3 August 2017

Why You Should Keep a Well Stocked Storecupboard

First a bit of backstory …

About 3 years ago my book, The Leftovers Handbook, was published. It is now undergoing a makeover and the new addition, which will be called Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers will be published next March.  It seems ages to wait but, on the other hand, time seems to pass so quickly it probably won’t take long!!

Whilst discussing this new edition the possibility of a follow up book, on Storecupboards, was mooted but now seems to have fallen by the wayside, maybe it will be taken up again later.  However, as I’ve started thinking about the matter I’ve decided to do some blog posts on the things I personally like to keep in stock and how I use them to spontaneously create all sorts of meals. 


Why Should You Keep a Well-Stocked Storecupboard?

A properly stocked pantry is very important if you want to cook spontaneously and make the most of lucky finds and leftovers.

It’s no good picking up a bargain or a wonderful food discovery, being inspired and then not having the wherewithal! A well-stocked storecupboard (and fridge) allows you to be both spontaneous and creative.

Say, for instance, you are lucky enough to find some lovely fish. A very simple preparation that might please the whole family is ...

Roasted Fish

This is fine for one or several pieces of fish so long as they are all similar sizes, otherwise some will cook faster than others.

~   Preheat oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Season the fish with salt and pepper and rub with a little oil or butter.
~   Place, not touching, on a baking tray and roast for 10-15 minutes till the fish flakes easily if you poke it – the timing will depend on the thickness of the fish so keep an eye on it.


Now then, according to your storecupboard you could vary this wildly simply by adding ginger, garlic, chilli or Thai green curry paste, sumac, chipotle, blackening spice, herbs, lemon zest, chopped capers etc. to the butter before rubbing it on the fish.  See more about flavoured and compound butters here.  (I accidentally typed compound buggers at first, there, but I think you need a different type of blog for information on those!)

Once you have coated the fish in oil or butter, seasoned just how you like it, you could, if you wished, roll it in a little flour before roasting to give a fragile crust.


Panko Crusted Fish

Fish is often served with a crisp coating such as breadcrumbs or a batter (lots of coatings for fried food here) but the best coating to use at home (in my opinion), is lovely crunchy Japanese panko crumbs, which I always have in stock.  Just roll the buttered fish in the crumbs and bake till crisp. 


Incidentally panko crumbs are a storecupboard staple for me and I have already written about them in this appropriately titled post ~ Panko! 

I often serve this with sautéed potatoes and Green Chilli Mayonnaise – simply made by stirring together a very little Patak’s Green Chilli Pickle (storecupboard), Mayonnaise (fridge) and a squeeze of lemon (fridge or fruit bowl) but you might have Tartare Sauce in your cupboard, or you could mix something else into the mayonnaise such tomato ketchup to make a simple Marie Rose sauce (if you happen to have a little brandy in your storecupboard it is a great addition to this), or how about Sweet Chilli Sauce or go all exotic and add chopped preserved lemons or tapenade – the list is endless and it’s up to you! 

Another quickly impressive way to cook your fish in the oven is in a parcel as with this ...

Baked Fish with Tomato & Coconut

For this I use creamed coconut, another of my storecupboard staples.

1 can chopped tomatoes – perhaps with chilli
100g creamed coconut
½ tsp green chilli pickle (mentioned above) or curry paste or chilli powder or whatever you fancy to make the mixture taste gorgeous to you
grated zest and juice of ½ a lime or lemon, maybe

~   Gently heat together the tomatoes and creamed coconut and stir together till melted.
~   Add the chilli pickle/curry paste/seasoning plus maybe lime or lemon zest and juice to taste.
~   Cool. (That is an instruction, not a comment).
~   Season a nice piece of fish per person and sear in a little oil till browning on both sides – this is because, being wrapped in a parcel, it won’t brown in the oven.
~   Place on a piece of buttered foil.
~   Spread a tablespoon or a little more of the coconut stuff over each piece of fish.
~   Fold the foil loosely round the fish and filling.
~   Bake as above, maybe for slightly less time as it has already been seared.

