a formula for happiness: everything-bar-the-kitchen-sink potato cakes

potato and vegetable cakes
Another fabulous way to love your leftovers is by making hearty fried potato and vegetable cakes. I have to confess that if you fry them, then they are not for the calorie-conscious but I'm guessing you're starting that healthy eating regime in 2013.

By combining an equal amount of leftover cooked potato with vegetables, you have a great base for a breakfast with bacon and eggs or a perfect lunch with smoked salmon.

We recently had some with our Balinese-style duck curry, with a little extra curry spicing in the potato mix. But my absolute all-time favourite addition to potato cakes is a healthy dollop of leftover cauliflower cheese.

a chance to love those christmas leftovers! balinese-style curry (with roast duck)

Balinese-style curry with roast duck
It makes sense to me that when London skies are leaden, when we are morosely peering through a damp grey mist and remembering fondly, through our rose-tinted glasses, last year's White Christmas, that what I really want to eat is food laden with south east Asian spices. Perfect warm-you-up and kick-you-into-action spicy sense.

Most people I know find the thought of leftovers, especially Christmas leftovers, profoundly depressing. I don't know whether there is something wrong with me, or just because I am constantly worrying about where my next meal is coming from, but I love the challenge. And to be honest, finding a good use for roasted meat isn't really much of predicament.

tri-fle: (noun) a small thing of little value or importance

Black Forest Trifle
with leftover Christmas pud!

Is it too early to be thinking about Christmas leftovers? (It is never too early for me.) So I just wanted to give you a heads up on an easy but delicious way to use up any leftover Christmas pudding or cake. Personally I think it might actually be nicer than the main event!

This is a very flexible recipe – I used kirsch to moisten the pudding because that’s what I had – but you could use any booze or liqueur. Cointreau of Calvados would work a treat too.

I also had some black cherries preserved in brandy, these topped the pudding, together with cream, clementine zest and some grated chocolate. (If I had had some frozen autumn fruit berries, they would have been rather nice instead.)

pigs in blankets - not just for christmas

Pigs in Blankets with Christmas spices
Pigs in Blankets are one of the traditional accompaniments to the British Christmas roast turkey. Since I am not a fan of turkey, at Christmas or any other time of the year, the pigs in blankets are often the best thing about Christmas dinner. Harsh but true.

Intensely savoury and moreish, I find Pigs in Blankets irresistible.

nigel slater's mincemeat cheesecake

Nigel Slater's mincemeat cheesecake
I am looking for a fitting use for my very last jar of 2011's homemade mincemeat. Whether I am looking for inspiration, rescue or just a good read, I turn to Nigel Slater. His latest book, Kitchen Diaries II contains a recipe for mincemeat cheesecake (and the recipe can be found here on The Guardian newspaper website).

It looked rather nice, but I have a teensy problem with baked cheesecakes. I have just never made one successfully. Everything is alright until the cheesecake goes in the oven. At which point the damned thing makes a bid for a freedom and oozes out from the bottom of the tin leaving me with a mess of soggy biscuit and an oven to clean. I am grumpy, frustrated and hungry.

christmas baking: chocolate yule log biscuits

chocolate yule log biscuits
If you were to believe Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, Sir Walter Scott or any number of Victorian Christmas cards or advertising posters, England was awash at Christmas with snow dusted baronial halls, while well-fed and happy peasants lugged large oak logs towards welcoming roaring fires, watched over by benevolent robin redbreasts. (As something of a peasant myself, I certainly doubt the veracity of this picture of happy lugging!)

christmas baking: vanilla crescents (vanillekipferl)

Christmas vanilla crescents
I first saw these vanilla biscuits in a festive German Christmas market some years ago. At first glance, these vanilla crescents looked a bit pale and anaemic, and dare I say it, a bit flavourless.

Certainly uninteresting when compared to my favourite Christmas spice biscuits, packed full of fragrant spices.

