Quick, Easy, Wonderful Summer Desserts ~ Fruit Fools & Messes

4 Aug

I recently made us some Strawberry Fool and it occurs to me that this is such a quick, easy and utterly delicious thing to do with fruit I really should write about it, so here goes!

A fruit fool is simply fresh fruit, crushed or simmered with a little sugar as appropriate, folded into whipped cream. Some modern recipes replace up to half of the whipped cream with thick Greek yogurt and this works very well but is not quite the traditional fool of old. Other recipes use half cream and half custard (I’d use the ready-made here, which is unlike me, unless you are very keen!) and I believe originally fools were custard based, however  it’s all up to you, it’s your fool!

How to Make a Fruit Fool

~ Before you start set aside a few of the choicest pieces of fruit to decorate the dish.
~ Depending on the fruit you are using crush, macerate or simmer the fruit with sugar as needed till soft and syrupy.
~ Taste the fruit and add more sugar if necessary. If too sweet add a squeeze of lemon juice.
~ If you’ve cooked the fruit allow to cool completely and utterly before proceeding.
~ Use an approximately equal volume of cream as crushed or puréed fruit.
~ Whip the cream (together with any additions as suggested below) till it looks like this.
~ Fold the fruit and whipped cream (together with any additions) –you can either fold in completely or make pretty folds and swirls.

Here is how I made the fool we ate earlier …

Strawberry Fool

Serves 3-4 

300g strawberries 

1½ tbsp caster sugar

300ml double cream 

~ Hull the strawberries, slice and mix with the sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes up to 24 hours (the longer time should be in the fridge), which will result in soft strawberry pieces in a syrup.
~ Lightly mash together the fruit and its syrup.
~ Whip the cream and fold in the fruit and any juices.
~ Divide between pretty glasses and chill till needed.

A lovely addition to strawberry fool is a spoonful of Rumpot which should be whipped in with the cream! If you have no Rumpot, make some now. It does take a lot of planning ahead, but I promise you won’t regret it!


Now is the Perfect Time to Make a Mess! 

Eton Mess, that is, see end of post for how to make this utterly delicious dessert with little further ado.

Fruit Fool Ideas 

As I said, this recipe/method works brilliantly for so many fruits, here are some ideas to get you started.

berries-for-fruit-foolSummer Berry Fool

Exactly as above but use a mixture of berries.

Raspberry Fool 

Same again but with raspberries which may need a little more sugar.


Blueberry Fool  

Blueberries need a little cooking and they also taste particularly well with lemon so put the berries and the sugar in a small pan with a squeeze of lemon and cook gently till they start to burst. At this stage you can either crush them for a chunky fool or purée for a smooth finish. Cool then fold into the whipped cream.

A great addition to this is to swirl in a couple of tablespoons of lemon curd after folding the fruit and cream together.


Blackberry & Apple Fool

Cook the blackberries to a mush, sweeten appropriately and cool completely. Fold together with the cream and then swirl through a few spoonsful of apple sauce – recipe here


Banana Fool

Simply mash ripe bananas with sugar, or honey, to taste and fold into the whipped cream. A dash of rum whipped in with the cream would be a good idea.

Coffee Banana Fool

Ripple through some coffee syrup.

Chocolate Banana Fool

As above but ripple through some chocolate sauce – the dark Chocolate Caramel Sauce here is perfect for this.  Probably a good idea to top with grated chocolate too!

Caramelised Banana Fool

20g butter
30g light brown sugar

3 bananas, sliced

a drip or two of vanilla extract

½ tablespoon dark Rum

300ml double cream

~ Melt together the butter and sugar in a frying pan.
~ Slice the banana, add to the pan and cook gently till soft, turning the slices now and then till soft.
~ Turn up the heat and cook, stirring, so that the bananas break down and start to caramelise.
~ Stir in the vanilla and, away from the heat, add the rum.
~ Cool completely.
~ Whip the cream and fold in the caramelised banana goo.

Rhubarb Fool

Prepare the rhubarb and cut into thin slices. Put into a pan with a spoonful each of sugar and water and cook till utterly tender. In this case drain off any excess juices, if watery. Taste and sweeten, rhubarb can be quite sharp. Fold together with the cream.

Ginger goes well with rhubarb so maybe fold in a little syrup from the stem ginger jar and/or some finely chopped stem ginger.


Peach Fool

Peel and dice peaches and cook in a pan over medium (add a spoonful of water to get them started), stirring often, till broken down into a chunky sauce. Taste and add sugar as you wish. Cool completely before folding together with the cream.

Peach Melba Fool

Make peach fool and then ripple through some raspberry coulis – recipe here towards end of the post. 

Gooseberry Fool


This is a very traditional and old-fashioned fool, but the basics are the same. Top and tail the gooseberries, simmer for about 10 minutes together with a couple of spoonsful of water and a fairly generous amount of sugar as they can be very sharp. When the fruit has burst simmer a little longer to cook off excess juices. Purée the fruit and juices and then strain to remove pips. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. Cool then chill. Fold into the whipped cream.


Gooseberry & Elderflower Fool

Quite simply stir a little elderflower cordial into the fruit purée before folding into the cream. Clean elderflowers would be a great garnish for this.


Mango Fool

Purée ripe mango together with either a little fresh lime juice or, my preference, a splash of rum. Fold into the whipped cream.

Serve your fools in a large glass bowl or pretty individual glasses or maybe crisp tart cases. Garnish with fresh and appropriate fruits or chopped nuts, grated chocolate, crushed caramel or even crushed biscuits. 

So that’s the idea – let me know what foolish things you make! 

Oh, and here’s a slightly different fool …

Boodle’s Orange Fool

Serves 6

This recipe originates from Boodle’s Club in Pall Mall, London which was founded in 1762 and named after its head waiter, Edward Boodle, which is quite an accolade. This is their recipe …

6 trifle sponges or ladyfingers 

zest and juice of 2 oranges 

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp Grand Marnier – optional in inauthentic but nice 

30g caster sugar 

300ml double cream 

~ Cut the sponges into 1cm cubes and arrange prettily in 6 glasses or one glass bowl.

~ Stir together the citrus zests and juices and Grand Marnier if using, keep stirring till the sugar has dissolved.
~ Whip the cream to just thickening and then slowly drizzle in the fruit juice mixture, whisking as you go.
~ Pour over the sponge pieces and chill for at least 2 hours but more is good as it allows the juices to soak into the sponges.
~ Garnish with a slice of orange, or a twist of orange zest or even some crystallised orange zest

Eton Mess

Eton Mess is named after a strawberry dessert traditionally served at Eton on 4th June at the annual cricket match held between Eton College and Harrow School.

Basically you fold broked or coarsely crushed meringut into Strawberry Fool  Bought in meringues are fine for this but homemade meringues are even finer – here is my Simple Fail-Proof Meringue Recipe.