When I worked as a chef in the Caribbean I used to bake this in a banana leaf but a piece of foil works just as well, it just doesn’t look so impressive!


Now for me I would have all these options (and then some) without having to give it another thought or buy anything else, because I am always prepared. You can build up your storecupboard over time, it doesn’t have to be a one off big expense and, with many of these things, not only do they have a long shelf life but also a little goes a long way.

So, the above was by way of an introduction to this occasional series which I shall be writing quite randomly, i.e. in no particular order. I have no intention of writing about such storecupboard basics as flour, sugar etc. but rather the things that I always keep in and the many ways I use them. Think I’ll start with mayonnaise – coming soon!

Ice Cream Bargain – well it is (supposedly) Summer!

In the meantime, and not much to do with storecupboards, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that, for the remainder of the school holidays, the ebook version of my ice cream book, Luscious Ice Cream without a Machine, is not only half price (just £1.99) and includes the chance to download its companion volume, Sorbets & Granitas, for free.


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10 July 2017

λαδοβρεχτό – what a Quick, Easy & Delicious Surprise!

I have just made λαδοβρεχτό and am amazed at how delicious this simple traditional Greek grilled bread is.  I can’t believe that, having been to Greece and also being passionate about good food, I have never heard of or eaten this wonderful stuff. I will, however, eat LOADS of it in the future.


The reason I had this, suddenly (as befits a blog called Sudden Lunch!) is that one of my favourite authors, Sara Alexi who writes The Greek Village Series was asking for people to photograph recipes in her new book Greek Village Cooking: The Short andHappy Tale of Pippo Alampo - a love story with recipes!

I have sent her the photos I’ve taken, I hope they are OK. 

How to Make Greek Grilled Bread                               

It is important to use good thick slices of substantial bread – I used my homemade sourdough.  

The thing that makes this so delicious is that, surprisingly, the bread is grilled dry and then generously brushed with lovely rich green extra virgin olive oil, while it’s piping hot, so that some of the oil is absorbed. As my real man says, “like butter on hot toast”, which makes me wonder why I never thought of “inventing” it anyway!  The bread is then sprinkled with sea salt and dried oregano which is lovely, but now I think I shall try other seasonings too. 
Sara Alexi suggests roasted garlic – which is already a huge favourite of mine so probably try that next. I will also experiment with other herbs and maybe other oils; chilli or garlic infused, for instance.

This is one of those recipes I wish I had been aware of when I was cooking professionally – I'm sure it would have been very popular.  Then I would, of course, have cooked it on a chargrill but at home I am using a ridge pan and it works fine.

This crunchy, salty, juicy, wonderful grilled bread is delicious just as it is – well, maybe with a glass of red wine!
It also goes well with so many things, pretty well anything you might eat with bread, although perhaps go easy with the oregano if serving with something sweet. A little salt is OK as we have all learned from salted caramel!
~   Sara Alexi suggests diced tomatoes so I tried that and she is absolutely right.
~   I am very prone to hummus so added that and am pretty sure I will always have λαδοβρεχτό with hummus from now on.


~   Try it with Skordalia a kind of garlicky mayonnaise with either bread replacing the egg yolk as in my Skordalia recipe here  or with potato as in Sara’s recipe in Greek Village Cooking: The Short and Happy Tale of Pippo Alampo.  Both are good!

~   I can see no reason why this gorgeous grilled bread should not be joined by some cheese – maybe Feta, maybe not!
~  It would (in fact will, in our house) be a great accompaniment to soup or to bean dishes such as Gigantes or Creamy Fava (recipes for both of these are in the book).
I urge you to try this simple recipe - I'm sure you will be delighted!

Sara Alexi

If you haven’t heard of Sara Alexi, then it is time you did!  
Sara writes The Greek Village Series of books – and I have read them all!  The first in the series is The Illegal Gardner  which  got me hooked. As the series builds up you get to know all the people who live in the village, their lives and adventures. Every book in the series is snapped up as soon as it is published and several have become best sellers. There is even a Village Newsletter which you can subscribe to so that you can keep up to date with the villagers’ lives! Read more about Sara Alexi’s books and the Greek Village newsletter here.  

