Wednesday, 21 December 2011


There's a fantastic little market over the hill in Brockley which has become a bit of a habit of mine.  Every Saturday from 10am to 2pm you'll find a friendly bunch of local stallholders selling fruit and vegetables, speciality potatoes, flowers, free range chickens, game and a whole host of other meat, cheese, bread, cakes, handmade chocolates, fish, chilli plants, coffee and an ever changing array of food to eat on the go.

I like the fact that there aren't twenty odd stalls all selling the same produce, that the stallholders always have time for a natter and that I barely notice that I've easily whiled away a couple of hours browsing this tiny gem. First stop is always Dark Fluid Coffee, the newest artisan roastery and mobile brewer on the block, to top up my caffeine levels.  A short black americano to start my shopping with a warm tingly glow.  You may have to queue for 5 or even 10 minutes or more before someone is free to take your order, but good coffee takes time to make.

More often than not I trundle home laden with Kentish apples and pears from Perry Court Farm along with kale, leeks, cauliflowers and whatever else is in season to supplement my weekly Local Greens veg bag. I've been steering clear of the cheese recently (foolhardy I know...), but that hasn't stopped me gazing longingly at the Norbiton Cheese stall piled high with the likes of ticklemore, morbier, tunworth and epoisses.  Last Saturday it was a lovely whole Mont d'Or that spoke to me - a tenner's worth of pure cheese heaven. 

Now, if it's brunch or lunch on the hoof you're after, you'd have to go a long way to beat what Mike + Ollie have to offer.  Mike and Ollie are two young chefs serving up affordable street food. But you won't find the regular fare of burgers, falafel, burritos and such like.  Instead the ever changing menu reads like an encyclopedia of (often unusual) locally foraged foods that have been smoked, cured or preserved by Mike and Ollie themselves: fennel seeds foraged in Brockley, membrillo made from Crystal Palace quince, cobnuts, chestnuts picked in Greenwich, Brockley rosehip molasses...  You get the picture.

My homemade Lebanese flatbread was loaded with smoked aubergine, local fennel, babaganoosh, red cabbage slaw, Crystal Palace membrillo and a whole host of other herbs, spices and seeds too numerous to mention.  At first sight you might be mistaken for thinking that it's just a bit of everything thrown together with no thought but you'd be a long way from the truth.  From chatting to Mike, I have no doubt that every single ingredient has been well thought out and included for a reason.  It's an incredibly tasty work of art.

Every Saturday you'll find Mike and his amazing bike parked up at the market.  You can't miss the tantilising smells wafting across the entrance to the market.  If it's meat you prefer, there's plenty of that too: spiced slow cooked lamb, free range Suffolk pulled pork, middle eastern spiced lamb, potato and almond cakes...

Each Saturday Mike cooks up a soup (£3.50), a meat main (£5.50) and a veg main (£5.50).

Thank you to Toby Allen and Helen Graves for letting me use their photos of Mike at work and people enjoying the market in this post.

Brockley Market
Lewisham College Carpark
Lewisham Way
Saturdays - 10am to 2pm

Mike + Ollie
Wednesdays & Fridays - 9am to 4pm - Deptford Market
Saturdays - 10am to 2pm - Brockley Market

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Cranberry & Orange Mincemeat

Homemade mincemeat knocks the socks off anything you can buy in the shops.  Fact.  Luckily for me, in the past I've been gifted lovingly made jars of the stuff by friends and family.  But this year as December approached the cupboards were bare.

So I set off in search of a recipe.  The sort of tried and tested one that can't go wrong (but that I would inevitably end up playing around with because I can't help myself).  I thought Delia might hold the key, but melted suet?  What's that all about?  Not for me. 

Whenever I need what I'd refer to as a staple recipe (you know, things like simnel cake, shortbread, lemon curd...) to work from there is a handful of food blogs I tend to turn to. One of them is Gin and Crumpets written by fellow South East London dweller, Jassy.  She writes recipes that work and ones that I want to cook. 