As I say this is traditionally strawberry based but there is no reason to make any kind of mess you like from a fruit fool of your choice.


To be perfectly frank with you this is the photo I have used on the cover of my book Luscious Ice Creams without a Machine and actually depicts Eton Mess Ice Cream, but you get the gist!!!

Classic Coleslaw Recipe and How to Make it Your Own!

15 Jul

Isn’t coleslaw lovely – almost a miracle!

Even at its most basic, just shredded cabbage, onion and mayonnaise coleslaw is delicious. It is also quick, cheap, easy, healthy and if you use light mayonnaise (and personally, so far as Hellman’s is concerned, I can taste very little or perhaps no difference) not too fattening either.  So, finding myself in possession of a surplus of cabbage I recently made myself some …


Very Basic Coleslaw 

300g finely shredded cabbage – red or white or both
1 medium sized onion – red or white or both
1 carrot – coarsely grated
3 tbsp mayonnaise
salt and black pepper to taste

~   Finely shred or chop the cabbage.
~   Similarly cut the onion and add to the cabbage together with the carrot.
~   Add the mayonnaise and stir and toss all together till everything is coated with mayo.
~   Taste and season. 
Here is a romantic portrait of my finished coleslaw!

I really enjoy this simple salad but there are so many delicious ways vary it, for instance use a flavoured mayonnaise – see here for 38 Delicious Mayonnaise Variations all of which work well in coleslaw. 
Or try half mayonnaise and half sour cream in the above recipe plus a teaspoon of white wine vinegar and a teaspoon of caster sugar to dress the slaw.
It is also possible, of course, to make coleslaw with no mayonnaise whatsoever.

No-Mayo Coleslaw

If you don’t like mayonnaise, can’t eat eggs, are vegan or just fancy a change here are some ideas.
~   Try dressing your coleslaw with a vinaigrette, lots of vinaigrette and dressing ideas here.

~   Sour cream dressing – mix together 240g sour cream, 1 tbsp cider vinegar plus salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper to taste. I would also advise using a lot of onion in the coleslaw when using this dressing or adding finely chopped red onion to the sour cream.

Spicy Peanut Coleslaw Dressing


60ml runny honey

60ml vegetable oil
60ml rice vinegar
1 rounded tablespoon peanut butter – smooth or crunchy
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tsp of sweet chilli sauce
salt to taste, depending on the peanut butter you use

~  Whisk all together except the salt.
~  Taste and seaon.
~  Dress your slaw.

Or try …

Now then, whichever dressing you use, make this slaw your own …

Great Coleslaw Additions

Try adding one, two or even more of the following …

~   Lemon or lime juice which brightens the taste
~   A couple of teaspoons of delicious vinegar such as cider vinegar
~   A teaspoon of sugar
~   A little whole grain mustard
~   A little horseradish sauce
~   Spring onions (scallions) cut finely on the diagonal make a tasty and pretty addition
~   Coarsely grated apple – leave the skin on if you like, especially if it is pretty, and toss with a little lemon juice to stop it browning
~   Coarsely grated mature cheddar goes well in an apple coleslaw
~   Finely shredded raw beetroot which makes lovely pink coleslaw – see here for beetroot coleslaw
~   Fresh fennel bulb, shredded – garnish with some of the pretty fronds. This is an excellent accompaniment to fish dishes
~   Fresh herbs
~   Shredded chorizo
~   Adding shredded ham with thinly sliced red and/or yellow pepper and shredded Asiago cheese added to your mayonnaise based coleslaw makes the Italian dish – Insalata Capricciosa
~   Hot sauce, sweet chilli sauce or chipotle paste
~   Nuts or seeds, roasted, salted or otherwise
~   A little dried fruit – cranberries, for instance, at Christmas
~   Olives – best stoned and chopped.


THE Best Way to Cook Onions ~ Honestly! ~ plus delicious ways to use them.

3 Jun

This is the way I most often cook onions; it concentrates the flavour and makes them sweet, very tender and a superb base for so many dishes.

I believe my proficiency in this department has helped a lot in my professional life and also, perhaps, in my personal life, if you believe the old adage about the way to man’s heart being through his stomach.


Sweet & Tender Onions

med/large onions – about 250g ea

15 g butter OR 1 tablespoon of olive oil (healthier and still delicious) per onion
pinch of salt

~    Peel the onions, halve them lengthwise and thinly slice into half moons.
~    Heat the butter or oil in a small pan with a lid and toss and separate the sliced onions in the fat to coat.
~    Sprinkle with a little salt.

~    Press something appropriate (a piece of foil, a piece of baking parchment, greaseproof paper or a butter wrapper) directly onto the onions to cover completely.  Try not to burn yourself on the side of the pan.
~    Turn the heat down to low and put the lid on the pot.   The onions should not so much fry in the butter as gently steam in it.
~    Cook slowly until the onions are soft enough to cut with the edge of a wooden spoon.  You can stir once or twice during this time – they will take about 30 minutes.

They are now melty and delicious and quite sweet too because of the natural sugars in the onions.  

Caramelised Onions

To caramelise the onions, when they are are completely soft take off the lid, turn up the heat and cook on high for a few minutes stirring constantly until the onions begin to caramelise and just start sticking on the bottom of the pan.


These onions, caramelised or not, can now be used without further ado to enhance many simple dishes – add to sandwiches, burgers, steaks, see towards end of post for loads of ideas.

They can also be used as the basis of so many dishes.  Here’s a few recipes to get you started and then links to lots more ideas and recipes.

French Onion Dip

In the States there has long been a recipe for French Onion Dip which was, basically, a packet of soup mix stirred into sour cream.  Not this one! 

Again, whichever onions you prefer will work for this but red are prettiest.
2 x 225g/8oz onions
30g/1oz butter
225g/8oz sour cream
200g/7oz mayonnaise
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
freshly ground black pepper to taste

~   Melt the onions as per usual.
~   When completely tender turn up the heat and stir until caramelised.
~   Allow to cool.
~   Beat together the sour cream and mayonnaise then stir in the onions.
~   Season to taste with the Worcestershire sauce and pepper.


Handy hint for the benefit of my American readers; in the UK we say “Worcester Sauce”, which we pronounce “wooster sauce” – give it a go, it’s so much easier!

Brie baked with Caramelized Onions

2 x 225g/8oz onions
30g butter
1 x 250g Brie in its box
60ml dry white wine
crunchy sea salt
an optional sprig or two of thyme

~   Melt the onions in the butter.
~   When completely soft add the wine and then simmer it away to nothing!
~   Preheat the oven to soubise 350°F/180ºC/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Unwrap the cheese and remove and discard the top rind.
~   Return the cheese to its box and stand it on a baking tray.
~   Top with the melted onions, sprinkle with sea salt and top the thyme sprigs.
~   Bake for 10-15 minutes till melted and turning golden round the edges.
~   Serve immediately with crusty bread or crackers for dipping purposes.


