to warm the cockles of your soul: spicy parsnip soup

spicy parsnip and ginger soup
You may not have known your soul's cockles needed warming, but even if they don't, this spicy soup (adapted from Nigel Slater's Tender I) will definitely give them a bit of a tune-up and put a zing in your step on a chilly day.

Last weekend I hiked up to Birmingham, to attend the BBC GoodFood Show (more of this tomorrow) and to stay with an old friend of mine from days of yore.

Off to BBC GoodFood Show . . .

A trip to the Midlands to stay with friends, meet new ones and taste and talk about good food. I cannot wait!

reasons to be cheerful: celeriac and stilton soup

celeriac and Stilton soup
If I ever needed a reason to be thankful, it is to the happy accident that led to the discovery of blue cheese. A combination of conditions, bacteria and man's willingness not to be put off by a bit of mould, means that we now have a whole gamut of piquant blue cheeses that taste fabulous and cook beautifully. It is yet again another example of serendipity in the world of food. Oh happy days! 

stir-up sunday: make mincemeat and make a wish!

Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot
Stir up, we beseech thee, and keep it all hot.

One of my culinary New Year's resolutions for 2011 was that I was going to be much more organised this year, particularly around preserving and pickling. Last year I didn't get around to making mincemeat until the week before Christmas and by that time was actually a bit mince-pied out . . . so we were still eating mincemeat in various incarnations in April! This year I was determined to get my mincemeat in early, and in fact made mine about a month ago.

kari therakkal; a south indian lamb curry

my lamb therakkal
As you may know I recently visited an Indian restaurant in London that literally rocked me to my core with their beautifully exciting curries. I love Babur. And I love it so much that I have been back since (more of this another time). I was lucky enough to finagle one of their recipes from them. admittedly there was nothing devious about my approach. I asked for a recipe and they gave. Because that's the sort of lovely people they are! 

Baby it's cold outside . . . so welcome to a warm pie embrace! a traditional steak and ale pie

steak and ale stew
What could be more welcoming on a cold wet autumn night than a beef and ale stew? Actually, a beef and ale pie is even better. I think my love for puff pastry is well-known and the combination of light, buttery and crisp puff pastry with an intensely savoury stew is richly satisfying; a perfect homely pie to banish away the drizzlin' blues.

While I don't think that "life is too short to stuff a mushroom" as Shirley Conran famously, if foolishly, said, I do think there are other culinary-related scenarios where I would rather use the time spent doing something else . . . making two courses instead of one, baking a loaf of bread or just chatting to friends and quaffing more wine. 

boum-boum sausages

boum-boum sausages with onion jam
It is said that to be truly happy, you should take pleasure in the small things in life. There is no doubt that I am really enjoying the process of emptying my freezer since I keep finding little frozen nuggets of unexpected pleasure.

A small plastic box contained six small patties of . . . who knew what? They looked suspiciously like my fish cakes, but lacked any fishy smell. On defrosting it was quickly apparent that they contained breadcrumbs and some peculiarly dark flecks of something that I couldn't identify. I was baffled; I had no memory of making them. (Note to self - remember to label everything with smudge-proof, indelible ink.)

a hearty autumn stew: sausage and pumpkin awash with spices!

sausage and pumpkin stew
Autumn is my favourite time of year. I love the smell and colours of the year as abundance fades away; dormant until the new beginnings of spring. At the moment my garden is an abstract painting of fallen leaves, rusty orange, muted yellow and faded red. At this time of year I am also keen on meals, that leave the sunshine simplicity of summer cooking and heartiIy banish away the grey drizzle of an autumn chill. I want a dish of strong and complex flavours, full of warming spices to keep the gloom at bay. 

what's in season: november

the last of this year's
ruby chard
november night 
Listen . . . 
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

Adelaide Crapsey, 1878 - 1914

Now is the time to start searching out game, the seaon of which is now in full swing. Actually sourcing game should actually be easier for us city dwellers, since supermarkets such as Budgens and Marks & Spencers have started selling it; (as a result of a change in the law. Hurrah!) Although while I may be looking for partridge, pheasant and pigeon, I think I may have to draw a line at squirrel!