“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Party Potatoes

Recently we threw a party to celebrate my partner Laura's 50th birthday. As usual, I made way too much food, but that is purely down to the reason that I love cooking and entertaining and feeding people, especially because it gives me the chance to show of my culinary skills. To experience that warm glow of satisfaction when something I have created makes people happy.

One of the dishes I wheeled out is this one, and it made me so happy this afternoon when one of our friends wrote to me and asked for the recipe because she loved it so much she wants to make it. So flattered was I that I decided to publish my recipe on this here blog. Give it a whirl at your next shindig - it was a big hit at ours.



3lb (1.5 kg) waxy potatoes such as Charlotte, Anya or Jersey Royals
1 bunch celery (with leaves), chopped into 1/2" pieces
2 large onions, roughly chopped
olive oil
minced garlic
salt & pepper
Apple cider vinegar
Wholegrain mustard


Dice the potatoes into thumb-sized chunks. Parboil the potatoes for 10 minutes, then place into a hot roasting pan with some olive oil and some sprigs of rosemary. Roast for 45 minutes - 1 hour until golden brown and getting crispy.

While the potatoes are in the oven, place the celery and onions in a skillet or large pan with some oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic, and sautee on a medium-low heat until translucent and semi-soft. Add a heaped dessert spoon of wholegrain mustard and a good glug of cider vinegar (about 4 tablespoons), and combine. Let simmer on low heat for a few minutes. When potatoes are done, add them to the celery mixture and toss together. Can be served immediately (traditional) or chilled overnight and served the next day (this is my preferred method as I feel it lets the flavours get happy together.)

Optional: you can cook some chopped bacon with the onions and celery, in which case you need to reduce the salt. I prefer it without the bacon as I feel it overpowers the other ingredients.


Friday, June 7, 2019

Stars In Your Eyes

Hi folks, I'm still here (just!)

Last time on the blog, way back in (ahem) February, I posed the following food-related teaser: what, pray tell, is this?

My dear pal Marissa was on the case and correctly identified Star Fruit. Why are they called Star fruit? Because when you slice these delicious sweet-tart things, they look like this...

Carambola, or star fruit, is the fruit of Averrhoa carambola, a species of tree native to Indonesia, the Philippines, and throughout Malesia (a biogeographical region straddling the Equator and the boundaries of the Indomalaya ecozone and Australasia ecozone). The fruit is commonly consumed throughout Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, Micronesia, and parts of East Asia. The tree is cultivated throughout tropical areas.

The fruit has distinctive ridges running down its sides (usually five but can occasionally vary); when cut in cross-section, it resembles a star, hence its name. The entire fruit is edible and is usually eaten out of hand. They may also be used in cooking and can be made into relishes, preserves, and juice drinks.

So what can we make with them? Here are a couple of ideas.

Food blogger Suwannee Rose has some great recipes for Starfruit, including Starfruit Chips, Starfruit Tart and Starfruit Palomas .

Food Network had this recipe too, for Starfruit Upside-Down Cake:

Star Fruit Upside-Down Cake

Level: Easy
Total: 1 hr 50 min
Active: 40 min
Yield: 8 servings (1 slice)


3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

3 or 4 small starfruit, cut into 1/4-inch-thick stars and seeds removed


1/2 cup pecans

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup low-fat yogurt


Position an oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan.
For the topping: Melt the butter, brown sugar and lemon juice together in a microwave-safe small bowl in the microwave. Spread the mixture over the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover it with the starfruit slices by nestling them next to one another and overlapping (it will look crowded). Set aside.
For the cake: Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet, and bake until nicely toasted, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool, then pulse in a food processor until finely ground. Whisk together the ground pecans, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and allspice. Set aside.
Beat the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Scrape down the side of the bowl as needed. Adjust the mixer speed to low, and add half the flour mixture, then the yogurt, then the remaining flour.
Pour the batter into the pan, spread it out into an even layer and give it a few taps on the counter. Bake until golden brown, a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean in the center and the cake pulls away from the edges, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack until the pan is cool enough to handle, then run a knife along the edge and invert the cake onto a serving platter. Let cool completely before serving.

Sounds pretty amazing!

Ok, then - let's do another. Name THIS Food!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Double Bubble

Last time on Name This Food! I asked you what this was...

Well, ladies and gents, the correct answer was Bubble Tea.

I'm sure some of you know what bubble tea is - my friend Laura from the USA sure did, and she correctly identified same.

But what is bubble tea, apart from delicious? Even I'm a little foggy on the details.