Melted Onion Risotto 

Serves 4

4 medium sized onions of either colour
3 tablespoons olive oil
950ml/33½ fl oz chicken or vegetable stock
50g/2oz butter
200g/7oz – 300g/10½oz Arborio rice
120ml/4¼ fl oz dry white wine
50g/2oz freshly grated Parmesan or similar
freshly ground black pepper

~   Melt the onions in the olive oil in accordance with the genius recipe, continuing to the final step so that they are fully caramelised. Set the onions to one side.
~   Bring the stock almost to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently.
~   Add half the butter to the oniony pan and melt over medium heat.
~   Stir in the rice and turn in the buttery onions to coat. 
~   Cook stirring gently for about a minute till the rice looks glossy and a little translucent round the edges.
~   Add the wine and cook for about a minute, stirring, till the rice has absorbed it.
~   Add enough of the simmering stock to the rice to just cover and simmer, stirring frequently, till almost all the broth has been absorbed.
~   Continue adding stock and simmering till absorbed until the rice is just tender – i.e. it has just a little bite to it when you try it.  It may not need all the stock.
~   When just right add the rest of the butter, half the onions, half the cheese then taste and season.
~   Serve immediately topped with the rest of the onions and the rest of the cheese.

Blue cheese is a good alternative to Parmesan type cheese in this risotto and here’s a handy hint.  Keep a piece of blue cheese in the freezer and grate from frozen, it is easier that way.


Miroton de Boeuf 

Serves 4

Whilst in the UK we tend to make Cottage Pie with our leftover roast beef the French have a different way of dealing with their leftover rosbif (or with leftover pot au feu). This is a simple version because there are many different ones out there involving such things as, mushrooms, tomatoes and cornichons.

600g/21oz or so leftover roast beef – sliced
2 med/large onions melted as above
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
600ml/21fl oz rich beef stock (if using leftover pot au feu use the stock from that)
a handful of fresh breadcrumbs

~   When the onions are really tender and just starting to turn golden stir in the flour and cook gently for a couple of minutes.
~   Add the hot stock and bring to a boil, stirring till smooth and thickened
~   Turn down the heat and simmer for at least 10 minutes to amalgamate the flavours, adding a little more stock as necessary.
~   Stir in the vinegar then taste and season.
~   Arrange the beef slices in an ovenproof dish.
~   Pour over the gravy, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake till hot and bubbling – 15 minutes or so.

For a more substantial version arrange the sliced beef over a bed of sliced


Caramelised Onion Scones

1 medium onion
15g knob of butter
a little salt
1 x key recipe – no sugar

~   Cook the onion as above and caramelise it.

~   Allow to cool.
~   See here for my Basic Scone Recipe  and make the scones as usual adding the cooked onion before the milk and then adding the milk abstemiously.

Mushrooms Soubise 

Soubise has, traditionally but confusingly meant either a dish of rice and tender onions OR, more commonly, tender onions in a béchamel sauce. My sister and I, however, have always this term as a short form for this our much preferred method of cooking onions. We even named this dish after it.   
1 medium onion
1 ounce butter and maybe a little more
½ teaspoon minced garlic
450g button mushrooms
100ml dry white wine
1 veg bouillon cube (optional – in fact it’s all optional really, get creative!)
175ml double cream

~   Melt the onions in the butter till really tender but not taking any colour.
~   Quarter the mushrooms.
~   Tip the melted onions and all their buttery juices into a hot frying pan.
~   Add the quartered mushrooms and the garlic and sauté all together, adding a little more butter if necessary, till both the mushrooms and the onions are turning a little golden.
~   Add the wine, which will boil instantly, quickly crumble in the bouillon cube if using, and cook till almost all the wine is gone, which won’t be long!
~   Add the cream and bring to a boil.
~   Turn down the head and simmer for a minute or so till thick.
~   Taste and season.


My sister Maggie (now of the lovely Art Café and Cake Hole on Mersea Island) and I used to call this method “soubising”, I think “soubise” is a real word, possibly French and it’s even possible that it may have something to do with onions.  I’m not sure that it is used as a verb but to us it is a doing word related to onions.

And here are more dishes you can make or enhance with sweet, tender and possibly caramelised onions …

Onion, White Wine & Parmesan Tagliatelle

Add these delicious onions to …

Pan Sauces * Etc!

These onions are also the basis of my Super Flexible Soup Recipe.


I imagine Jonathan Swift hadn’t tried my sweet melting onions but he is right in pricipal; onions should be fully cooked!

Roti Upma aka Fried Bread Curry – don’t worry, it’s really good!

12 Apr
I have just eaten A Very Interesting Thing which was also quick, cheap and used leftovers but I doubt very much that it was healthy. – fried bread curry!

roti upma recipe fried bread curry, a great way to use up leftover bread

Upma is a actually a South Indian porridgy dish usually made with semolina but also with lots of other things that will mush down such as rice or bread.  I don’t like porridgy things so have never tried it and so didn’t feel I could rightfully include the bread version in my bread section of Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers (see below ***). 

Recently however I have noticed a few Upma recipes using dried or fried bread which retains quite a bit of crispness so decided to give it a go. 

fried bread curry, roti upma, in Hindi

Roti Upma 

A somewhat inauthentic recipe because I didn’t have all the right ingredients! ~ serves 1

useful pinterest image of roti upma a curry made from leftover bread   
2 separate ½ tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
1-2 slices bread – stale is good – diced or torn into pieces
(for me a small slice of sourdough and ½ an old roll I found in the freezer!)
¼ tsp mustard seeds
1 hot red chilli chopped
(I keep a bag in the freezer, they are easily chopped from frozen)
½ onion finely chopped
¼ inch ginger finely chopped
1 pinch turmeric
(I am ashamed to say I had no fresh ginger or turmeric so replaced these with a ¼ tsp curry paste which worked very well)
5 or so cherry tomatoes, quartered
a handful of cashew nuts
fresh coriander, chopped plus a sprig or two to garnish

~   Heat ½ tbsp oil in a frying pan then fry the bread in it till turning crisp and golden. Set aside.
~   Add the second ½ tbsp oil to the pan and then the mustard seeds and wait till they start popping.
~   Stir in the onion (and the ginger if you’ve got some) and cook till starting to go translucent then add the chilli and the tomatoes.
~   When the tomatoes start to mush down stir in the turmeric and/or curry paste and cook together a minute or so.

~   Taste and season then stir in the bread, cashews and chopped coriander. 

I stopped at this point because I don’t like pappy meals but you could cook the mixture down a bit and maybe add a little hot water to achieve a more porridge-like consistency.  As I say, it was great and next time I feel I have been eating too healthily I intend to balance things up by making it again! 

