Sunday, 26 February 2017

Chippy Chips

If you could only eat one carb for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

Rice? Potatoes? Pasta? Bread?

It's a silly question, I know, but one which gets your brain whirring nonetheless. The sort you can ponder on and debate during long car journeys or late summer's evenings, sat outside in the dwindling heat with just one more glass of wine before bed. (A bit like our family discussions thrashing out choices for Desert Island Discs. Hours spent sat around the kitchen table considering the perfect balance of sentiment, memories, pleasure and exhilaration. My parents are just waiting for their invitation). 

Pilaf, sushi, paella, sticky rice, risotto, rice pudding, tah dig, jasmine rice. 

Baked potatoes, dauphinois, good old roasties, loaded skins, buttery mash, gnocchi, patatas bravas, potato cakes.

You get the picture (and I'm barely scratching the surface). Countless ways to serve each humble carb. 

I am undecided. My gut tells me it's rice. But the pleasure I get from baking and eating a loaf of sourdough is pretty insurmountable. Freshly baked, thickly sliced and dunked into a bowl of steaming hot soup. Or toasted, spread with good butter and marmite. What would you dip in your soup if you didn't have bread?

Noodles. NOODLES. What would I do without a bowl of steaming hot broth, noodles, greens and marinated tofu. My go to dinner on the rare occasion I'm eating alone at home. Restorative when I need a pick me up. Pho, ramen, laksa. These I am not sure I would wish to forgo forever. 

And yet, there is little so comforting, so homely and so satisfying as the humble chip. Chippy chips. Chippy chip shop chips. Piping hot, wrapped in paper, doused in salt and malt vinegar, and eaten on the leisurely amble home from the chippy. 

Proper, homemade chips. Perhaps not made in the old greasy chip pan like Dad did when I was growing up (and sadly cause of many a kitchen fire for some), but you know, fried. As they should be. There is whole nation of children growing up in the belief that chips are cooked in the oven. From the freezer or the M&S chilled cabinet and straight to a baking tray. 

Chips go with everything. My favourite comfort food growing up was Granny's cauliflower cheese (made with extra cheese) and chips. My boys like them with homemade fishfingers and obscene amounts of ketchup. I'm quite partial to them stuffed between two slices of well buttered white bread. But if you ask my friend Jassy, she'll tell you that chip shop chips are perfect with crab. Especially crab with cider, creamand herbs


500g Maris Piper potatoes
1.5 – 3 litres rapeseed oil*


Peel the potatoes and put them into a bowl of cold water. 

Taking one potato at a time from the water, cut the potatoes lengthways into finger sized chips (approximately 1cm to 1.5cm diameter) and return them to the bowl of water. 

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the chips and simmer for 5 minutes (but no longer, otherwise they may begin to fall apart). Drain the chips and put them on kitchen paper until completely cool.

Fill your deep fat fryer to the maximum level with the rapeseed oil and heat to 130°C (the amount of oil you will need will depend on the size of your fryer – I have a mini one which only takes 1.25 litres - and fry in batches, if you have a large fryer you may need more oil so check the instructions).

Put the cooled chips into the basket of your deep fat fryer, lower into the oil and cook until a pale crust starts to form on the chips (about 7-8 minutes). Drain the chips and put them on fresh kitchen paper until completely cool. (If you want to get ahead, you can cook them up to this step and then leave in the fridge, covered, for up to 24 hours. Heston says 3 days, but I’m not so keen when they’ve been sat around that long and who has the self control to resist giving those chips their final fry for 3 days anyway?).

When you are ready to finish cooking the chips, heat the oil in your deep fat fryer to 180°C. Put the cooled chips into the basket of your deep fat fryer, lower into the oil and cook until golden and crispy (about 4-5 minutes).

Drain the chips on kitchen paper, put them into a serving bowl and sprinkle with plenty of good quality salt flakes.

*I use Waitrose Essentials vegetable oil, which is 100% rapeseed oil. Jassy uses groundnut oil for her chips (as does Heston). It does give a better flavour (and I think is better at this heat), but it is much more expensive. You can reuse the oil – once cool, drain it through a sieve into a suitable container and store in a cool place until you next make chips. Probably the next day.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Beetroot Labneh

I first made this ‘pink labneh’ with my two young sons – one who loves labneh and one who loves everything pink – as a way of reintroducing them to beetroot. Both ate beetroot as babies (one perhaps more enthusiastically than the other). I remember their messy, pink stained faces and bibs that never came clean again.  But when they hit their selective eating phases during their toddler years, beetroot was high up the rejection list. 