Armed with her wonderful recipe for Apple & Lemon Mincemeat (and some advice along the way) I set about creating my own vat of mincemeat.  For that is what I made, a rather large quantity of mincemeat to see me through the festive season.  I haven't put mine into jars as I reckon it won't be in existence any longer than a couple of weeks, so it's currently residing in a large tupperware in my cupboard.  But you could of course sterilise some jars to store it in or to give away as gifts.


1.2kg mixture of sultanas and raisins (I used Waitrose vine fruit mix)
300g dried cranberries
500g bramley apples (peeled & cored weight - approx 5 medium apples)
300g vegetarian suet
300g golden caster sugar
zest & juice of 3 oranges
zest & juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
200ml brandy
1.5 tsp ground mixed spice
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon


Put the lemon and orange zest in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for half an hour.  This will help extract any bitterness.  I use a zester to remove long strips of zest, but if you haven't got one you can either grate the zest using a fine grater or pare the zest with a peeler (taking care not to take too much of the white pith which is bitter).

Mix the dried fruit (sultanas, raisins and cranberries) in a large bowl and pick over to get rid of any stems . 

Drain the lemon and orange zest and chop.  Stir the zest and all of the orange and lemon juice into the dried fruit.

Peel, core and coarsely grate the apples.  Add the grated apples, vegetable suet, sugar, brandy and spices to the dried fruit mixture and stir to mix thoroughly.  The apples go brown pretty quickly when peeled, so I did a few at a time, adding them to the dried fruits as I went along so that the lemon juice prevent them from going brown. 

Leave to stand for a few hours, covered with a tea towel, returning to stir the mincemeat regularly.

If you are just making the mincemeat to use over a couple of weeks then it will keep perfectly well sealed in a plastic container.  If you want to store it in jars to keep it for longer, then fill sterilised jars, seal and store in a cool dark place.

Use to make mince pies.

Huge thanks to Jassy of Gin and Crumpets for her mincemeat guidance.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Rigatoni with Crown Prince Squash, Cavolo Nero & Red Chilli

There's one thing I know for sure - pasta consumption in our house has rocketed since we started getting an organic veg bag again. 

Picture's 7.30pm on a week night, the baby has just gone to bed, the fridge is full of the random assortment of vegetables that you can only have when someone else is choosing your veg each week, your tummy is rumbling and you want to curl up on the sofa, sharpish.  What you need is a hearty bowl of pasta that's ready in no time and leaves you feeling (relatively) virtuous.

I think my love of the combination of kale and squash is probably inspired by Denis Cotter.  He cooks the sort of good (vegetarian) food that I want to eat every day.  Food that is a far cry from the apparently mandatory mushroom risotto or pasta served up as the meat-free option in many restaurants and pubs.

You don't need to use crown prince squash - any squash will do - I just happen to like the rounded, buttery flavour of the crown prince.  Butternut squash would be a more than adequate replacement.  The same goes for the cavolo nero (black kale).  Although cavolo nero tastes best, you could use the more widely available curly kale or any other dark green leafy vegetable.


150-200g rigatoni (depending on how hungry you are)
1/4 crown prince squash (or 1/2 a large butternut squash)
1 leek
10-15 large cavolo nero leaves
1 red chilli (finely sliced)
3 garlic cloves (finely sliced)
2 tbsp olive oil plus 1 tbsp to roast the squash
salt & freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated pecorino or parmesan


Peel and deseed the squash.  Cut into 1 inch cubes.  Season the squash with salt and pepper and toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Roast in a medium oven (approx 180 C depending on your oven) for approximately 20 minutes until tender and beginning to caramelise at the edges.  You will need to check on the squash a couple of times and toss to ensure it roasts evenly.

