just have to share. Also very simple to cook.

Ingredients for 3 people

3 swordfish steaks, skin on

1 cup of coriander leaf

Half a green chili.

About 2 cm lemon grass stalk.

2 cloves garlic

Generous pinch of salt

juice of half a lemon

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 425ºF, 220ºC, gas mark 7

Finely chop the coriander leaf, chili, lemon grass, and garlic. Mix with the salt and lemon juice in a small bowl.

Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of an ovenproof dish, place the swordfish steaks in the dish then turn them over so that both sides are lightly oiled.

Spoon the herby, lemony mix onto each steak like this:


Place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes

Pop the dish under a hot grill for a further 3-4 minutes to brown one side of the steaks.

I served with potatoes and tenderstem broccoli.


P.S. I’m now buying my fruit and veg at one of the stalls in Chapel Market here in Islington. Another independent family business which is great value and features excellent banter.