I can see why. I love beetroot for its sweet, earthy flavour, but it isn't a vegetable that is eaten every week, so it becomes alien. Viewed with suspicion by cautious eaters. The vibrant colour of this labneh reeled them in eventually. It's hard to resist something so bright.  

Simple to make and visually stunning, this beetroot labneh works well as a pre-dinner dip or as part of a more substantial lunch. I like to serve it with dark rye bread and smoked mackerel.

You will need to make this the day before you want to eat it as the labneh needs to sit in the fridge to strain over night.


2 medium beetroot
250g whole milk yogurt
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt (optional)

To serve:

2 tbsp toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
a few fronds of dill
walnut oil (optional)


Begin by cooking the beetroot. Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C fan).

Cut the leaves off the beetroot and discard them, but do not top and tail the beetroot at this stage. Wash the beetroot and wrap it in foil. Place the foil wrapped beetroot on a baking tray and put it in the oven. Roast for 1 to 1½ hours until cooked through. You can test whether the beetroot is cooked by unwrapping the foil and piercing the beetroot with the end of a sharp knife. The beetroot is cooked when the beetroot is tender and the knife slides easily into the beetroot.

Leave the beetroot until it is cool enough to handle.

Once cooled, top and tail the beetroot and peel it (it is probably a good idea to wear washing up gloves to handle the beetroot, otherwise you will end up with pink fingers). The skin should rub off easily. Put the peeled beetroot into a food processor or blender and blitz to a purée. Depending on the size of your beetroot, you should end up with around 150g beetroot purée.

In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, 150g beetroot puree and the salt (if using – leave the salt out if you are making this for babies or young children) until combined.

Line a sieve with a piece of muslin and place it over a bowl. Put the beetroot mixture into the muslin-lined sieve. Draw up the sides of the muslin and twist together so that the beetroot mixture forms a ball (see photo below). Leave in the fridge for 12-24 hours to strain.

Put the beetroot labneh into a serving dish and top with chopped toasted walnuts, dill and, if you have some, a little walnut oil. Serve with crackers, crispbread or crudités.

This is the full version of my Beetroot Labneh recipe which appeared on the Peter's Yard website as part of their 7 Dips for 7 Days campaign earlier this month.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Blood Orange, Fennel & Hazelnut Salad

On a grey and dank Winter’s day, when even the thought of waiting at a bus stop or standing in the playground whilst your toddler heads for his five hundredth go on the slide fills you with frostbite dread, this little salad is a shining beacon of lunchtime pleasure. Vibrant, tart and crisp. Everything a winter salad should be.

I am a little ashamed to admit that when I encountered a blood orange for the first time, it was not love at first sight. In much the same way as I have done with my boys in recent years, my Mum proffered this golden globe like a precious jewel to behold. A rare, seasonal treat, which undoubtedly cost her an arm and a leg, but which she was excited and happy to share with me.

I wasn’t a squeamish child, but I just could not see past the word ‘blood’. I truly believed that this precious orange had been tainted, so I failed to understand and share my Mum’s enthusiasm.

Making up for all those lost years I now gorge myself on them. Particularly Sicilian blood oranges which, for me, are the best. And what’s more, I don’t have to share. For now at least.


1 large bulb of fennel
4 blood oranges
40g good hazelnuts, toasted
¼ tsp Malden salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp cold pressed rapeseed oil*


In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the salt and lemon juice with a fork. Add the oil and whisk again. Set to one side. 

Remove the leafy fronds from the fennel and set to one side. Cut the fennel in half lengthways and then, using a sharp knife or a mandolin, slice the fennel as thin as you can. Put the sliced fennel into the bowl and turn well in the dressing.

Using a sharp knife, slice off the top and the bottom off one of the blood oranges. Sit the orange flat on a chopping board and remove the skin and pith by slicing the knife downwards between the flesh and the skin. Work your way around the orange until all of the skin and white pith has been removed and discarded. Set to one side and repeat with the remaining three blood oranges.

Slice the blood oranges through the centre into slices about ½cm thick. Roughly chop the toasted hazelnuts.

Arrange the dressed fennel on a serving plate and add the blood orange slices. Scatter the toasted hazelnuts and fennel fronds over the top. Serve straight away.

*If you have a bottle of good hazelnut oil, substitute 1 tablespoon of the rapeseed oil for hazelnut oil.