That was how I felt until I took my first bite and realised that appearances are so very, very deceptive. Pale they may be, but they are definitely not dreary.

a lazy girl's supper: noodles with spicy spring onion sauce

Noodles with spicy spring onion sauce a
nd Thai fish cakes
I have been in a bit of a baking frenzy few the past few days - awash with Christmas spices and pondering over what to cook on Christmas day; (just the record, it won't be turkey!) As a result, I don't much feel like cooking. It's on days like this that I need a self-assembly kind of meal.

This uncooked sauce can be put together in less time than it takes to boil and drain the noodles - about five minutes. Although it does taste much better if you set aside the sauce for all the flavours to get to become acquainted for 20 minutes or so.

christmas baking: mantecados (spanish shortbread biscuits)

mantecados (Spanish sweet lard biscuits)
If you don't or can't eat lard, or perhaps you are on a diet, then please look away now!

This is a recipe for the crumbliest shortest biscuits that you will have ever had the good fortune to taste, all thanks to the fat of the ever generous pig.

Mantecados are a Spanish shortbread biscuit, traditionally served at Christmas. You've probably seen these little biscuits wrapped in pastel coloured tissue paper and wondered what they were. I was inspired to make them after reading one of my favourite food blogs, written by Rupert, who is the owner and chef at Casa Rosada, a smart B+B on the Algarve in Portugal

christmas baking: a delicious stollen recipe

Fragrant Christmas stollen
It is something of an understatement to say that I love stollen as an alternative to Christmas cake: I simply adore it. And why wouldn't you love a buttery sugar-coated fruit loaf fragrant with Christmas spices?

something for the weekend: roasted paprika chicken with black pudding and cannellini beans

roast chicken with rosemary and smoked paprika
Is it too early to be thinking about Sunday lunch? For me, it is never too early. Like Winnie-the-Pooh, I am always game for a little spot of something and often fretting where my next meal is coming from. So what are we going to cook for Sunday lunch?

a quick midweek curry: malaysian-style chicken curry

easy Malaysian-style chicken curry
This Malaysian-style curry is wonderfully scented, quite hot, and a little creamy. It is the perfect way to use up any leftover chicken from Sunday's roast.

I like to make my own curry spice mixes, but there are some really good ones out there. If you are looking for a Malay spice mix, then you really need a sweet curry blend that includes aniseed flavours, including star anise and fennel - this is what sets a Malaysian curry apart from an Indian one.

roasted parsnips with gingerbread magic cookie dust!

roasted parsnips with magic cookie dust!
(or gingerbread crumbs)
I wasn't kidding when I said I had found all sorts of uses for my magic cookie dust (or the ginger biscuit crumbs I had whizzed up after almost burning a load of ginger biscuits).

Some years ago at a restaurant in New York whose name I have forgotten, our meal came with a few roasted parsnips sprinkled with gingerbread crumbs. The parsnips were fabulous - not surprising since they have a total affinity for spices such as nutmeg and ginger.

how to fix a baking disaster - make magic cookie dust!

Magic cookie dust
Another day, another baking disaster. Welcome to my world.

These days I don't panic, although there is usually quite a lot of swearing involved and occasionally the quaffing of cooking sherry, to aid the recovery process. But usually I don't panic too much. 

I had made the dough for some
spicy ginger biscuits. The dough was chilling and I had just put my oven on to pre-heat. My wits were wondering again; although to be fair, I think I should be blaming Eddie Mair, the Radio 4 journalist. He has an awful lot to answer for.

me derby kell is well and truly stuffed! slow roasted beef brisket in ale with carrots and mushrooms - with Adnam's Broadside

where's the beef?
(carrots, mushrooms and beefy ale!)
There is an old music hall song from the early 1900s with the catchy refrain of "boiled beef and carrots", which was song by the Cockney artiste, Harry Champion (of "Any Old Iron" , "I'm Henery the Eighth, I am" and my favourite "A Little Bit of Cucumber").