Why I want to be Just Like Sara Alexi when I Grow Up!

I’ll have to hurry – I’m almost 63! Sara not only writes brilliant books but she seems to be great at marketing them too. I receive mostly five star reviews and lots of lovely feedback for my cookbooks when they do sell but I just don’t seem to be getting them out there. Yikes!

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4 July 2017

The Perfect Cream Tea Formula

We recently popped over into Devon. As we crossed the Tamar bridge from Cornwall, where we live, it occurred to me how narrow a gap it is for there to such a large difference in the preparation of Cream Teas.


The importance of this matter was made clear to me the other day, National Cream Tea Day as it happens, when I mentioned on Twitter why jam first is the correct way to prepare a cream tea. This prompted a truly impressive (to me) amount of interest so I thought I’d expand on my information and reasoning in the hope of making things clearer – especially to people in Devon!

Devonians, as I understand it, for some pervie reason, apply their clotted cream to scones before adding the jam! In Cornwall we do as nature intended; the jam is spread onto the scone first and then topped with a dollop of clotted cream and I can prove we are right!

The Correct Way to Prepare a Cream Tea

Dr. Eugenia Cheng, a mathematician at the University of Sheffield’s School of Mathematics and Statistics did some research on the subject and came up with the following info:

~  Jam, due to its density, needs to be spread prior to the application of the clotted cream.  Putting it on after the cream may cause the jam to run off – creating sticky fingers.
~   The thickness of the cream should also not be thicker than the scone, as the scone will become off balance whilst trying to eat it.
~   If r is the radius of the scone, then we have the following formula for the thickness of the jam and the thickness of the cream …

Roddas, who make superb Cornish Clotted Cream have simplified these instructions to 2 parts scone, 1 part jam, 1 part cream – which looks just right to me!

The Cream Tea Society, who surely must know what they are talking about, also agree that jam goes on first and give instructions on ...

The Proper Way to Enjoy Cream Teas

Their final point is …

Never use whipped cream. It’s utterly improper.

I do so concur but am sad for Americans (or possibly everyone not in the UK) – the jars of “clotted cream” available elsewhere are really no substitute, not at all at all, for the real thing.

So the cream must be clotted, the jam is usually strawberry but raspberry and blackcurrant are both fine alternatives. Some people, additionally, butter their scones before adding the jam and cream – presumably they are on holiday so the calories don’t count.  What about the scones?

Genius Scone Recipe

Makes 6-8 normal sized scones or 4 embarrassingly large ones, the recipe can easily be doubled.

225g/8oz self-raising flour
225g/8oz plain flour + 1 rounded tsp baking powder (about 8g/a scant ½oz)
a pinch of salt
60g/2½oz cold butter or margarine
25g/1oz caster sugar
100ml/3½ fl oz milk
~   Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/180C fan/gas 6.
~   Stir together the flour, salt and baking powder (if using).
~   Add the butter or margarine and “rub in” with your fingers until a breadcrumb texture is achieved (see below).
~   Stir in the sugar once you have finished rubbing in; if you add it earlier it’s uncomfortable on the hands although, of course, it does exfoliate.
~   Add the milk and mix in, by hand is easiest, add a little more milk if too dry or a little more flour if too wet – work just enough to form a soft dough.
~   On a floured surface press or roll the dough out to about 1½cm/½” thick and using a cookie cutter cut into rounds. Or you could cut into squares which are easier and more economical on time: no re-rolling. They look quite good too.
~   Transfer the scones to a greased baking try, brush their tops with a little milk and bake in the oven till risen and golden – about 15 minutes.
~   Transfer to a cooling rack till needed.


The reason I call this my genius scone recipe is that it not only makes excellent scones but also numerous other wonderful things such as rock cakes, shortcakes, griddle cakes, dumplings, doughnuts, crisp biscuits and lots more. 


The recipe is so flexible and useful I have written a whole book about it – The Secret Life of Scones  giving every bit of information and idea I can think of to help make delicious scones and their friends and relations.

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29 June 2017

A Great Idea If You Are Not Quite Ready to Give Up Meat!