***  In this book I give all the information, ideas, recipes, handy hints, cook’s treats, storage info, ideas of what goes with what that I can think of for over 450 possible leftovers including at least 16 ways to use up leftover bread.

cookbook of ideas and recipes for leftovers

How to Make the Most of Delicious Extra Virgin Olive Oil

8 Mar

My friend Diane recently gave me a bottle of single estate extra virgin olive oil, her son’s Italian girlfriend’s father grows olives and presses his own oil, it is lush.
So, it seems the right time to do a post on delicious ways to use extra virgin olive oil aka evoo!

recipes for extra virgin olive oil

I am not, in this post, going into the details of extra virgin olive oil for cooking.  It was long held that high heat damaged the oil but recently this has been disproved and evoo is held to be one of the better cooking oils. However, if like me you have a delicious oil to play with don’t cook with it, these ideas will make the most of its flavour.

Drizzle Olive Oil

Rich greeny/gold evoo oil both looks and tastes good drizzled over many dishes such as soups, salads and hummus and other bean dips. 

Olive Oil Dip

Neat extra virgin olive oil is great to dip good bread (I normally use my homemade sourdough).  You can, of course, add all sorts of other things too, try …
~   Salt and pepper
~   Crushed garlic
homemade sourdough recipe and how to make dipping oils

~   Stir in a little balsamic vinegar – the two go very well together.
~   All three of the above simultaneously – yum.
~   Finely grated lemon zest and parsley or black pepper.

~   Black garlic
~   Roasted Garlic
~   Freshly chopped herbs or dried herbs.
~   Finely grated Parmesan cheese.
~   Crushed chilli flakes – I have some chipotle chilli flakes and they work well.
~   One of the infused oils below.


Delicious oil is essential when making salad dressings, see here for lots of vinaigrette ideas all of which will benefit by using extra virgin oil!
delicious ways to use evoo, ideas and recip with extra virgin olive oil

Flavoured Olive Oil

There are lots of ways to add more flavour to oils, here are three rather special ideas …
~   Parmesan Oil – this is a great idea for leftover parmesan rind; marinate the rind in olive oil together with flavourings such as peppercorns or chilli. Discard the rind and use the oil to drizzle or dip.

Marinated Cheese

Certain cheese, such as Feta, Mozzarella and goat cheese, are good marinated in olive oil together with flavourings as you fancy.
You need a completely clean and dry kilner jar or similar.  You also need …
Olive Oil
Seasonings of your choice – peppercorns, fresh herbs and spices
Maybe something else – olives, for instance
~   Cut the cheese into bite sized pieces, softer cheese such as goat cheese can be rolled into balls.
~   Toss the cheese with your chosen seasonings.
~   Layer the cheese up in the jar with any additions.
~   Pour in enough olive oil to completely and utterly cover the contents of the jar – nothing should be sticking out.
~   Seal the jar and store in the fridge for up to month. 
DO NOT discard the oil, use it to drizzle on salad, as a dipping oil or to dress pasta as in …

Aglio e Olio – serves 2

This is a classic Italian dish.

200g spaghetti or other fine pasta such as linguine or spaghettini
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 fresh red chilli – seeded and finely chopped (or a pinch of dried chilli flakes)
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley – finely chopped

Aglio e Olio, olive oil sauce,  with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, parsley and chilli, pasta sauce

~    Warm the oil and add the chilli and garlic, cook over a low heat until the garlic is just turning golden.
~   As soon as this happens stir in the parsley set aside till the pasta is cooked.
~   Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling well salted water (this will be the only seasoning) till just cooked or al dente as we cooks say!
~    Drain but not too thoroughly, a little cooking water will enhance the sauce.
~    Make sure the oil is still hot and then toss together with the pasta.
~    Serve immediately.

This can be varied quite a lot – use basil instead of parsley, add olives or artichoke hearts or chopped tomatoes or sun dried tomatoes or finely chopped red onion etc. And I would sprinkle the finished dish with freshly grated parmesan and probably some crunchy pangrattato!!!  

Here’s a similar recipe …

Linguine in Lemon & Herb Sauce

200g linguine
A handful of coarsely chopped fresh herbs of your choice – probably parsley, basil etc.
2 thinly sliced spring onions – diagonally sliced is prettiest
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
finely grated zest and juice of half a juicy lemon
knob of butter – optional
~   Cook the linguini in boiling salted water to al dente, drain, reserving two tablespoons of the cooking water.
~   Gently cook the garlic in the olive oil till fragrant.
~   Add the reserved pasta water to the garlicky oil, simmer, turn of the heat and stir in the herbs, lemon zest and juice.
~   Stir in the optional butter – go on!
~   Toss with the pasta and, of course, season to taste.

Serve as it is or add whatever you like really (seafood, chicken, bacon etc.) to make a more substantial meal.

olive oil pasta sauce, evoo, garlic, lemon and herbs

Baked Feta 

~   Place a chunk of Feta on a piece of lightly oiled foil.
~   Drizzle with lovely olive oil and season according to preference. I usually add oregano and chilli flakes but roasted garlic is good too.
~   Loosely seal the parcel and bake in a hot oven (
200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6) for 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the cheese.
~   Serve with crusty bread and red wine.

baked feta cheese with olive oil, hebs, garlic and chili

Warm Potato Salad with Fresh Herb Vinaigrette – serves 4

In two stages as the ingredients are somewhat repeated!
Stage 1
700g new potatoes – washed but not peeled
120ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons cider or white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
~   If the potatoes are large cut them into attractive bite sized pieces.
~   Cook the potatoes in gently boiling water for about 15 minutes till tender.
~   Meanwhile whisk together the rest of the above ingredients
~   Drain the potatoes, cool for a few minutes and then toss gently with the dressing and set aside for about half an hour.
Stage 2
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 finely chopped shallot
a small handful of chopped parsley
a small bunch of chives – finely sliced
~   Stir together the above five ingredients over a low heat till just warm.
~   Stir through the potatoes and serve.
If making ahead just re-warm the salad slightly when serving.

warm olive oil dressed potato salad

Pan Bagnat for 2

This is a delicious soggy sarnie from Nice!  I usually make this with a baguette but other breads work well too – just not sliced bread!! Here’s how to make it your own …
½ a baguette
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Your selection of the kind of sandwich fillings you think a French person would use!
(tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, red onion, fresh basil leaves, ham, tuna (but not these two at the same time!)
3 tablespoons of vinaigrette

(see here for lots of vinaigrette recipes and choose one!)  