Bubble tea (also known as pearl milk tea, bubble milk tea, or simply boba)  is a Taiwanese tea-based drink invented in Tainan and Taichung in the 1980s. Recipes contain tea of some kind, flavors of milk, as well as sugar (optional). Toppings, such as chewy tapioca balls (also known as pearls, or boba), popping boba, fruit jelly, grass jelly, agar jelly, and puddings are often added. Ice-blended versions are frozen and put into a blender, resulting in a slushy consistency. There are many varieties of the drink with a wide range of flavors. The two most popular varieties are black pearl milk tea and green pearl milk tea. 

Has that cleared things up for you? OK, maybe not. Just go try some. If you Google it you'll be presented with local vendors and trust me, it's great.

Now then - Name This Food!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Name This Food!: Baltimore The Merrier

Hey folks!

My Baltimore-based pal Laura was stumped by the last Name This Food! which was disappointing as I tried to make it something she would definitely know, as she was getting frustrated not being able to score any points. (Not that there are any points, but you know what I mean.)

So I deliberately set out to pick something from Baltimore. After a while scouring the 'Net to find out what Baltimore is famous for foodwise, I plumped for these:

She believed these to be something called fleur deuflan,  which sounds fab, however I can find nothing written about such an item. What I can now reveal is that these are...


What in the blinky o'stinky are Berger's Cookies, I hear you cry. Well, pay attention, dear reader, and I shall tell you. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Berger Cookies are a kind of cookie made and distributed by DeBaufre Bakeries. They are topped with a thick layer of chocolate fudge that derives from a German recipe, and are a cultural icon of Baltimore

The Berger Cookie recipe was brought to America from Germany by George and Henry Berger in 1835. Henry owned a bakery in East Baltimore that was later run by his son Henry. While the younger Henry took over his father's bakery, his two brothers, George and Otto, opened their own bakeries. Around 1900 Otto died, then George and Henry combined the bakeries to create 'Bergers'.

If you want to know how to make your own version of the famous Berger's Cookies, those kin folks over at King Arthur Flour have given us a 'copycat' recipe for those times when you need a cookie with chocolate overload and just can't make the trip to Baltimore to grab some. Here's the recipe:

Baltimore Berger Cookies

30 mins.
10 mins. to 11 mins.
55 mins.
About 20 medium (3") cookies

 These cake-like cookies are piled with thick, rich chocolate icing — the thicker the better. Note that the cookies themselves are rather dry, so the over-the-top amount of icing, rather than being overkill, is just right.


1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup milk


2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 ounce) light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (6 ounces) heavy cream
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment paper) two baking sheets.
To make the cookies: In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, salt, vanilla, and baking powder.
Beat in the sugar, then the egg.
Add the flour to the wet ingredients alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Do this gently; there's no need to beat the batter.
Using a spoon or a tablespoon cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. The balls of dough should be about 1 1/4" in diameter. Flatten each mound of dough to a circle about 1 1/2" across; wet your fingers or a knife, or grease the bottom of a drinking glass or measuring cup to do this. Leave 2"; to 2 1/2" between each cookie, for expansion.
Bake the cookies for about 10 to 11 minutes, or until they're a mottled brown on the bottom (carefully tilt one up to look), but not colored on top. You may see the barest hint of browning around the edges, but these cookies are supposed to be soft and cake-like, so don't over-bake them. Remove the cookies from the oven, and let them cool right on the pan as you make the frosting.
To make the icing: Place the chocolate chips, corn syrup, vanilla, and cream into a large microwave-safe bowl, or into a large saucepan.
Heat the mixture until it's very hot; the cream will start to form bubbles. Remove from the heat, and stir until smooth.
Beat in the confectioners' sugar and salt. Let cool to warm room temperature while you make the cookies.
Dip the top of each cookie into the warm icing; swirl the cookie around to really give it a good coating. Set the cookies back on the baking sheet.
Spread the remaining icing evenly atop the cookies. If it's too soft and flows off the cookies, let it set a bit, until it's firmer. It'll feel like you're piling on a lot of icing; that's precisely the point! Allow it to set, then store the cookies airtight in a single layer. Keep at room temperature for several days; or freeze for longer storage.
Allow the icing to set, then store the cookies airtight in a single layer. Keep at room temperature for several days; or freeze for longer storage.

On a side note, I think it's odd that the most iconic cookie from Maryland is the Berger's Cookie, yet over here in the good ole U. of K., if you say the words "Maryland" and "cookie" in the same sentence, people will assume you are talking about chocolate chip cookies.

Which are, let's face facts here, a bit crap.
I mean, Berger's cookies have that certain je ne sais quoi. They have... how should one put it? MOXIE!

Can't wait to get over to Maryland and sample me some of those bad boys. Mmmm.

Right! Now then - what, pray tell, is this?