Turns out I may or may not be a Reducetarian!

I came upon this word quite recently in The Guardian; it is the name fairly recently given to people who reduce the amount of meat they eat in the interests of their health and also that of our wonderful planet. Did you guess?

I think this is a great idea … not extreme, something that can be achieved over time and good for everyone (except those in the meat industry, I suppose!) and, as meat is one of our pricier foods, it even saves money!

“Treat meat as a flavouring or special occasion food.”
Michael Pollan ~ Food Rules, an Eater’s Manual
I agree with him!

For myself (as opposed to when working as a chef or when cooking for my real man) I have never thought that meat or fish must be the central ingredient of a meal but rather as something that that may, or may not, be in a dish. This being the case, whilst I do eat meat and fish, many of my meals contain only a little or are completely vegetarian.

I even wrote a post some time agoHow to Eat Less Meat – and Enjoy It! suggesting ways to incorporate a little meat into a variety of meals.

According to the Reducetarin Movement they are …

“composed of individuals who are committed to eating less meat - red meat, poultry, and seafood - as well as less dairy and fewer eggs, regardless of the degree or motivation. This concept is appealing because not everyone is willing to follow an "all-or-nothing" diet.” 

Be a Reducetarian
Read more and join the Reducetarians here.

One thing occurs to me, however …

One cannot be a Reducetarian for ever!

Surely you can only keep reducing your meat and animal product intake for a limited time; eventually you will have to stop as there is nothing else to give up in that department!  One will, of course, then become a vegetarian or even a vegan.  

This is why I am not sure of my status reducetarian-wise; I am not reducing my intake of fish and animals, I did that years ago! I am eating a small amount, as I have for most of my life and with which I am happy.  

Is there a special name for people who, like me, just eat a little meat?  I wondered about “omnivore” but as I can’t abide bananas that’s not quite right either.  I know – flexitarian, that feels about right. What do you think?

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25 June 2017

How to Make the Most of a Bargain Salmon

I had salmon for dinner last night and then again for lunch today – I eat a lot of salmon. Every time Tesco has whole fish at half price price (so about £16 depending on the size) I buy one and eat it all myself – my real man, of course, not liking it.

So, I thought I’d go on a bit about salmon and some of the great ways to eat it.

When I first took to buying whole salmon, I didn’t have the shop scale and fillet it for me because I know how to do it. After a while I realised my silliness – it saves quite a lot of work and mess if they do it for you and they still let you take home the head and bones.

lots of salmon recipes

I always put the skeleton and head in a large pot with just enough cold water to cover it. Bring it to the boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about 5 mins till the flesh is translucent. Drain (there is not much point in keeping the “stock” it won’t have assumed much flavour in that short time) and set aside till cool enough to handle. Then, using your fingers, remove every useful bit of salmon you can from the wreckage. 

make the most of fish bones
See later in this post for some ideas for these scraps.

When I portion the salmon fillets I usually get about 12 x 170g/6oz fillets, I have, however, a small (but perfectly formed!) appetite so I often have a little salmon leftover after dinner. Adding this to the scraps removed from the bones I generally get 18 or 20 meals out my salmon so it’s quite a bargain.

how long to cook fish

Some Easy & Delicious Ways to Cook Salmon Fillets

Roasted Salmon with Asparagus & New Potatoes

This is what I ate last night, I have been having this a lot recently, it is so summery and we do have a sack of new potatoes to eat up! (Another salmon recipe here too!) 

Per person …

4 or 5 new potatoes – skin still on
1 x 170g/6 oz salmon fillet
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
a handful of frozen peas
6 asparagus spears, halves – woody ends discarded
generous knob of butter
½ lemon

~ Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6.
~ Wash and prepare enough new potatoes for one.
~ Cover potatoes in cold water, add a little salt, bring to the boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pan and cook till tender - about 20-25 minutes.
~ When the potatoes are almost done coat the salmon piece(s) with a little oil and season.
~ Place in an oven proof pan and roast in the oven for 10 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.
~ Now cook the peas and asparagus – just put together in a small pan, cover with boiling water, put on the lid, turn down the heat and simmer 5 minutes.
~ When the potatoes and the vegetables are cooked drain and leave warm in their pans till needed.
~ When the fish is cooked remove from the pan and set in a warm place lightly covered with foil.
~ Add a generous knob of butter to the warm pan, turn the potatoes and vegetables in the butter.
~ Return the salmon to the pan and turn gently together with everything else.
~ Add a good sprinkle of lemon juice.
~ Serve.
~ Drizzle with mayonnaise.