Discard the outer layer (or layers) of the leek and then slice in half lengthways.  Slice the leek into thin semicircles and wash thoroughly.  Wash the cavolo nero, discard any thick stalks and slice the leaves into strips about 1cm wide.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Heat a wide based saute pan over a medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then the leeks.  Saute, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes and then add the cavolo nero.  Continue to saute until the leeks and kale are tender.  Lower the heat, add the red chilli and garlic and continue to saute for a couple of minutes. 

The pasta and squash should now be ready.  Drain the pasta, reserving the cooking water.  Add the squash, drained pasta and 3-4 tablespoons of the cooking water to the leeks and cavolo nero, then season generously. 

Serve with plenty grated cheese.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Romanesco Cauliflower & Chilli Pasta

Romanesco cauliflowers are like jewels.  Pretty fractal emeralds which call out to me from market stalls at this time of year.  They seem so rare and precious that I feel the need to do them justice; more so than any other vegetable.  I want to show them off in the manner they deserve.

Small romanescos are magnificent steamed whole and served with a bechamel sauce which has had large chunks of stilton stirred through at the last minute (so that they're just beginning to melt but haven't yet disappeared...) and then topped with crunchy toasted pine nuts.

On a quest for a simple dish befitting the romanesco but a little less artery clogging, I paired it with chilli and garlic to make a substantial week night dinner.  It's nothing new or inventive - there are probably a million similar recipes out there - but it's a hearty bowl of bejewelled pasta that makes me happy.

This will make enough for 2 hungry adults.


1 medium romanesco caulifower
1/2 - 1 red chilli (depending on how hot your chilli is and how much heat you want)
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp good olive oil
200g penne or rigatoni pasta
salt & pepper
2 tbsp finely grated parmesan (or other hard cheese)


Break the cauliflower into small florets and roughly chop the stalks into small pieces.  Wash thoroughly.  Finely chop the chilli and garlic.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Cook the cauliflower for about 8 minutes until soft but not falling apart.  Remove the cauliflower with a slotted spoon and set to one side (don't discard the cooking water).

Bring the water back to the boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

In the meantime, heat a wide based saute or frying pan.  Add the olive oil and then the cauliflower.  Saute over a medium heat, stirring often, until the cauliflower begins to break down a little.  Turn down the heat and add the chilli and garlic and season generously with freshly ground black pepper and salt.  Continue to for a couple of minutes, taking care not to let the garlic burn.

Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the cauliflower, using a slotted spoon, along with 2 or 3 tablespoons of the cooking water.  Stir in most of the grated cheese, reserving a little to serve (to make this dish vegan omit the cheese).

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Celeriac Gratin with Caramelised Onions

Over the summer I signed up to Local Greens - a not for profit weekly vegetable bag scheme providing seasonal veg from small organic or spray-free farms, which are as near to SE London as they can find.  To keep costs down, customers collect their bags from local pick up points (in Camberwell, Herne Hill and East Dulwich), rather than have them delivered to their door.  The idea is to use the minimum packaging and transportation so that they can pay the farmers a good price for their produce.  One benefit for me is that the veg has often been picked 24 hours or less before it makes it to my plate.

The majority of the ingredients in this recipe came from my Local Greens bag a couple of weeks ago and I bought some gorgeous golden rapeseed oil from Bambuni in Nunhead so this turned out to be a thoroughly locally sourced dinner!

It serves 2 hungry (greedy?) adults or a family of 3 or 4 if you reduce the amount of salt you use.  Perfect for an autumnal evening meal.


1 small celeriac
4-5 medium potatoes
3 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
200ml single cream
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Grated parmesan or other hard cheese (this is a good chance to use up any odds and ends lurking in the fridge)

For the caramelised onions:

2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 onions (sliced)
3-4 sprigs thyme (leaves only)
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp good sherry vinegar


Preheat the oven to 160C.

