A shocking baking tragedy at Kentish Town! OH VILLAINY!

when icing goes wrong!
A fearful crime was committed at The Cottages in London's Kentish Town by a cook and housekeeper, Rachel Kelly. This is the particular account of the desecration, a murder most cruel, of a completely blameless cupcake.

OH BARBAROUS CRUELTY!

jubilee celebration cupcakes: a taste of summer with strawberries and cream

strawberries and cream
cupcakes
 I have been dragged, kicking and screaming, to come up with an idea for a cupcake to celebrate our dear old maj's Diamond Jubilee. I can't say that I am a fan of the Royals as such, although the Queen herself doesn't seem to be a bad old bird. However, in a recent argument about whether we should have an elected figurehead rather than a heredity one, a friend clinched it for me by not only suggesting that there was a whole load of talentless z-list celebrities who would just love to wear the crown, but had two words for me . . . Margaret Thatcher (shudder).

So in grateful thanks that at least the Queen's 60 years have spared us that indignity, I decided I would make a cupcake that was suitably British and full of the joy of summer flavours.

lamb and feta morsels - let the party begin!

lamb and feta morsels
What is it about party food on a stick that we like so much? I suspect that like me, there are many British people of a certain age (cough, cough) who remember the joys of cheese and pineapple hedgehogs, along with cheese footballs and Twiglets . . . we see a cocktail stick and it speaks to us. "Eat me" it says, not in a trippy Alice in Wonderland kind of a way, but in the way that entices; "this will be fun. It will make you happy. Let's party!

I can remember the very first time I ate satay in Malaysia - chicken on a stick served with a sticky peanut sauce. I was seven years old and this food delighted me. It was fun, novel to my English eyes and tasted so very good too.

Celebrating the sunshine with roasted salmon and a warm fat couscous salad

salmon with fat couscous salad
A quick weekday supper eaten in the garden in late spring sunshine. The garden looks lush and green and the air is filled with the sounds of birds singing - blackbirds are calling to one another across the trees. One sounds like a mobile phone ringing, another like a car alarm. A typical London evening, but at least the sun is shining at last.

Salmon always seem to be a celebratory sort of fish and so I picked up some fillets on the way home. But I also wanted to spend as much time in the garden as I could and didn't want to faff around with too much preparation. The fat couscous salad was already prepared from the night before, so it was just a case of cooking up the salmon and assembling the yoghurt sauce. Weekday suppers don't get much easier than this!

Observer Food Monthly Awards 2012: vote early and vote often (just kidding!)

Observer Food Monthly
Awards 2012
But seriously, it's that time of the year again; the voting for Observer Food Monthly Awards 2012 is now open and if you vote, you could win a Caribbean holiday!

For those of you who don't know, The Observer (and its sister paper, The Guardian) host both the exemplary Word of Mouth food blog as well as the Food Monthly magazine, which celebrates what is great about British produce, food and the food scene; both genuinely innovative and interesting contributors to the British food scene. Of course my absolute favourite food writer in the whole world also writes for them (if you couldn't tell who it is . . . it is of course, the divine Nigel Slater).

my favourite bacon sarnie - another guilty weekend pleasure!

bacon breakfast sandwich
It is British Sandwich Week and I couldn’t resist another bout of soul bearing - admitting to yet another of my guilty pleasures.

An English Breakfast in a sandwich is ridiculously indulgent, but one that graces my kitchen very occasionally . . . OK, I confess, it is more like once a month, usually on a Saturday or Sunday morning. But it really is a rare treat and it's perfect when I have a house full of people to feed. Everyone loves a good bacon sarnie, and even more so if it has a few added extras!

brined roast chicken

alien life forms! (Ok, Yorkshire puds!)
Have you ever walked into your kitchen and felt a slight Twilight Zone moment? (And cue the music . . . ) Da na, na na. Na na, na na . . . I was cooking Sunday lunch and returned to the kitchen with a distinct sense of unease. Something wasn't quite right but I wasn't sure what it was. Nothing was on fire. There was no smell of burning. But I just had a sense that something was up, a prickling sense of unease . . . 

I opened the oven door and was confronted with something out of a 1950s sci fi movie . . . my Yorkshire puddings had evolved into some kind of alien life form and were bidding to escape in a determined attempt at world domination! Hey ho, that's the price you pay for using strong bread flour; they were not the perfection of flying saucers but they were rather splendid nonetheless, if a little misshapen!

a splendid fish supper: grilled salmon with a warm salad of spring vegetables

grilled salmon with spring vegetables
Despite the delay in this year's asparagus season because of the sodden weather, I managed to get my delighted paws on some English asparagus. While one of my favourite ways of eating asparagus is one of the simplest, just steamed with a little butter, I adore asparagus in a mess of spring vegetables with my favourite peas and broad beans.

As a child I was revolted and fascinated by broad beans as there was something rather repellent about the dead man's fingers texture of the skins. Eating them without the skins was something of a revelation - you can really taste their nutty sweetness. Since then I have never looked back, despite the faff of having to fiddle around with them!

lemon and lime curd

lemon and lime curd
There was a break in the rain, the gunmetal hue of the sky was replaced with a hint of blue and the sun seemed to sparkle. I could almost convince myself that it was late spring. Ever the optimist, I wanted to celebrate with cupcakes, packed with almonds and citrus, as perhaps a portent of things to come. But first I needed to make some lemon curd. I wanted a curd that was sweet and zesty and explodes on your tongue like sherbet lemons!

still raining, but there are meatballs on the horizon!

Italian-style meatballs
Comfort food at its very best, these meatballs are loved by both adults and children. Fun to make too (and I find kids do like to get their little paws mucky helping to roll them). Yes, meatballs can take a little time to make and yes, a bit messy too. But they are well worth the time taken and besides, as well as making a little meat go a long way, make up enough of them and they freeze well too.

it's easy being green: a simple watercress soup

watercress soup
The wonderful peppery, almost metallic flavours of watercress combine beautifully with a whole myriad of foods, from bacon to blue cheese with grapefruit and from walnuts and beetroot to goat’s cheese. Nikl Segnit says in The Flavour Thesaurus that watercress "makes a sauce which is as refreshing as dangling your feet in the river on a hot afternoon," which is probably why it is just so good with fish, from oily fish to smoked fish and shellfish.

what's in season: may

a tiptoe through my bluebells
When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

William Shakespeare - Twelfth Night

April definitely lived up to its reputation as a cruel month! After an unseasonably warm March and an announcement of drought conditions in southern England, it proceeded to rain just about every single day. An irony I found was that in the medieval church calendar, 29th April celebrated Noah left the Ark (Egressus Noae de arca). Well if Noah had just waited one day he would have had hot beating sun in London on 30th April. Londoners smiled as the rain finally dripped to a halt and the sun came out. We welcomed May with open arms.