Salmon & Leek Gratin

seafood gratin

Per person …

170g salmon fillet
1 small leek – cleaned and thinly sliced
15g butter
1 tablespoon of dry white wine or stock
90g double cream
a girly handful of breadcrumbs

~ Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the leeks to coat thoroughly.
~ Turn down the heat and press something suitable (ie. a butter wrapper, greaseproof paper of piece of foil) directly onto the surface of the leeks. Cover the pan.
~ Cook gently for 10-15 minutes keeping an eye on things and giving the occasional stir till very tender.
~ Place the piece of salmon on top of the leeks and cook for another 6-8 minutes till the fish flakes easy with the simple application of a fork.
~ Set the fish aside, and crumble the vegetable Oxo or similar into the leeks.
~ Add the wine or water and stir to dissolve the stock cube.
~ Add the cream, bring to a boil and cook a minute or two.
~ Taste and season.
~ Remove from the heat, flake the salmon and fold into the creamy goo.
~ Turn into a heatproof dish, sprinkle with the crumbs, dot with butter and finish under a hot grill.

Marmalade Glazed Salmon

Simply glaze salmon by brushing a little marmalade (almost any will do!) over the fish for the last few minutes of baking or grilling. I like a good sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper on mine.
salmon glazed with marmalade

Salmon with Hollandaise Sauce

Cook your salmon as you wish; roast, fry, poach, etc and serve with Hollandaise Sauce which is a perfect complement to most seafood.

poached salmon

Salmon Poached in Ginger & Lemon Tea

This is something I made when reviewing some fruit and herb teas – it was a peculiar idea but worked so well I have made it several times since. 

And here are some ideas for the …

Salmon Trimmings & Leftovers

Salmon & Boursin Pâté – ish Stuff

This was today’s lunch, it is delicious, rather strange and a bit of a cheat. Call me Delia if you wish!

Put the leftover pies of salmon into bowl together with an equal-ish quantity of herb and garlic Boursin. Add a generous squirt of roasted garlic mayonnaise (I always keep M & S roasted garlic mayo in stock because my real man doesn’t like the smell of garlic so I don’t often roast my own) and a teaspoon or two of sweet chilli sauce. Mix and stir and crush to amalgamate. Eat with toast and a glass of white wine.

quick salmon and Boursin pate

Lemony Salmon Salad

See here for Six Sexy Salads for Summer including this salmon salad.

salmon and lemon salad

Tagliatelle with Salmon Alfredo

Gently warm the salmon leftovers in this lovely Alfredo Sauce and maybe add a touch of lemon and some black pepper.

Alternatively toss with pasta in garlic butter with lemon and herbs. Top with pangrattato for a lovely, quick, easy, cheap, crunchy finish

Seafood Chowder

Use salmon scraps in this gorgeous seafood chowder recipe.

salmon chowder

Salmon, Chilli & Sweet Potato Cakes

Or other fishcakes, of course, but these are good.

100g cooked salmon 
1 sweet potato – approx. 200g
sweet chilli sauce to taste – about 2 tsp

~ Peel and dice the sweet potato, cover with cold water, add the salt, bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes till tender.
~ Drain and cool to room temperature.
~ Break up the salmon, add to the sweet potato together with Sweet Chilli Sauce, if using, and munge the lot together.
~ Taste and season, form into cakes, coat in seasoned flour and shallow fry till hot and crisp and golden on both sides.

Also, of course, salads, sandwiches etc.

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5 June 2017

How to Make the Most of New Potatoes

Cornish Earlies
My real man and I buy a sack of potatoes every few months and, keeping them happy in the cool and dark, we easily get them all eaten before they go off.