~   Slice the baguette in half lengthwise and scoop out the soft bread from the bottom half.  See here for lots of ideas for leftover bread – don’t waste it!
~   Brush inside both halves of the sandwich with the oil.
~   Rub each half with a cut clove of garlic.
~   Make a salad using your choice of ingredients.
~   Dress the salad with the vinaigrette.
~   Pile the dressed salad into the scooped out half of the bread.
~   Put on the lid and wrap the whole thing in cling film/plastic wrap.
~   Put in the fridge with a weight on top of it to crush all together – a heavy pan for instance, or a brick?
~   Unwrap and cut in half to serve (with some red wine and maybe some cheese depending on your other ingredients).

λαδοβρεχτό Greek recipe for bread grilled with olive oil

λαδοβρεχτό which is Lovely!

Do see here for how to make this delicious Greek Grilled Bread, it’s really worth knowing about!                

Do you know I am So Old I can remember when you could only get olive oil in a tiny bottle from the chemists – I wonder why!

How to Spice Up Your Cooking with Smoky Chipotle Paste

31 Jan

spoonful of chipotle chili paste

I was chatting with a friend the other day about cooking in Tortola (“Where?” he said, as usual, because he’s fed up with me mentioning the lovely place I used to live, lucky me!) and how I missed chipotles in adobe; canned smoked chillies in a tangy tomato sauce which I haven’t seen in the UK. 

He suggested I try Asda’s Chipotle Paste and I did, and now I am hooked and chipotle paste has become another of my must-have store cupboard staples.

If you do invest in some I urge to test it tentatively before using it as it can be quite (but not very) fiery.  I use about half a teaspoon in most things I make just for myself but you might feel differently.

What is Chipotle?

smoke dried jalapeno chilis are chipotles
Chipotle peppers are smoke-dried ripe jalapeño chillies. They are medium hot and look like this – happily looks aren’t everything!

I do have dried chipotles in my storecupboard too, but chipotle paste is a much easier way to add their lovely smoky heat to your cooking.

How to Use Chipotle Paste

Well it is very inspiring stuff, here are some of the ways I have used it so far …

tomato ketchup mixed with chipotle paste

Chipotle Ketchup

Stir chipotle paste into the ketchup to taste, I really like this with egg and chips!

Pizza Sauce

Taking the above a little further a REALLY CHEATY pizza sauce which these days I use all the time is a mix of equal parts tomato ketchup and tomato paste. You can frown in my general direction if you like!  For myself I add half a teaspoon of chipotle paste to my portions of sauce but, not, of course, for my real man. You can add a little chipotle paste to more sophisticated pizza sauces too.

Chipotle Cheese Straws

how to make cheese straws from leftover pastry

Quite often I cook a pie for my real man, steak and kidney, chicken and leek, that sort of thing.  With the puff pastry trimmings I always make us some cheese straws to nibble on while the rest of the dinner is cooking.  All I do is roll out the pastry, sprinkle with grated mature cheddar, fold in half, sprinkle and roll, fold, sprinkle and roll about 5 times.  I then cut into strips, brush with egg yolk, sprinkle with sea salt and bake along with the pie at 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6 or thereabouts.  For me I often spread a little chipotle paste on the pastry before the first sprinkle.  Lots more ideas for leftover pastry here. 

ideas for adding chipotle to your cooking

Chipotle Mayonnaise

This is particularly good with seafood and chicken and lovely to dip sweet potato fries into.  Just stir together mayonnaise and chipotle paste. I use about half a teaspoon of chipotle paste to a tablespoon of mayo, sometimes a little lime juice is a good addition. See here for more ideas for flavouring mayonnaise.

Honey Chipotle Vinaigrette

80ml olive oil
80ml cider vinegar
80ml runny honey
½ – 1 tsp chipotle paste – or even more if you like
Liquidise, whisk or shake in a jar the first four ingredients and then season to taste with the salt. Not only good on salads but makes a great marinade for chicken, seafood and beef.

Chipotle Alfredo Sauce

This is delicious served tossed with cooked seafood or chicken and pasta or as a cream sauce for either without the pasta! Just add make this easy Alfredo Sauce and add a little tomato paste for pinkness and chipotle paste to taste. 

Sweet Potato Soup

Chipotle goes brilliantly with sweet potatoes try replacing the Thai chilli paste with chipotle paste in this lovely sweet potato soup.

add chipotle paste to sweet potatoes as in this soup recipe

Chipotle Egg Dishes

~   Add a little to scrambled eggs – see here for how to scramble eggs properly plus other egg ideas that might benefit from a bit of delicious smoky heat. 
~   Egg mayo sarnies
~   Add to the hollandaise when making Eggs Benedict – maybe change the name, any suggestions? Easy hollandaise sauce recipe here
~   Use it in my best omelette ever.

potato- chorizo-cheddar-chipotle-chilli-omelette

Chipotle Butter

This is wonderful on sweetcorn, more ideas for flavouring butter here

~   Mix a little into Black Bean Dip – see here for hummus and other bean dips etc.  

~  Add to Cheese on Toast.

salmon glazed with chipotle honey butterChipotle Honey Butter Salmon 

For 4

60ml honey
110g soft butter
1 tsp chipotle chilli paste
a little salt
4 x 180 fillets of salmon
~   Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6
~   Gently melt together the first three/four ingredients, taste and add a little salt if you wish.
~   Place the salmon fillets in a lightly buttered rimmed baking dish and pour over the delicious sweet spicy butter.
~   Bake for 12-15 minutes till the fish flakes easily.

White Fish with Beans and Chorizo

I have been making this for my dinner for ages and here’s the recipe, but recently have been adding a little chipotle paste to great acclaim from myself. 

white fish, white beans, chorizo in a tomato sauce spiked with chipotle peppers
~   Add to Chilli con Carne and other meaty beany dishes.~   Add to Homemade Burgers, Meatballs, Meatloaf and so on.  Homemade burger are even easier than getting takeaway!

How to Pronunce Chipotle

Just in case you were wondering!

How to Reheat Leftovers without Spoiling Them ~ which is a Good Idea!

13 Jan

specific instructions for reheating different leftover foods

This post is about reheating leftover food so that it is still delicious.  Please see here for How to Store Leftovers Safely 

I think that the practice of reheating food wrongly, either in the microwave or other incorrect methods, is why leftovers have such an (undeservedly) bad name.  Leftovers can, of course, be used in so many ways to create completely new dishes and if you are interested in this please see here for 219 Great Ideas for Leftovers but if you just want to reheat your leftovers here’s some useful info.

If you don’t have the right equipment or are in a tearing hurry, I suppose using a microwave can’t be helped but it is not the best way to reheat most foods and in particular crisp foods which will not remain or re-crisp in the microwave.  It can also damage the texture of delicate items such as fish.

Moister foods such as soups and stews will do OK in a microwave if you don’t rush them and give them a stir now and then while heating up.

Foods reheated correctly can be just as good as the first time round.

Preliminaries to Reheating Leftovers

Defrost First – this is where a microwave can come in useful, if your leftovers are frozen defrost them overnight in the fridge or do gently on a low setting on your microwave.