christmas baking:traditional bread pudding (or my cheat's christmas pud! )

traditional British bread pudding
(or my cheat's guide to Christmas pud!
A Best of British blog challenge!
These days if you say "bread pudding" most people assume you are talking about "bread and butter pudding" - layers of sliced stale bread, dotted with dried fruits and butter, and soaked in a custard sauce, before baking. While bread pudding is another member of the frugal baking club as it is made with breadcrumbs and dried fruit, it is actually more like a cake than a pudding and is, to my mind, even nicer.

christmas baking: kruidnoten (dutch christmas spice biscuits)

kruidnoten: Dutch Christmas spice cookies
I have never met a spice biscuit that I didn’t like and these little cookies are an absolute treat. While these cookies are popular in the Netherlands at Christmas, they are packed full of all the spices that we like in Britain too.

I suspect though that these kruidnoten are probably strictly for the grownups as despite the sugar and golden syrup they aren’t actually very sweet. They are fragrantly spiced with a distinctly peppery flavour and a hint of bitterness coming from the cocoa powder. Which I imagine, if you have children, means all the more for you!

winter warming pea and parsnip soup with bacon

pea and parsnip soup
I have mentioned before, that while I adore parsnips, I am not always convinced by parsnip soups awash with curry spices, although Nigel Slater's spicy parsnip soup is one of my absolute favourites. I was on a mission to create a parsnip soup recipe that didn't include the usual suspects.

Did you know that peas and parsnips are kissing cousins in the world of flavour compounds? No me neither. But it turns out that they both contain one of those completely unpronounceable compounds, which accounts for their affinity with each other. (OK, its 3-sec-butyl-2-methoxypyrazine - aren't you glad you asked!)

what's in season: december

winter cherry tomatoes!
How did it get so late so soon?
Its night before its afternoon.
December is here before its June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?

Dr Seuss, 1904-1991

You may be wondering why I am illustrating this seasonal December post with a photograph of cherry tomatoes. What have tomatoes got to do with December in England? Nothing usually. However, I found these tiny little tomatoes when I was clearing away some garden debris destined for the compost heap. As I saw the flashes of red through the mound of branches and leaves, I thought they might be some kind of berry and decided to pull them out to feed the birds. Except they turned out to be cherry tomatoes. I didn’t even know I was growing these cherry tomatoes, which I managed to save from the first frosts of winter. I love these kinds of surprises, especially in the dying days of November.

thai-style tuna fishcakes

Thai-style tuna fishcakes
These little fish cakes explode with the flavours of south east Asia – garlic, galangal, chilli, lime and lemongrass. Mine may not be particularly authentic, but they are quick and easy to make and taste delicious with a bowl of ginger-spring onion or chilli noodles, or a spicy noodle soup. They also make a fabulous party nibble with a chilli or soy dipping sauce.

how to fix a baking disaster: bread and butter pudding

bread and butter pudding
In the scheme of things, flooding, war, hurricanes or volcanic eruptions, my baking misfortune is hardly a disaster. But in the sense that things in my kitchen took a decided turn for the worse, it was a definite catastrophe!

I had found a recipe for a yeasted fruit loaf that I thought might be seasonally festive. It was based on a recipe found in an unpublished 18th century manuscript and was crammed full of dried fruit and spices. So far, so good. I did think that it was more a case of a lot of fruit held together by a little sweet dough, but hey ho.

sambal: what is it? (a clue - not a style of music, dance or a football player!)

my sambal condiment
Every so often I take a photograph that I really like. It’s never because of any technical artistry (because I haven’t any), but usually because of the colours. Yesterday’s posting on Hainanese chicken and rice with condiments is the perfect example of something I liked that you didn't get to see. I posted a picture of the whole dish and in the corner you can see a shallow bowl of sambal. The food was photographed outside (largely because I still haven’t got the hang of indoor photography). But it was cold and windy outside, so it was literally a case of point, click and run inside with the tray of food as quickly as possible. Brrrr!

hainanese chicken rice - proud to be a random recipe!