This week we needed a new sack but were tempted by 12kg sack Cornish New Potatoes instead of our normal 25kg of our favourites, Wilja.  Of course, new potatoes are not such good keepers as old potatoes but, luckily, they are quite muddy which will protect them from deterioration. 

We are, however, going to have to eat even more potatoes that we usually do to get through them.  Not a problem!

Ideas for boiled new potatoes

Firstly – how to prepare and boil new potatoes …

~   There is no need to peel new potatoes; their skins are tender, tasty and nutritious. You must, of course, wash off all the dirt before cooking.
~   Tiny potatoes can be cooked whole, large ones should be cut to a similar size so that they all cook at once.
~   Put the clean potatoes into a pan of lightly salted cold water, enough to cover the potatoes. Maybe add a sprig or two of fresh mint if you have such a thing – makes them taste even more summery!
~   Bring to a boil over high heat, turn the heat right down, cover the pan and simmer till tender. Whole, tiny baby potatoes will take about 10 minutes, larger potatoes or pieces of potato a little longer. Check for doneness with a small sharp knife, if they feel tender they are ready, if not carry on cooking.
~   Strain, allow to steam dry a few minutes then do with them what you will, such as ...
~   Add a knob of butter (perhaps a delicious flavoured butter – lots of ideas here) and serve alongside lovely summery dishes. 
~   Toss freshly cooked new potatoes in melted brown butter with maybe some fresh herbs - read here about how to make delicious brown butter and lots of ideas for using it including  Laphroaig & Brown Butter Ice Cream! 

how to make potato salads

~   New potatoes are perfect for making potato salad – if this is your intention do dress the potatoes with mayonnaise or dressing whilst they are still warm; they will absorb some of the dressing and become even more delicious.  Here’s further details plus lots of potato salad recipes and ideas. 

Crispy Crushed New Potatoes ~ a slight recipe!

roast new potatoes
~   Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6.
~   Once the potatoes are cooked and drained arrange them in a single layer in a baking dish.
~   Using a potato masher crush each potato so that it has a broken skin and ragged top.
~   Drizzle with melted butter, brown butter or olive oil, sprinkle with herbs, spices or what have you and bake till golden and crisp.

Ideas for new potatoes, other than boiling them …

New Potato & Spring Onion Pizza

Before we start, here is an easy and flexible pizza dough recipe  which is enough for two pizzas but you can, of course, use a bought in pizza bases.

potato pizza
2 bunches spring onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
500g well washed new potatoes
freshly ground black pepper - optional
150g (or to taste) strong cheddar cheese, grated

~   Coarsely chop the spring onions and cooking them in the olive oil in accordance with my instructions for the best way to cook onions.
~   When the onions are tender thinly slice the potatoes and stir into the onions together with a fair bit of black pepper, to taste.
~   Spread the oniony potatoes over the pizza bases and manually arrange attractively.
~   Sprinkle with grated Cheddar and bake till the potato is tender and the pizza is crisp, golden and fragrant.

salmon and potato gratin

Potato and Hot Smoked Salmon Gratin

This is so lovely - here's the recipe. 

New Potato, Caramelised Onion & Cheddar Omelette

This has long been a favourite of mine and here’s a photo of one I ate yesterday. Use lovely strong, punchy cheddar cheese for this.

Per omelette

1 small red onion
½ tablespoon olive oil
1 medium new potato
2 eggs (or 3 if you are a greedy bugger)
salt and pepper
a knob of butter
60g mature cheddar cheese

~   Prepare and cook the onion my favourite way!
~   When utterly tender thinly slice the potato and stir into the onions. Add a tablespoon of water, cover the pan and cook till the potatoes are tender (you may need to add a little more water if they start to stick to the pan).
~   Grate the cheese.
~   When the potatoes are tender make the omelette in accordance with my omelette making instructions here.
~    Add the potatoes and onions when the omelette is just moist on top and sprinkle with the cheese.
~    Fold in half and serve immediately.

onion and potato omlet recipe
P.S.  Sorry I've not written for a while - computer problems but its OK now (fingers crossed!)

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