Bring to Room Temperature – if you must use the microwave, again gently, to just take the chill off your leftover.

How to Reheat Dry Cooked Meats and Fish

Here’s the Best Way!

the best way to reheat cooked meat, keep meat tender when reheating, safe way to reheat meats
For this you need a generous amount of sauce – either leftovers of the sauce you originally served the meal with, or a freshly made or bought in sauce.

~   Your leftover should be at room temperature so get it out of the fridge in time.
~   If reheating the remains of a roast slice the meat.
~   When ready to cook the meat first bring the sauce to a good temperature, not necessarily boiling but nice and hot.
~   Lay the meat(s) or fish in the sauce, put a lid on and turn off the heat.
~   When ready to eat return to a slow simmer BUT NO MORE – boiling already cooked meat toughens it.

Failing a delicious sauce reheat these in a dry pan to which you should add a little oil or butter. Keep the heat low, add your leftover gently, if you put a lid on the pan the meat/fish will heat faster and be moister but will not have a crust. Turn the leftover after about 3 minutes and heat for another 2 or 3 minutes before serving.

How to Reheat Soups and Stews

Just reheat gently in a saucepan with the lid on.  Keep an eye on it and give a stir now and then.  DO NOT BOIL. The microwave is fine for these foods too.
the best way to reheat fried foods keeping them crips and tender

How to Reheat Fried Food including Chips

These should NOT be done in the microwave which will make them soggy.

~   Preheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF/170ºC fan/gas 5 or thereabouts.
~   Place your room temperature leftover fried food on a baking tray and bake till hot and crisp which will of course vary according to what you are reheating.


How to Reheat Pizza – 3 Ways

how to reheat pizza

1.   Oven – do the same as with fried foods above.

2.   Grill – preheat the grill and place a baking tray underneath it so that it heats up too. This is important as it will crisp the bottom of the pizza while the grill reheats the top. Grill the pizza till hot, keeping an eye on it as being thin it will cook fast. 

3.   Pan – if you just have a slice or so of pizza or are in a hurry use a frying pan. Preheat the pan over, medium heat, then add your pizza slices) and pop on a lid or a sheet of foil. If you don’t cover it, you will probably end up with a hot bottom (excuse me!) and a cool top. Cook for 5 minutes and check, you want the cheese on top to be bubbling

How to Reheat Baked Goods

These too are best reheated in a moderate oven AND if your loaf of bread is stale run it under a cold tap and reheat in the oven which will result in it having a crisp crust.

How to Reheat Pasta

How to reheat cooked pasta, sauces pasta and cooked pasta dishes

To reheat cooked pasta 

~   Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
~   Place the leftover pasta in a strainer or seive.
~   Dunk the strainer in the boiling water for no more than 30 seconds.
~   Lift out, drain and sauce as usual.

To reheat sauced pasta

Reheat this in a lidded saucepan, it will probably need a little more sauce so either add more of the same, a little cream if appropriate, a splash of stock, wine or even water!  Stir gently turning the pasta over till hot all the way through. A microwave OK for this. 

To Reheat Pasta Bake

This is a good time to use the microwave, but just at first, and is a great way to reheat leftover mac and cheese!  

~   Preheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF/170ºC fan/gas 5.~   With the microwave on medium power heat the leftover pasta bake till fairly warm. 
~   Pour over a little fresh sauce or cream.
~   Sprinkle with grated cheese and some breadcrumbs and till hot, crisp and golden.
warning about reheating rice, avoiding bacillus cereuus

How to Reheat Stir Fries

Just re-stir-fry them in a hot frying pan being attentive to the stirring so as to give all the grains of rice and additions a chance in contact with the heated pan. Make sure the dish is absolutely piping hot throughout as reheated rice can cause food poisoning of not treated correctly

How to Reheat Cooked Vegetables

Boiled and steamed vegetables – melt a knob of butter (relevant joke here!) in a pan and toss the vegetables in the hot butter till heated through. You can do these in the microwave too but not for long or they will overcook.
Roasted vegetables – spread in a shallow pan and pop into a moderate oven till hot through.

the best way to reheat a delicate sauce such as hollandaise or alfredo sauce smoothly

How to Reheat Delicate Sauces

Sauces such as HollandaiseAlfredo and similar are best heated in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water but can be achieved with care using just a pan and low heat. Stirring is necessary here too! If the sauce splits, which is particularly likely with Hollandaise Sauce stir in a knob of butter to re-emulsify it.

Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers

Remember, if you do fancy doing more with your leftovers than just reheating them then this is the book for you!  

creative ways to use up leftovers cookbook

Reheating Baked Goods

These too are best reheated in a moderate oven AND if your loaf of bread is stale run it under a cold tap and reheat in the oven which will result in it having a crisp crust.

Reheating Soups and Stews

Just reheat gently in a saucepan with the lid on.  Keep an eye on it and give a stir now and then.  DO NOT BOIL. The microwave is fine for these foods too.

How to Reheat Sauced Pasta

Again, do this in a lidded saucepan as above but it will probably need a little more sauce so either add more of the same, a little cream if appropriate, a splash of stock, wine or even water!  Stir gently turning the pasta over till hot all the way through. Microwave IS OK.

How to Reheat Stir Fries

Just re-stir-fry them in a hot frying pan being attentive to the stirring so as to give all the grains of rice and additions a chance in contact with the heated pan. Make sure the dish is absolutely piping hot throughout as reheated rice can cause food poisoning of not treated correctly

How to Reheat Delicate Sauces

Sauces such as HollandaiseAlfredo and similar are best heated in a double boiler or in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water.  Stirring is necessary here too! If the sauce splits, which is particularly likely with Hollandaise Sauce stir in a knob of butter to re-emulsify it.

Hot to Reheat Cooked Vegetables

Boiled vegetables – melt a knob of butter (joke) in a pan and toss the vegetables in the hot butter till heated through. You can do these in the microwave too but not for long or they will overcook.
Roasted vegetables – spread in a shallow pan and pop into a moderate oven till hot through.

Christmas Breakfasts so Good the Presents can Wait till Later!

16 Dec

If you do as I do and cook your Christmas dinner the day before, this will free up both you and your kitchen to make a lovely festive breakfast. Here’s how and why to cook the turkey in advance and how to do your Christmas side dishes in advance.

Here are my Christmas Day Breakfast & Brunch Ideas …

Eggs Royale

This is a version of Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon. All the guidelines, recipes and ideas for Eggs Benedict you need are here. 

eggs royale, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and smoked salmon on a toasted bun

If this seems a bit too much work then serve with some other cooked egg dish  For how to make rich and creamy scrambled eggs, baked eggs, oeufs mollets, omelettes and more see here.