Hainanese chicken rice
I'm feeling a bit lucky right now. One of my favourite lucky numbers has always been 22. l like the symmetry of it but it is also the day of my birth. So when Dominic at Belleau Kitchen announced that this month's Random Recipes was to be based on the day of your birth. It is also the 22nd Random Recipe competition, so since that is my birthday it rather kicked me into action. (I wish I could say I was 22 years old, but that boat has sailed!)

time to make christmas mincemeat (it's almost stir-up sunday)

Christmas mincemeat 2012
Just in case you may have forgotten, this Sunday (25th November) is Stir-Up Sunday, which according to tradition is the last day to make mincemeat and puddings; giving them time to mature and be ready for Christmas. So this is a little reminder to check your cupboards for supplies and make sure you have everything you need. And if you have never made it before, all I can say is, give it a go. It is very, very simple to assemble (no cooking required) and the end results are delicious.

Since in past years, I have been a little lazy about this, both last year and this year I have decided to get my act together and have already made mine. (I'm not being smug, just relieved that I managed to get organised in time!)

what do you get when you cross celeriac rémoulade with coleslaw? a wonderful winter salad

celeriac winter salad
The King of the One-Liner, Henny Youngman's advice "If you're going to do something tonight that you'll be sorry for tomorrow morning, sleep late" has been a personal code of practice of mine for many years, but last Sunday I had absolutely no excuse for oversleeping, sadly, except for sheer laziness.

But when I woke up I had that sinking sense of something important is supposed to be happening and I can’t remember what it is, accompanied by a heart-in-mouth feeling. I looked at my clock, blanched, leapt out of bed and hurtled to the kitchen in my jammies to wrestle a very large bird from fridge to oven, without any of the usual niceties.

seoul food: bulgogi (korean barbecued beef)

bulgogi: Korean barbecued beef
For me, New Malden's greatest contribution to the culture of this nation has been the classic Reginald Iolanthe Perrin's excuse for being late for work, which was "Twenty-two minutes late, badger ate a junction box at New Malden."

But it turns out that New Malden has another claim to fame - it is the centre of the UK's Korean community. It seems a bit odd to me that while there are Koreatowns around the world, from Toronto to Los Angeles, from Sydney to New York, as well as in Brazil and Argentina. Koreans have come to Britain and settled in New Malden, which although it is some ten miles south of London, is hardly a bustling metropolis. New Malden developed with the coming of the railways in the mid 19th century. In fact, New Malden is surrounded by rail and roads (all the easier to leave it) and for people like me, it is just a place that you travel through on the train.

chilli ginger biscuits with extra spice oomph

chilli and ginger biscuits
"One of the minor pleasures in life is to be slightly ill,” said Harold Nicolson, diplomat, politician, writer and husband of Vita Sackville-West. I can only agree. When I have been feeling slightly under the weather, there is nothing I like so much as retreating to my cave (or under the duvet), much like a hibernating bear. Of course, unlike the bear, I still feel a need to eat, even if I cannot taste too much.

for foolish fribbles and other cheese eaters: macaroni cheese with slow-roasted tomatoes

macaroni cheese
Macaroni cheese is the ultimate in comfort food; I have yet to find anyone in the UK who doesn't have happy childhood memories of bubbling macaroni cheese.

Macaroni cheese has been popular in the UK since 17th century; it was clearly an English attempt to recreate an Italian pasta dish. In fact, macaroni became so fashionable that by the 18th century the word "macaroni" was used as a slang term to describe the aristocratic fops and fribbles in their preposterous pasta shaped wigs. (This may have derived from the fact that the word "maccherone" is Italian for "buffoon").

scandinavian sweet buns

Scandinavian sweet bun
When I tried to analyse why I love crime fiction so much, I knew that it wasn't because I am particularly blood-thirsty or just that I like a good mystery. What I like about a well-written novel or character is the way that they can bring a city or society to life and what lies beneath the surface. 

