a little bit on the side: puréed carrots

a mush of puréed carrots
A few weeks ago I posted a roast chicken recipe as a suggestion for Sunday lunch. Can I now put in a plea for the side servings, often forgotten in the rush to get to the main event?

It was years before I realised I liked carrots. I quite liked them as a small child as I enjoyed their sweet crunch. As a teenager I was bored with them - often the only edible ingredient in a school meal. Mmmn, carrots again today. But by the time I was in my 20's I had begun to feel a distinct antagonism. What you may wonder had the poor carrot done to feel my disdain?

a case of culinary serendipity: jerusalem artichoke and creamed spinach soup

jerusalem artichoke soup with
creamed spinach
The English language is a treasure chest of beautiful words and not just because our ancestors pillaged the globe absconding with words from other languages that suited their purposes. English is a glorious hodgepodge of Germanic roots and a liberal sprinkling of Latin, Ancient Greek, Norman French as well as bits of Old Norse, Dutch, Hindi and Urdu. Such is the flexibility of English, it is able to assimilate all sorts of foreign words as well as nonsense words. One of my favourite words is a made-up one: Serendipity - the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. Not only does it have such a lovely meaning, but like a small child happily babbling nonsense, it seems to bubble with happiness . . . which brings me on to my soup.

simply hot cross buns

buttered hot cross buns
I have not always had much success with hot cross buns. I've made excuses that it's the recipe or the writer, but the truth is that it's just me. I need more practice of baking with enriched yeast. I have complete confidence in my ability to produce a good plain loaf. But add eggs and butter and I have an unerring ability to bake something that could replace military hardware (and probably save the Ministry of Defence billions . . . well they know where I am!

tip: tinned tomatoes

tinned tomatoes
Continuing with top tips and fabulous facts blog posts, I have discovered a new tip, which I have only ever seen in one cookbook. This is the sort of tip that a friend might mention to you in passing, to which you guffaw, a little unbelieving.

Where did I see it? Jocasta Innes' The Pauper's Cookbook, actually my mother's copy from about 1976. Does it work? Yes it does. Get to the point, Kelly. What is the wretched tip? (I suspect the clue is in the picture).

sunday lunch: a really good roast chicken

medieval stylee
Have you decided what you're having for Sunday lunch? Are you having a roast? Can I make a suggestion? Many people complain that chicken has no flavouror that it is too dry. But it really doesn't have to be. Admittedly not of all of us can afford one of those organically reared birds that promise so much flavour and a gaping hole in your finances. But a supermarket bird, treated properly, will be beautifully aromatic with and intense savoury flavour.

my considerably bigger buns!

my considerably bigger buns!
Considerably bigger buns*? Hot cross buns of course! What do you think I meant?

There are people who despair of the fact that no sooner are the shops denuded of Christmas foodstuffs, then the Easter parade of edible goodies begins. They will opine that we are losing the celebratory aspect of food if it's available all year around. Well, yes. Ok. But . . . well if I can eat hot cross buns all year around, then I will and it is never too early to start.

the magic of mushrooms: mushroom and sherry sauce

mushroom and sherry sauce
As every woman should have a little black dress, then every cook should have one good sauce in their repertoire. So here is mine.

This sauce is the foundation or building block of a good meal. You can dress it up with extra mushrooms and you can accessorise it with a good steak or vegetables; Blend it up with a handful of walnuts and fresh herbs and it is perfect with pasta; Add the juices from a roast chicken and it becomes a rather good gravy.

There is nothing like having a malleable sauce in your stockpile of recipes, and like a little black dress, it will never go out of fashion!

a simply splendid sausage sandwich

a splendid sausage sandwich
Every family seems to have some kind of food tradition. I am not just talking about the food of festivals and saints' days, or the kind eaten huddled around the hearth (in the days before television). It could be a favourite birthday celebration meal, your mother's Sunday roast or the food you're fed to comfort you when you are feeling a little under the weather. Sometimes there is one that is more of a little quirk; specific to you and your family.

a deceptively gentle soup: leek and cannellini bean soup with chilli oil

leek and cannellini bean soup
with chilli oil
It was one of those deceptive spring days; sparkling with sunshine but with an icy coolness. I had baked a loaf of sourdough bread and as the kitchen was filled with enticing toasty yeast aromas, I was wondering what to make for lunch.

Last year I posted a recipe for a leek and butter bean soup. It is one of my favourites; a beautiful yellow-green colour and full of bright, zingy flavours. But to suit this day, I wanted a guileful, creamy soup packed with spring vegetables and a chilli bite.

the magic is as wide as a smile . . . thank you!

Creating this blog is something that has brought me immense amounts of pleasure. I love to write and to try to express myself. Cooking and developing recipes seems to be a simple, solitary activity that I would quite happily take to my Desert Island, so long as there were things to cook. I have really enjoyed this year learning to take photographs. I may very well be a slow learner, but I think I am making progress, even if it is at a snail's pace.

I never expected that I would have so many readers and I have to say that is an unexpected delight. I hope you won't mind me saying this . . . I did this for me not for you. But the fact that you seem to enjoy what I do is really quite exhilarating.

seville orange cake: to celebrate the spring sunshine

seville orange cake
Like many people in this country, I am somewhat obsessed with the weather. Let's face it, it is perfectly possible to have three or four types of weather or even seasons in just one day. I find it affects my mood. The skies over north London have been somewhat fat and grey for the past few days, despite the premature promise of warmer weather last week. I find the whole seasonal will it?-won't it? two-step to spring quite frustrating and it rather subdues my mood.

Even more so when Rupert at o cozinheiro este algarve tells a charming story of just rustling up a lemon cake from the lemons in his garden. A few days later he writes of making marmalade from a glut of home-grown lemons, Which frankly I think is just boasting! Pah!

what's in season: march

spring snowdrops
Cold is the ogre that drives all beautiful things into hiding. Below the surface of a frost-bound garden there lurk hidden bulbs which are only biding their time to burst forth in a riot of laughing colour (unless the gardener has buried them upside down) but shivering Nature dare not put forth till the ogre has gone. Not otherwise does cold supress love. A man in an open cart in an English Spring night may continue to be in love, but love is not the emotion uppermost in his bosom. It shrinks within him and waits for better times.
P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975), Something Fresh