Salted Caramel Toast

This is one variation of several cinnamon toast variations I have tried, see here for Maple Sugar Toast, Cinnamon Toast & Other Delicious Variations

~   Toast slices of bread on both sides till golden.
~   Generously butter the toast right out to the edges.
~   Sprinkle reasonably generously with caster sugar.
~   Pop under a hot grill and watch carefully till the sugar has melted and is starting to caramelise.
~   Sprinkle with a little crunchy sea salt and serve.

salted caramel toast, cinnamon toast ideas and variations

Croissant French Toast

Croissants are perfect for making French Toast; the layers of the cut side go crunchy crisp so make sure to serve cut side up so that said layers trap all the gooey maple syrup and butter or what have you.  

Per person …
1 croissant – stale is fine
1 egg
½ tbsp sugar
50ml milk or cream or a mixture
a few drips of vanilla extract
pinch salt

~   Cut the croissant in half lengthways.
~   Whisk together all the other ingredients.
~   Soak the croissant in the mixture for about 10 minutes till soggy but not falling apart.
~   Fry till crisp in a little butter.
~   Serve cut side up with butter and maple syrup or whatever else you fancy.

croissant french toast recipe, maple syrup

Of course you can do the same thing with a couple of slices of bread.  For a custardy middle cut the bread on the thick side and soak for a few minutes.  When I did this for brunch when working in the Caribbean, out of respect for their culture, I always added a little rum to the egg mixture – it was well received! 

Festive Pancakes with Warm Boozy Mincemeat Sauce

See here for how to make several types of pancakes (thick and fluffy American style, crepes, gluten free) and serve topped with this sauce …

180g mincemeat
150g soft light brown sugar
juice and zest of one orange
60ml rum or brandy

~ Gently stir together all the ingredients over low heat till amalgamated and hot. That’s it!

This sauce is also good stirred into porridge and see here for more Delicious Ideas for Mincemeat.

Eggnog Bread Pudding 

– serves four

Croissants work well for this too, make sure the top layer has the cut side of the croissants uppermost for a crunchy finish.

100g-150g stale bread in small chunks
200ml milk
100ml double cream
2 eggs
80g sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence
maybe, up to you, 1 tbsp rum or brandy

~ If the bread isn’t stale dice or tear into pieces and either leave it around the place for an hour or so or put it on a baking tray and pop in the oven for a few minutes.
~ Put the bread into a lightly greased ovenproof dish or divide between ramekins.
~ Whisk together all the other ingredients and pour over pushing the bread under the surface to soak it. Set aside for 30 minutes or more – even overnight will do, which is great for Christmas!
~ Preheat oven to 350˚F/180˚C/160˚C Fan/gas 4.
~ Sprinkle the pudding with the extra sugar and bake for about 30 minutes till risen, golden and slightly wobbly when nudged.
~ Serve hot, warm or cold but warm is best!

egg nog bread pudding, Christmas breakfast

Speaking of bread pudding here’s an easy idea I had but I don’t know what to call it – Stollen Surprise?!

Creamy Stollen Pots

~   Reheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF/170ºC fan/gas 5. 
~   Butter as many ramekins as you have diners.
~   Fill each ramekin with diced stollen.
~   Pour over enough double cream to cover.
~   Bake for about 15 minutes till hot and turning golden.

stollen baked in cream, leftover stollen, christmas breakfast

Drinks for Christmas Breakfast

Christmas Mimosa

glass of  cranberry juice orange juice mimosa, bucks fizzMimosa is how Americans pronouunce Buck’s Fizz!

chilled Champagne
cranberry juice
orange liqueur such as Cointreau

~   Half fill glasses with cranberry juice.
~   Add a splash of liqueur.
~   Top up with Champagne
~   Garnish with an orange slice.

Easy Peasy!

Quick and Easy Eggnog for 2

If you are worried about raw eggs, then I’m afraid this isn’t for you.
2 lovely fresh eggs
90 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract – the real stuff, of course
225 ml double cream
300 ml cold milk

~   Whisk together the eggs and the sugar till starting to thicken.
~   Whisk in the vanilla and the double cream till well combined.
~   Lastly whisk in the milk.
~   Chill till needed.
egg nog handy hint, leftover egg nog, egg nog storags

~   Add a tot of brandy, rum or whisky to the glass when serving. 

For storage I decanted mine into an empty Brandy bottle I had (where do they come from?) so that the aroma can infuse into my nog.  See, I even hate to waste smells!  Serve chilled with a tot of brandy, rum or bourbon in it and sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg.

See here for some more hot toddies and winter cocktails that you might like for breakfast! 

christmas greeting

How to "Season to Taste"

24 Nov

Only joking!

A common, almost obligatory, instruction in recipes is “season to taste” but this is quite a broad direction and I am often asked …

What does season to taste mean?  

Well I looked it up on Miriam Webster and according to them it means …

“to add as much salt or pepper or as much of a spice or herb
as one likes so something tastes good”

What a surprise – although I might add acid, sugar and a few more, see below, to this definition. Being able to season a dish properly is one of the most important skills of a chef so here’s some guidance.

For most of my cooking life (quite a long while, actually) it has been generally accepted that there are 5 basic flavours that we can taste;

Salty * Sweet * Sour * Bitter * Umami

Recently, it has been suggested that we humans can identify other tastes; fat and pungent and/or astringent, but I am not going to deal with these here, probably soon though!

Seasoning with Salt

sea salt, kosher salt, crunchy saltSalt is amazing stuff, not only does it make food taste, umm … salty, it can also bring out the sweetness of a dish (think salted caramel – yum!) and it can even reduce bitterness, as in when you add a pinch of salt to coffee.  You do that don’t you? If not give it a try!

Which salt to use?

When I am salting potatoes for boiling, seasoning a sauce or adding a pinch to my coffee I use table salt.  When I am seasoning meat or adding a sprinkle to a finished dish, I normally use Maldon sea. In the US kosher salt, which is similarly flaky, is frequently used. 

Salty ingredients to balance a dish include …

     ~  Olives

     ~  Capers
     ~  Anchovies
     ~  Prosciutto (prosciutto butter is a great way to add salt to a dish )
     ~  Salty cheese such as Feta
     ~  Soy sauce

Salt can be added at different times whilst preparing a dish …

Salting Before Cooking

Adding salt at the start of cooking has a different effect than salting at the end; it infuses the whole dish. Two ways to add salt at the beginning are add salt to water when cooking vegetables, pasta, rice etc. and sprinkling salt onto something to be cooked over dry heat such as meat or fish. Although salt is known to draw juices out of meat (and anything else) salting immediately before cooking is nevertheless a good thing, it adds flavour and doesn’t have time for any juice-drawing so salt before roasting, frying etc.