Peel and thinly slice the celeriac and potatoes (the easiest way to do this is in a food processor or using a mandolin, if you have either) and pop them straight into a bowl of cold water. Pat dry on a clean tea towel and then layer into a deep casserole dish, seasoning with salt and pepper and adding the garlic as you go. Pour the cream over the top and give the casserole dish a little shake to make sure it reaches the bottom layers. Sprinkle the cheese over the top (as much or as little as you like - I like a good layer!).

Pop into the oven for around 50 minutes to an hour, or until the potatoes and celeriac are cooked and browned on top.

Once the gratin is in the oven, put the oil and onions into a heavy based pan over a low heat. Cook the onions very slowly, stirring often, until they begin to turn golden brown (this will take around 30-40 minutes) and then add the sugar, thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook for around another 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook until the liquid has disappeared. The onions should now be caramelised and a rich brown colour.

Serve the gratin with a spoonful of caramelised onions and a crisp green salad lightly dressed with sherry vinegar and cold pressed rapeseed oil.

Monday, 7 November 2011

A dish fit for a wedding!

I'm not really sure when my fondness for smoked salmon developed. But develop it did. A treat for high days and holidays.

Somewhere along the line it became more affordable to me and I've made many things with it over the years from pasta sauces to terrines and quiches to pates. But when faced with some good quality smoked salmon there is no better way to enjoy it than as it is. Simple and unadulterated.

A while ago, the kind people at Forman & Field sent me some of their finest London Cure Smoked Scottish Salmon to sample.  The Forman & Field founder, Harry Forman, devised this London Cure to show off the quality of his salmon rather than cloud it in smoke and they're spot on when they describe it as delicate, delicious and softly smoky.

I've rarely tasted smoked salmon this good and wanted to do something with it which would allow it to shine.

When Mr GG and I were planning our wedding a few years ago, good food and booze were (of course) fairly high up on our list of priorities.  We worked with the caterers to plan our own menu which was seasonal and included a few of our favourite things (there's a song in there somewhere...).  To start we plumped for Smoked Salmon with Blinis & Watercress.  Simple and delicious.

So with the London Cure Smoked Salmon I decided to have a shot at making blinis for the first time and replicate this wedding dish to make a light lunch for Mr GG and I to enjoy with my parents and my (not so) baby brother.  I followed Richard Bertinet's recipe (from his book Crust) for the blinis with a couple of tweeks.


For the blinis:

300g Dove's Farm Blini Flour
5-10g salt (Richard Bertinet uses 5g per 150g flour but you may want to use less)
300g milk
14g fresh yeast (or substitute with the equivalent amount of dried yeast - probably 7g)
4 large eggs (separated)
160g creme fraiche

The rest:

Smoked salmon (approx 75g - 100g per person)
Creme fraiche
Small salted capers (washed to remove salt and dried)
Watercress (washed and dried)


To make the blinis begin by mixing the flour and salt in a large bowl. 

Heat the milk in a pan until it is just about to boil, remove from the heat and add the fresh yeast.  Add the egg yolks and creme fraiche to the pan with the milk and yeast mixture.

Add the milk mixture to the flour, stirring all the time, to form a thick batter.  Cover and leave to rest for 1 and 1/2 hours until the batter has risen and looks bubbly.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and fold gently into the batter.  Cover and leave for a further 2 hours.

Richard Bertinet suggests cooking the blinis in oiled pans, but I found that the batter made better blinis by cooking them directly onto a dry non stick surface.  Mum's simmering plate on the aga was best for this, but they also worked well cooked in a large non stick frying pan.  Put spoonfuls of the batter into your pan (well separated so that they don't run into each other) and turn when the batter begins to form bubbles which will be around 30 seconds to 1 minute. Cook for the same amount of time on the second side and then leave to cool on a wire rack.

To serve, arrange some smoked salmon, watercress, a spoonful of creme fraiche and a teaspoon of capers on each plate along with 4 or 5 blinis. 