Name This Food!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Lost, and Found

It's always nice to see new food products being made locally. Well, this isn't exactly local - the product is made in the Cheshire countryside - but the company is based here in sunny Tenterden, and hence they have recently started appearing at our Friday market, in the covered marketplace area next to Majestic Wines. They're called Lost Barn, and they're coffee roasters. Mighty fine ones too I might add. I was given a bag of their coffee the other day, and so far I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

I particularly like the resealable bag design.
Anyhow, give them a whirl - here's all the relevant links!




Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A Thorny Question

Last time on Name This Food! I posed this tricky one, namely, what the heck are these?

Well, ladles and jellyspoons, it can now be revealed that they are in fact the berries of the Hawthorn.

Now, I know that in both traditional and herbal medicine, extracts of hawthorn have been used, with many people either saying how good it is or how ineffective it is, but I am not going to address those issues because this is a blog about food and those topics are for a different forum. Not only that but I have woefully inadequate knowledge of the topic and have no wish to step into that potential mire.

What we are here to talk about is a little bit of the history behind the hawthorn and its use in comestibles.

Crataegus, commonly called hawthorn, thornapple, May-tree, whitethorn, or hawberry, is a large genus of shrubs and trees in the family Rosaceae, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in Europe, Asia and North America. The name "hawthorn" was originally applied to the species native to northern Europe, especially the common hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, and the unmodified name is often so used in Britain and Ireland. The name is now also applied to the entire genus and to the related Asian genus Rhaphiolepis. The name haw, originally an Old English term for hedge, applies to the fruit.

The "haws" or fruits of the common hawthorn are edible, but the flavour has been compared to over-ripe apples. In the United Kingdom, they are sometimes used to make a jelly or homemade wine. The leaves are edible, and if picked in spring when still young, are tender enough to be used in salads. The young leaves and flower buds, which are also edible, are known as "bread and cheese" in rural England.

The fruits of the species Crataegus pinnatifida (Chinese hawthorn) are tart, bright red, and resemble small crabapple fruits. They are used to make many kinds of Chinese snacks, including haw flakes and tanghulu. The fruits, which are called shānzhā in Chinese, are also used to produce jams, jellies, juices, alcoholic beverages, and other drinks. In South Korea, a liquor called sansachun is made from the fruits.

The fruits of Crataegus mexicana are known in Mexico as tejocotes and are eaten raw, cooked, or in jam during the winter. They are stuffed in the piñatas broken during the traditional pre-Christmas celebration known as Las Posadas. They are also cooked with other fruits to prepare a Christmas punch. The mixture of tejocote paste, sugar, and chili powder produces a popular Mexican candy called rielitos, which is manufactured by several brands.

In the southern United States, fruits of three native species are collectively known as mayhaws and are made into jellies which are considered a great delicacy. The Kutenai people of northwestern North America used red and black hawthorn fruit for food.

On Manitoulin Island in Canada, some red-fruited species are called hawberries. They are common there due to the island's alkaline soil. During the pioneer days, white settlers ate these fruits during the winter as the only remaining food supply. People born on the island are now called "haweaters". In Iran, the fruits of Crataegus (including Crataegus azarolus var. aronia, as well as other species) are known as zalzalak and are eaten raw as a snack, or made into a jam known by the same name.

So, now that we've all been edjumacated, let's have a recipe, shall we?

Hawthorn Berry Wine from lowcostliving.co.uk

This is an easy hawthorn berry wine recipe, the most difficult thing is picking the hawthorn berries. Be prepared with antiseptic cream for your scratches!

Hawthorn is found growing wild and as a hedging plant. If foraging for the berries do be careful about venturing onto private land as the owner may well want the berries for himself.

Never strip a tree bare or take more than you can use just because it is there. A lot of wild birds depend on hawthorn berries to get them through the winter.


2 to 3lbs Ripe Hawthorn Berries
2 Oranges
1 Lemon
3lb Sugar, preferably Demerara but white granulated will do
1 Gallon Water
Wine Yeast (A general wine yeast)
Yeast Nutrient


Strip the berries from the stalks, a fork makes this an easier task. Wash well. If you immerse the berries in cold water for a few minutes, any hidden insects will float off.
Place into a fermenting bin or wine bucket and crush a little. A traditional potato masher is ideal for this.
Boil the water and pour over the crushed berries. Put the lid on the bin and leave for 7 days, stirring daily.
Zest and juice the oranges and lemon, place into a large pan with the sugar and strain the liquor from the bin into the pan. Put the pulp into a muslin bag or similar and squeeze out any remaining juice to extract all the flavour.
Heat the pan whilst stirring until all the sugar has dissolved and then allow to cool back down to 20°C . Pour back into the fermenting bin which should have been washed to remove any sediment.
Add the yeast and yeast nutrient, allow to ferment for 3 or 4 days.
Strain into a demijohn, topping up with cooled boiled water as required. Fit the airlock and leave in a warm place until fermentation has finished
Rack, as necessary, and add 1 Campden tablet after the first racking to stop secondary fermentation.
Syphon into bottles
This hawthorn berry wine recipe makes about a gallon of wine. Allow 6 months minimum for the wine to mature when bottled.