One of the reasons why I have fallen for the whole Nordic Noir thing is that this is a region that I know little about and a good Scandinavian thriller gives a real insight into these countries and the people.

asian-inspired flavours: spicy marinated chicken in a parcel with chorizo and mushrooms

chicken and chorizo
with asian flavours
When I was a kid I loved food that broke the rules; from Vichyssoise soup (because it was cold), to Spaghetti Bolognese (because I got to swap my cutlery around - holding a fork in my right hand). When we moved to Malaysia when I was seven years old, I was able to add another dish to my growing love of rule breaking meals. To my ordered little mind, cooking chicken in a parcel with sausage seemed beautifully rebellious.What? Chicken and pig together; is it allowed?

I would like to think that my fascination was also a nascent delight in intensely flavoured food, but since I had also enjoyed the pleasures of the A+W, an American drive-in that served fried chicken-in-a-basket with curly fries, I suspect it was purely the novelty. A few years later, when I was introduced to the concept of"surf 'n turf my little mind was well and truly blown!

a classic cauliflower cheese (and a plea for tolerance!)

traditional cauliflower cheese
This is a post about a classic British recipe but it is also a rather clunky plea for tolerance. When politicians and commentators are banging on about the evils of immigration, there are several reasons why I think they are wrong. And one of my favourite reasons is (probably a little selfishly knowing my tastes) what immigration has done for British food. It has only improved it. Go back 100 years and you will find that there were Jewish bakeries and delis, curry houses and Chinese restaurants. What I bet you didn't know is that immigration's effect on British food and agriculture goes back much, much further.

Dorothy Hartley's Food in England and a fabulous documentary

Dorothy Hartley's
Food in England
It goes without saying that I have loved food all my life. I have loved history for nearly as long. I still remember my light bulb moment when at the age of four, I was plonked down in front of an afternoon television programme, which in the old days was all Open University educational programming. I sat completely mesmerised in front of a documentary about underwater archaeology and have been hooked on history ever since. It took me much longer to put the two passions of food and history together, but since my late 20s I have been following the trail of what we eat, how and why and have savoured every minute of it.

granola, hazelnut and dark chocolate cookies

granola, hazelnut and dark chocolate cookies
I am not much of a granola for breakfast type of gal, perhaps I should be. Mornflake's pouch of oatbran granola is full of good things - as well as the oatflakes and toasted oatbran, it contains a mix of nuts and seeds, including almonds, pecan nuts and sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Since I don't much fancy nuts and seeds for breakfast, I thought the granola might make a rather good biscuit, and if I say so myself, I wasn't wrong. Big buttery crisp cookies full of crushed nuts, seeds and chocolate. Almost enough to make me feel healthy . . .

tips: parmesan or pecorino rinds

slow-cooked Parmesan rind
for added flavour
Continuing with top tips and fabulous facts blog posts, here's a tip and quite a good one at that and it involves old cheese. Not any old cheese and certainly not beautifully aged cheese. No, what you are looking for is that dog end of Parmesan or my favourite Pecorino rind, (or perhaps Manchego or other very hard cheese). I am talking about the last bit of rind, where the cheese has been so far grated that to grate any more would lose the skin on your knuckles.

the easiest loaf of bread ever

a simple white loaf
Since I have been writing this blog, I have sat down several times and started to write about my love of baking bread and why I think everyone should at least give it a go once in their lives. The problem is that every time I do this, I get completely bogged down with different types of bread, kneading techniques, proofing, the history, types of yeast, flour and the science. It's the bread baking equivalent of not being able to see the wood for the trees. (Insert own grain-related analogy here.)

traditional yorkshire parkin

The Victorians, great mythologisers of British history and traditions, made parkin on Guy Fawkes Night - a fiery treat to eat around the bonfire. Traditional parkin is an unusual cake in that it benefits from ageing. It is considered sacrilege to eat it fresh, unless hot from the oven with lashings of custard! The flavours marry well together and the ageing helps the cake to become moist and sticky as well as softening the harsh liquorice flavour of dark treacle.

