mulled cranberry and orange relish

mulled cranberry and orange relish
I love the way that recipes can be passed along generations, and across continents and cultures. A few years ago, an American friend of mine introduced me to the joys of her family's cranberry relish recipe. Her version used raw ground cranberries and oranges and it was very nice indeed. I decided to make a cooked version with spices, for a more Christmassy feel, which has become a new tradition in my family on this side of the pond.

orange milk liqueur a.k.a. baby jesus wee!

Christmas orange milk liqueur (a.k.a. Baby Jesus Wee!)
I should have posted this much earlier, because in theory you should be drinking this to toast the Baby Jesus. But if you get in quick, you'll have time to raise a glass or two on New Year's Eve. But if I'm honest, it actually a rather lovely drink all year around, with just four main ingredients; vodka, milk. oranges and sugar.
I made this last year and it was so good, so that I've made an even bigger batch of "Baby Jesus Wee" for this Christmas. My neighbour commented that perhaps she wouldn't be serving it to her vicar, although apparently he has a great sense of humour, so perhaps he'll be lucky enough to get some. It is divine mixed with Prosecco as a Christmas cocktail.

roast butternut squash salad with pomegranate and tahini dressing

roast butternut squash salad with pomegranate and tahini dressing
A spicy, sweet and sour roasted squash salad topped with tangy cheese, crunchy hazelnuts and beautiful jewel-like pomegranate seeds. It is simple yet sumptuous and the perfect autumn salad.

urap: indonesian cooked vegetable salad with coconut and lime dressing

urap: indonesian cooked vegetable salad with coconut and lime dressing
It's that time of year when you start wondering about what to wear. Is it cold enough to wear a coat? If I wear my coat will I be too hot? If I don't, will I be too cold? And the perennial question of what to eat for supper ... do I have a salad? (I love salads.) But it is chilly at night, perhaps I should cook up some greens; something a little more autumnal?

rice porridge for breakfast: congee, juk or babur

rice porridge for breakfast: congee, juk or babur
I'm up with the birds this morning, together with Mia, my elderly cat, who meows imperiously at me to be let out the back door and into the garden. (We don't have a cat flap; I act as the cat's personal concierge. It is a thankless but necessary task.) Seconds later the cat is meowing scratchily to be allowed back in. She sinuously scurries in through the small gap that I have opened up, skids to a halt and scolds me with a reproving look that says "Why did you let me outside when it is so cold?" "Hey, you're the one with a fur coat," I say. "I'm the one freezing in my jammies, waiting on you." "And your point?" says the cat haughtily. "Enough of this frivolous conversation. Feed me. Now."

turkish poached eggs in yogurt (cilbir)

Turkish poached eggs in yogurt (cilbir)
I have a feeling that when I meet new people I have barely got the social niceties out of the way before I am grilling them on their favourite foods. Omer was no exception, as he told me about cilbir, a Turkish egg and yogurt dish, his favourite comfort food from childhood. Sadly, something got a bit lost in translation as Omer's passionate defence of gloopy eggs in a sour yogurt sauce sounded, frankly, revolting. But then Omer isn't much of a cook and hadn't actually cooked it himself. And in trying to get firmer details, I struggled as my Turkish is non-existent too.

burn baby burn (or heathcliffe's chilli burn odyssey: a cautionary tale)

dried chillies, used for illustrative purposes only!
What do you do when one of your dearest friends phones with a problem? Of course you listen, while trying to work out whether they are laughing or crying, and try to make sense of the stream-of-conscious excitable babble from the other end of the phone. You're a good friend, and a shoulder to cry on when necessary. Except, of course, this time you can't help and you are desperately trying not to guffaw with laughter.

what's in season: october

windfall apples, October 2015
Behold the apples’ rounded worlds:
juice-green of July rain,
the black polestar of flowers, the rind
mapped with its crimson stain.

The russet, crab and cottage red
burn to the sun’s hot brass,
then drop like sweat from every branch
and bubble in the grass.

They lie as wanton as they fall,
and where they fall and break,
the stallion clamps his crunching jaws,
the starling stabs his beak.

In each plump gourd the cidery bite
of boys’ teeth tears the skin;
the waltzing wasp consumes his share,
the bent worm enters in.

I, with as easy hunger, take
entire my season’s dole;
welcome the ripe, the sweet, the sour,
the hollow and the whole.

Laurie Lee (1914-1997)

vietnamese chicken noodle soup (pho)

 Vietnamese chicken noodle soup (pho)
That I love Asian noodles I think is probably a given. A Vietnamese-style pho (pronounced "fuh") is one of my favourite meals, especially if I have any leftover roast meat to use up. So if you're thinking ahead to Sunday's roast chicken lunch, think how good Monday's supper will be (particularly if you use the carcass to make a stock).

halloumi tikka (squeaky cheese in a spicy yogurt marinade!)

grilled halloumi tikka
This year's BBQ season was somewhat short-lived, which is a bit of shame as I didn't have many opportunities to roll out one of my BBQ favourites, halloumi tikka. Fortunately though, you don't have to wait until the temperature rises and the sun comes out. It works perfectly well under the grill or in a hot pan.

salmon and blackberry salad with blackberry dressing

salmon and blackberry salad with blackberry dressing
I had this glorious Chinese-style blackberry sauce on a piece of salmon recently. It's sweet and tart and, if I say so myself, utterly divine. The sauce actually works rather well with grilled chicken too. I suspect it would be lovely with pork chops too.

turkish-style cucumber and tomato soup

turkish-style cucumber and tomato soup
So much for the expected heatwave. Oh well, I love this simple soup, which is slightly tart and refreshing on a hot day (rain or not and rather nice at the end of summer too. Don't be deceived by its somewhat sludgy appearence!