For winemaking equipment and yeasts etc. head to your nearest home brew supplier or go online to http://www.home-brew-online.com

Hawthorn berry ketchup


500g of hawthorn berry
300ml of cider vinegar
300ml of water
170g of sugar
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper


1 To begin, remove the berries from the stalks and wash well with cold water. Add to a large pan with the water and vinegar, then bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for approximately half an hour, until the skins of the berries begin to burst.
2 Take off the heat and pour the contents of the pan through a sieve to remove any stones and tough pieces of skin.
3 Transfer the liquid to a clean pan with the sugar and place over a low heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar.
4 Once dissolved, bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes more, until syrup-like and reduced.
5 Season the syrup to taste with salt and pepper, then transfer to sterilised bottles. The syrup is good to use for 1 year.

Credit: Monica Shaw

Okey-dokey then. My pal Laura from Baltimore has requested something a little less taxing for the next Name This Food!  I don't want to make it too easy though, so what to do, what to do?

Name This Food!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Red Sludge

Hi folks, and let me start by saying that this post is not about red sludge. This is an instalment of Name This Food!

Previously on Name This Food I asked what this was...

Anyone that answered "bread with stuff on it", see me after class.
The reason I titled this post Red Sludge is because of my friend Laura from Baltimore, who first guessed 'roasted red pepper hummus', and then 'unicorn pate'. She messaged me the other day to ask if I'd revealed what 'that red sludge' was. All is about to be explained.

The red substance in the picture is a delicious spicy substance called 'Nduja.

'Nduja is a particularly spicy, spreadable pork salumi from Italy. It is a Calabrian variation of salumi,loosely based on the French andouille introduced in the 13th century by the Angevins.

The name 'nduja is linked to two other particular types of sausages made of meat and spices , the Piedmontese salam dla doja and the French andouille, from which the ' nduja takes its name. All these terms derive from the Latin "inductilia" ("things ready to be introduced", to "induce").

'Nduja is made using meat from the head (minus the jowls, which are used for guanciale), trimmings from various meat cuts, some clean skin, fatback, and roasted hot red peppers which give 'nduja its characteristic fiery taste. 'Nduja originates from the southern part of Calabria, namely from the small town of Spilinga and its neighborhood. It is mainly served with slices of bread or with ripe cheese. Its unique taste makes it suitable for a variety of dishes. For example, it can be added to pasta sauces.

From 1975 to today, on the 8th of August of every year in Spilinga the festival of the 'nduja (Sagra della 'nduja) is held. Similar events are held in many other Calabrian municipalities.

So - what do we do with it?

Here's a recipe for linguine with 'nduja and tomatoes from the brilliant Nigel Slater.

Bring a deep pan of water to the boil, salt it, then add 250g linguine and cook it for 8 or 9 minutes, until the pasta is tender.

While the linguine cooks, make the sauce: in a shallow pan – one to which nothing will stick – warm 140g of nduja over a moderate heat, stirring it regularly.

Slice 300g of cherry tomatoes in half then fold them into the warm nduja and continue cooking. Stir in 30g of cornichons, sliced in half lengthways, and 2 tsp of capers.

Leave to cook for 3 or 4 minutes until the tomatoes have started to give up some their juice. Then stir in 2 tbsp of olive oil.

Drain the linguine, then toss it with the sauce, folding the spiced tomatoes through the pasta.

The nduja sauce is very spicy. If you feel the need to tone down its heat, simply stir in more tomatoes, halved or crushed or as you serve the dish, and fold in a spoonful of yogurt or cream.

Nduja burns easily, so keep the heat moderate while it warms, and stir regularly to prevent it from scorching.

Instead of using pasta, the spiced tomato sauce can be spooned on to thick toast or bruschetta. Top the toast with a soft goat’s cheese, or a spoonful of goat’s curd or mascarpone. It is also good as a dressing for vegetables, such as baked courgettes, pumpkin or potatoes.

Here's one from Inside The Rustic Kitchen (insidetherustickitchen.com) 

Cream Cheese and ‘Nduja Bruschetta

Author: Emily Kemp

4 slices of crusty bread
4 tbsp cream cheese good quality
4 tbsp 'Nduja
Pepper to season
Basil to garnish if desired

Heat the grill and toast the slices of bread on one side.
Spread each untoasted side generously with cream cheese and dollop around 1 tbsp of 'Nduja on top of the cream cheese. Use less 'Ndjua for less heat.

Place back under the grill until the 'Nduja is sizzling, around 30 seconds.Sprinkle with pepper and scatter over some chopped basil if desired and enjoy.

Now then...

Name This Food!


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