So an apology, if you were planning on eating parkin today (Bonfire Night), you've left it too late. Ooops. However, if you make the cake today, it will be ready in a week and it is worth the wait.

what's in season: november

The Elf and the Dormouse
Ink Cap toadstools - possibly!
Not sure but I definitely won't be eating them!
Under a toadstool crept a wee Elf,
Out of the rain to shelter himself.
Under the toadstool, sound asleep,
Sat a big Dormouse all in a heap.

Trembled the wee Elf, frightened and yet
Fearing to fly away lest he get wet.
To the next shelter—maybe a mile!
Sudden the wee Elf smiled a wee smile.

Tugged till the toadstool toppled in two.
Holding it over him, gaily he flew.

Soon he was safe home, dry as could be.
Soon woke the Dormouse —"Good gracious me!
"Where is my toadstool?" loud he lamented.

— And that's how umbrellas first were invented.
 Oliver Herford, 1863–1935

dry bones: roasted parsnips are perfect for halloween!

parsnip bones!
Toe bone connected to the foot bone
Foot bone connected to the leg bone
Leg bone connected to the knee bone
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Now hear the word of the Lord.

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)

When I reviewed the photos of these roasted parsnips, I began to laugh because the roasting tin of vegetables looked more like archaeological finds try of old bones rather than anything edible. But I promise you, they are soft and sweet and are the perfect cold weather food and not just good for Halloween!

monster mash: swede with carrots

monster mash!
(swede and carrots)
It was a smash; not exactly a graveyard smash but the living were definitely in a state of high old excitement with my monster mash of swede and carrots. I do like a nice bit of swede, preferably with a load of black pepper and lashings of melting butter. It's probably something to do with my Scottish roots (pun absolutely intended!)

The rules of béchamel - good advice for a perfect sauce every time!

a good cheese sauce
If the wisest film advice on classic blunders came from The Princess Bride, "Never get involved in a land war in Asia and never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line . . . ha, ha, ha, haaaaaaaa (thud)," then the best food advice was from my friend Katy, who 20 odd years ago when we were impoverished students in Yorkshire cooking over an ancient Baby Belling, taught me how to make a white sauce with the words "and when it starts to look like honeycomb then you're ready to add the milk . . . " The best advice I have ever had in making a perfect white sauce, advice that has never failed me!

a tale in which i face my fears: beef and beetroot patties

beef and beetroot patties
It was cold and dark and we were standing in the pitch black of a field in the middle of the countryside. No ambient light, just a massive bonfire (for it was Bonfire Night), a few torches and the headlights of a Landrover. I welcomed the mug of soup handed to me through the dank November darkness and thanked the farmer's wife for the kind thought and the hot homemade soup. 

perfect autumn fodder: pear and blackberry crumble

pear and blackberry crumble
C.S. Lewis said that "When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up", which rather sums up my view of the classic crumble. Yes, I know it lacks sophistication, but like many Brits it is still one of my favourite puddings, a love of which began at a very early age and has shown no signs of waning.

sunday lunch: traditional tarragon roast chicken

tarragon roast chicken
"Dragon's teeth" sounds like some kind of medieval expletive, but in fact it is a country name for the herb tarragon, artemesia dracunculus, so named because its spikey leaves were supposed to resemble the teeth of a dragon. 