Interestingly enough, if you salt large pieces of meat long enough in advance the salt will indeed draw out some of the juices, but they will then be reabsorbed right into the centre of the meat thus seasoning the inside!! Rub a spoonful of sea salt into a joint of meat and leave for 4 or more hours before cooking. Smaller cuts of meat, duck breast for instance or steak, will benefit in the same way from salting say 20 minutes for the duck breast or 40 for a steak, before cooking. Wipe the meat surface before continuing so that you get a good sear and see here for how to make a delicious pan sauce from browned meat juices.  

Salting During Cooking

If you add something new to the dish such as cream, stock, or anything really, add a little more salt.

Salting After Cooking

Once cooked, whatever it is, season “to taste” thus ~  taste, add a little salt, taste, add another pinch of salt, taste again, repeat till it is delicious. You are not aiming for a saltier taste but a brighter one with the sweet and bitter elements balanced out by the salt. Repeat till the food tastes exactly how you like it!
Most people have salt and pepper on the table when serving so diners can also make small adjustments.

add something sweet or acidic to fix a salty dish

Seasoning with Sweetness

how to season food with sweet ingredients, sugar, honey, syrup

At first it might seem strange seasoning savoury foods with sweet ingredients, but a touch of sugar can give a real boost. Consider the many table sauces we use with savoury foods which contain high levels of sugar – mint sauce, tomato ketchup, sweet chilli sauce etc. Caramelised onions are gorgeous in many savoury dishes.

Adding just a little sugar makes salty things taste less salty and sour things taste less sour – a little brown sugar can be great in beef dishes see this recipe for Korean Bulgogi  and sugar or a sweet ingredient such as tomato ketchup makes a tomato based dish even lovelier.

Sugar is the obvious sweet ingredient here but choose appropriately; dark brown sugar goes well with beef and gives a caramel taste, light brown sugar is a bit butterscotchy, white sugar is probably the best all purpose taste. 

Sweet ingredients to balance a dish include …

     ~  Sugar
     ~  Honey     
     ~  Maple syrup     
     ~  Jam     
     ~  Fruits – sweet ones, not citrus, cranberry or pineapple           ~  Dried fruits     
     ~  Caramelised onions

if food too sweet add sourness or bitternes, not salt

Oddly enough, if a meal is too sweet don’t try to balance it by adding salt – as I said above salt can make things taste sweeter. Instead add a squeeze of lemon or lime or a dash of vinegar as appropriate.

Seasoning with Sourness

squeezing lemon juice into a dish to balance out sweetness or spicynessA dash of citrus juice or vinegar can really brighten a dish, in fact if you are nervous about too much salt when tasting and seasoning try a squeeze of lemon. It will also balance out too much sweetness or spiciness.  

Sour ingredients to balance a dish include …

     ~  Lemon and lime juice

     ~  Canned tomatoes (fresh too but not so much)
     ~  Vinegar – lots to choose from so select one that goes with what you are cooking!
     ~  Sour cream and buttermilk
     ~  Tamarind paste
add cream, butter or something sweet to balance an acidic dish

Seasoning with Bitterness

dark chocolate can balance an over sweet dish

Bitter flavours can be used to balance rich or over-sweet dish for instance a dash of coffee in a sweet chocolate dessert. 

Bitter ingredients for balancing a dish include …

     ~  Coffee
     ~  Unsweetened cocoa and very dark chocolate
     ~  Citrus peels 
     ~  Olives
     ~  Grapefruit
     ~  Horseradish.

add something sweet to balance bitterness

Seasoning with Umami/Savourines

marmite is an umami rich ingredient, adds depth to food

Umami is apparently Japanese for savouriness or a pleasant savoury taste which was identified as a basic taste by Professor Kikunae Ikeda in 1908 but it seems to have been some while before we adopted the word. I was happy with savoury! I’m not going to go into details here, but it is something to do with glutamate

These savoury ingredients add depth to your food. 

Umami rich ingrediets include …

     ~  Marmite (apologies to American readers, didn’t mean to frighten you!)
     ~  Soy sauce 
     ~  Parmesan cheese, Blue cheese & Cheddar cheese
     ~  Mushrooms generally and dried shiitake mushrooms in particular
     ~  Anchovies
     ~  Worcestershire Sauce – because it contains anchovies 
     ~  Dry-cured ham 
     ~  Tomatoes
     ~  Oyster sauce 
     ~  Miso
     ~  Beef broth

… and I think reading this list you can imagine the type of taste I am referring to. If you add one or more of these ingredients, as appropriate of course, to your cooking you will give it a real flavour boost.

add someting bland if meal is too overpowering, cream rice, bread

Important when Seasoning Cold Dishes

chilled foods must be highly seasoned

219 (and then some!) Brilliant Ideas for Leftovers

1 Nov

I have just updated the page on my book on leftovers, have a look here Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers

On the original page I had included several (or maybe even many!) links to posts on Sudden Lunch concerning leftovers and I don’t want to waste them, so I’m listing them here instead!

don't just reheat leftovers, make something new from them

Of all the foods in the world leftovers are my favourite ingredient and using them my favourite way to cook.  If I find myself with random bits and pieces to use up I am delighted and often inspired; I enjoy the challenge of making them into a good meal and then I enjoy eating it! 

This is a fun and economical way of discovering new ideas and dishes; sometimes the result of playing with leftovers is so pleasing that the end product becomes a regular dish.

I mention leftovers in many, many Sudden Lunch posts, here is a list of the main ones, in no particular order! 


     ~   Recycled Biscuit Cake

     ~    Cold Porridge ~Yum! (Seriously) 

     ~   You’ve Got to try this with Stollen!
     ~   7 Ways to Use Leftover Polenta 
     ~   What to do with Leftover Soup!  
     ~   Ideas for Leftover Pâté 
     ~   15 Ways to Use (Not) Leftover Honey 
     ~   10 Delicious Ideas for Leftover Asparagus 
     ~   How to Use Leftover Easter Eggs 

     ~   10 Interesting Ways to Use Pastry Scraps plus a Boring One
     ~   8 and a Bit Ways to Cope with an “Unwanted” Bottle of Port
     ~   How to Use Every Part of a Chicken
     ~   9 Ideas for Leftover Baked Potatoes plus Fartes de Batatas!
     ~   15 Ideas for Marzipan Trimmings 
     ~   Ideas for Leftover Haggis including a Few Sensible Ones! 
     ~   64 Ideas for Leftover Cheese plus a Joke!
     ~   7 (+) Interestingly Different Ideas for Leftover Bread
     ~   Got Leftover Hot Cross Buns Lurking about the Place?
     ~   There is No Excuse for Discarding One’s Banana
     ~   50+ Brilliant Ideas for Christmas Leftovers 
     ~   Hamming Around with Prosciutto Scraps!
     ~   18 Ways to Use Up “Leftover Wine” ~ Deliciously! 🍷 Cheers!

I’ll probably add more as I remember or write them so save this page and check back occasionally!