If you have any left over blinis layer them between baking parchment and freeze in a suitable container.

You can buy Forman & Field's London Cure Scottish Salmon online here.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Off to market we go...

This Thursday, 11th August 2011, I will have a stall on the Covent Garden Real Food Market in aid of the East Africa Appeal. I would love it if you are in the area and could come down to support this worthy cause (and keep me company if only for a minute or two...).

On the menu will be:

Savoury Lunchtime Fare

Leek & Cheddar Tartlets
Asparagus, Pea and Goat's Cheese Tartlets
Slow Roasted Tomato, Camembert & Thyme Tartlets

Sweet Homemade Treats

Blueberry & Almond Tart
Lemon Drizzle Cake
Carrot Cake
All Butter Shortbread

Please help me sell everything and raise as much money as I can by coming and buying your lunch and cake to see you and your colleagues through the afternoon!

You can read all about my day as a market trader back in 2009 here.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Magpie Cafe

No trip to Whitby would be complete without sampling the fish and chips at The Magpie Cafe. But in all honesty I did wonder whether it was going to be another one of those places whose heyday has been a gone, yet is still pulling in the punters on its name alone. How wrong could I be?

Very. And to think that we nearly missed out because of that queue that trailed out of the door, down the steps and along the harbour front at lunch time on a miserable drizzly day in March.

The queue did put us off, but our stomachs got the better of us once the main lunch crowd had died down and we made a beeline to excape the rain.

There really is very little to say, apart from the fact that these were, quite simply, the best fish and chips I have tasted for as long as I can remember.

Haddock & Chips for me, Cod & Chips for Mr Ginger Gourmand and a whole heap of attention from the amazing waitresses for Baby GG. The service was second to none. Proper old school, no nonsense, friendly Yorkshire service.

My only slight criticism would be aimed at the mushy peas. They were a great consistency, good sized portion (I LOVE mushy peas), but sadly not quite there flavour-wise.

The Magpie Cafe
14 Pier Road
North Yorkshire
YO21 3PU

Tel: 01947 602 058

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Grandpa Urchin's Tunisian Orange Cake

For my third cake this week I chose to make this deliciously sticky, sweet Tunisian Orange Cake which I (along with many others) fawned over when we tasted it at fellow blogger, Food Urchin's lamb in a pit extravaganza last summer. Sadly for poor Food Urchin, despite his best efforts to wow us all with his amazing-cooked-in-the-ground-for-10-hours lamb, it was his Dad's cake which stole the show.

So here is the recipe, reproduced with the kind permission of Food Urchin and Grandpa Urchin, for the most moist, sticky, orangey, lightly spiced cake you e'er will taste on these shores...


For the cake:

50g slightly stale white breadcrumbs
200g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
1 ½ tsp baking powder
200ml sunflower oil
4 eggs
finely grated zest of 1 large unwaxed orange
finely grated zest of ½ unwaxed lemon

For the citrus syrup:

juice of 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon
75g caster sugar
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick

For the icing (optional):

The original recipe doesn't have icing, but I wanted to 'posh it up' a bit on this occasion. It really isn't necessary and you could just serve it as it is or with a dollop of yogurt or fresh cream.

2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
125-150g icing sugar
zest of ½ unwaxed orange


Line the base of a 20cm round and 5cm deep tine with greaseproof paper, then grease and flour the tin.

Mix the breadcrumbs with the sugar, almonds and baking powder. Whisk the oil with the eggs, then pour into the dry ingredients and then mix well. Add the orange and lemon zest. Pour the mixture into the tin, place in a cold oven and turn on the heat to 180C.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the cake is golden brown (mine took 45 minutes). Check with a skewer by inserting it into the middle, if it comes out clean it’s done. Cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a plate.

Meanwhile, make the citrus syrup. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring gently to the boil, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. Simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves from the syrup.