Now I have always had a bit of a soft spot for dragons; something to do with being told by Chinese friends in Malaysia that my birth during the Year of the Dragon was auspicious. Personally I think it gave me delusions of grandeur at far too young an age, but I have always felt a bit of affinity with dragons ever since.

posh cheese on toast: bacon, cheese and plum jam

bacon, toasted cheese and plum jam sandwich
There is a story about two psychologists who set up cameras around their house in order to film what their pets were doing when the owners weren't around.

The cat just ate and slept with an occasional mad half hour racing up and down the staircase. But mainly the cat just ate little and often, then curled up somewhere warm and went to sleep. The dog, however, was a different story.

clove-scented windfall pear and blackberry compote

pear and blackberry compote
I like to plan in the kitchen and prepare some things in advance - say cooking up batches of sauces to freeze or buying a bigger chicken for Sunday roast, so that I can get several meals out of one dish. I am currently working my way through a small mountain of pear windfalls and decided to make this simple compote with blackberries. This is one for the freezer and I have plans for it - it will probably get puréed up to accompany some roast pork, it may well go into a cake or accompany some vanilla ice cream and it will definitely be crumble material! 

hodge podge pork and beans with porcini sauce

hodge podge pork and beans with
Sainsbury's porcini sauce
"But since he stood for England
And knew what England means,
Unless you give him bacon
You must not give him beans."

G.K. Chesterton - The Englishman (1914) 

The time had come to rid the fridge of a few odds and ends before they re-enacted The Great Escape and dug their way out . . . What I had was a bit of a pork festival; a few herby sausages, a finger length of chorizo, a couple of slices of smoked bacon, a handful of mushrooms and some chicken stock. A complete hodge podge of ingredients.

perfect fluffy mashed potato

perfect mash
(Sainsbury's Heritage potatoes)
Do you really need me to give you a recipe for perfect mashed potato? Perhaps not, but since I have the photo, I thought I would lay out to you the key to a gloriously fluffy, buttery mash.

Many of us are scarred by the horror of school dinner mash - watery, lumpy and a peculiar grey colour, slopped on the plate using an ice-cream scoop. For years I thought I didn't much like mashed potato, until I had the real thing and realised that something so simple can be most sublime.

a simple midweek supper: toad-in-the-hole

toad-in-the-hole with rich onion and mushroom gravy
Traditional English cooking is full of thrifty dishes with ridiculous nonsense names, enough to make any self-respecting schoolboy guffaw, from Boiled Baby to Lobscouse, Froise to Bumper, Cock-a-leekie to Bedfordshire Clanger, and Nickie and Roly-Poly to Spotted Dick. But the pinnacle of these ridiculous sounding thrifty dishes is the classic Toad-in-the-hole, a combination of Yorkshire Pudding batter and sausages. 

It is probably best not to think about how the Toad got its name. I think it is most likely that someone looked at the smooth shiny sausages nestling in crisp but pillowy batter and thought it reminded them of something . . . it doesn't really bear considering that a few bucolic peasants might have skipped around the English countryside espying a few warty amphibians squatting in their hidey-holes and thinking to themselves "now I know what to call today's supper" . . . 

nigel slater's mustardy baked onions

Nigel Slater's mustardy baked onions
If in doubt as to what to cook or in need of inspiration, it is always worth turning to Nigel Slater. I had planned to bake some stuffed onions as an accompaniment to Sunday lunch but then half way through the morning decided that my Sunday was just too short to spend stuffing vegetables. Nigel's mustardy baked onions from Tender I were a good old-fashioned side dish to go with my tarragon roast chicken, although it would be perfect with roast pork or gammon too.

it's the cat's whiskers! smoked mackerel pâté

smoked mackerel pâté with
Peters Yard crisp breads
When Papa, Mama and Baby Bear returned home, they sensed immediately that something or someone had been eating their porridge and sleeping in their beds. When I walked into my parent's dining room to make some last minute checks before the party started, I immediately knew that something was wrong. It wasn't some kind of sixth sense or hairs rising on the back of my neck or even the pricking of my thumbs. My Goldilocks was right there, caught in the act.