While the cake is still warm, pierce it several times with a skewer, then spoon the hot syrup over the cake allowing it to run into the holes. Leave to cool. Spoon any excess syrup over the cake every now and then until it is all soaked up.

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into the orange juice and zest and stir until smooth. Drizzle across the cake.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Coffee & Almond Cake

The second cake I made yesterday during my week of baking was this Coffee & Almond Cake. It's based on Mary Berry's recipe for a Gateau Moka aux Amandes which is in her Ultimate Cake Book. It's a fantastic book with recipes for pretty much every sort of cake you might want to bake - along with the Readers Digest Cookery Year, it was one of my best charity shop purchases!

I followed the original recipe for the sponge, but made an all butter coffee butter cream and used a double shot of espresso instead of coffee essence. It's a simple, yet stunning, cake to make and perfect for afternoon tea and cakes in the sunshine!


For the sponge:

3 medium eggs
4oz caster sugar
3oz self raising flour

For the butter cream:

6oz unsalted butter
10oz icing sugar
double shot espresso


6oz shredded blanched almonds, lightly toasted


Pre-heat the oven to 190C. Grease and line a 9" round cake tin.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk until pale and thick. The mixture should be thick enough to leave a trail. Gently fold in the sifted flour. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the sponge is golden and cooked through. Leave to cool, then turn out of the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the butter cream, start by making a double espresso and leave to cool. If you don't have a coffee machine you could make a small amount of strong coffee in a cafetiere or use 2 tbsp coffee essence as Mary Berry does in her recipe, but I haven't tried the essence so can't vouch for it!

Put the butter and sifted icing sugar in a food processor and mix until smooth. Add the cooled espresso.

Once the sponge is cool carefully slice in half horizontally. Sandwich the two halves together with a little of the coffee butter cream. Then use the remaining butter cream to coat the top and sides of the cake. Finally, gently scatter the toasted almonds all over the top and sides of the cake.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Luxurious Lemon Cake

I'm having a bit of a baking week this week and what a lovely cake to start with on such a gloriously sunny morning! Light lemony sponge, layered with lashings of lemon curd and creme fraiche, topped off with candied lemon zest. Perfect for Easter.

The recipe is based on a photograph I cut out of a magazine, probably a few years ago now, which I found stuffed in an old file of cuttings. I couldn't find a cutting of the method, only part the ingredients, so here is my version.


For the sponge:

250g unsalted butter
250g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
250g self raising flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
juice of 1/2 a lemon

For the filling:
200ml creme fraiche
350g lemon curd (homemade tastes best, but using a good quality jar of lemon curd makes this cake much quicker and simpler to make)

For the candied lemon zest:

1 unwaxed lemon
100ml water
100g caster sugar


To make the candied lemon zest:

Start by making the candied lemon zest the day before. To do this, prepare long strips of lemon zest, either using a zester or by peeling strips of zest with a potato peeler and slicing finely. Take care not to peel off the white pith as this will make the candied zest taste bitter. Place in a pan, cover with water and simmer for around 10 minutes. Drain the zest.

Add the measured water and sugar to the pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Add the zest and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes until the liquid has become syrupy.

Remove the zest carefully and place on a non stick baking sheet. Leave to dry out for 24 hours.

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven at 180 C. Grease and line the bases of two 8" sandwich tins. Beat the sugar and butter together then stir in the eggs, lemon zest and juice. Sift the flour and baking powder over the cake mixture and stir gently until combined. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. If you test the middle of the cake with a cake tester or scewer it should come out clean.

Leave to cool before removing from the tins and placing on a wire cooling tray. Once cool, slice in half so that you have 4 layers of sponge.

Stir a little of your lemon curd into the creme fraiche. Then layer up the cake starting with a layer of sponge topped with 1/3 of the lemon curd, then 1/3 creme fraiche mixture. Repeat twice and then place the final layer of sponge on top. Dust with icing sugar and decorate with candied lemon zest.