greek easter bread: tsoureki

Greek Easter Bread - Tsoureki
I find it hard to window shop or merely browse at Phoenicia, my local Turkish and middle eastern grocery in Kentish Town, north London. Inevitably I return home clutching a bag of interesting spices or a jar of preserved vegetables although without any clear idea of what I am going to do with it. The lime powder sat in my larder for over six months before it emerged dustily blinking into the light only to be lobbed into a cold drink for summer and my posh popcorn recipe (more of these another time).

another bit on the side: fennel and tomato stew with aleppo pepper

fennel and tomato stew
Sometimes it is nice to be ahead of the game even if you are completely oblivious to itReading a recent article in Observer Food Monthly on some of their favourite things - 50 Best Foodie Picks - at number 31 was Turkish Chilli Pepper (aka Aleppo Pepper or pul biber in Turkish). Turns out I've been fashionable for years without realising my foodie street cred.

a lazy girl's brunch: smoked salmon and poached egg open face sandwich

smoked salmon and poached egg with
beyaz peynir and asian pickle open face sandwich
At some point of an evening out with friends the conversation will inevitably turn to food. It probably always has done, but since I have started blogging about food it has got much worse and I do try to rein it in, but sometimes I just can't help myself. I don't mean "worse" as in "bad", I just mean that given my inclinations I could probably monopolise any and every conversation and turn it around to food. And it's not because I want to talk about what I've cooked, I love hearing what other people are eating and why. Besides talking about food is definitely far more interesting than any discussion of reality TV or the latest budget crisis. But on this particular night I was in for a bit of an unpleasant surprise.

a quick asian-style pickle: cucumber, tomatoes and red onion

a quick asian-style vegetable pickle
While my father's favourite sandwich of pickled beetroot and piccalilli is not for the faint-hearted, it was not enough to put me off pickles or chutneys; I grew up eating them with just about everything.

But one of my favourite accompaniments to a Malay curry was the small bowls of finely chopped cooling vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumber that were simply dressed with a little vinegar, sugar and perhaps soy or fish sauce. Although I have to confess it was as much for the prettiness of little bowls of brightly coloured vegetables as it was for the flavour.

a little bit of food philosophy and Indian potato kofta stuffed with dried fruit and nuts in a light curry sauce

ndian potato kofta stuffed with nuts and dried fruit i
n a light creamy curry sauce
I take my cues on food philosophy from one of the greatest of all food philosophers, Garfield, the cartoon cat, who with jazz hands held aloft, looks as if he is about to dive into a large dish of leftover lasagna and thinks "I eat, therefore I am." He is asked by his owner, Jim, whether he is rationalising another bout of gluttony. Garfield barely turns his head and thinks disdainfully "I don't discuss philosophy with pea brains"!

a bit like marmite: you will either love or hate my singing!

Marmite and music
An open letter to my childhood music teacher (but it comes with a happy ending!):I thought at the time it was quite unkind of you to publicly boot me off the choir in front of so many of my peers. I could have done without the parade. Really, it was a bit mean.

You told the choir that I was incorrigible. I regard this now as a badge of honour but as a 12 year old who was new to the school and new to England, I suspected that you were yet again being rude. You told the choir that my inability to learn a musical instrument was an example of how unmusical I was and that you only wanted musical girls in your choir. I could point out that it is quite hard to learn a musical instrument if you have never had a lesson on any kind of musical instrument at all.

This also applies to learning to read music, another one of my apparent failings that so appalled you. I have never really understood why you seemed to take it so personally when you had done so little to help.

jerusalem artichoke soup with hazelnut pesto and serrano ham and blue cheese toasts

jerusalem artichoke soup with hazelnut pesto
and serrano ham and blue cheese toasts
If you have only ever topped your soup with a just few croutons, a swirl of cream and a dusting of herbs, then perhaps you might consider a nut topping. If you have only used a nut pesto with pasta or on crostini or bruschetta, again I would suggest you might like to think again, because I think I have just the soup for you and just the nut topping!

braised brisket in guinness with loads of mushrooms

Braised brisket in Guinness with loads of
mushrooms served with champ
Did you know that the famous Irish stout, Guinness, is actually a deep burgundy red colour and not black at all? Officially it is ruby red, one of my favourite colours, whether it is what I wear, the colour of my hair, the flowers in the garden, or just a pint!

I have never really understood why or when celebrating Saint Patrick's Day became more about food than drink, but in the spirit of exalting my Irish ancestry, I am cooking one of my favourite cheap cuts of meat, brisket, in a bit of the ruby stuff and lobbing on a little parsley, as a nod to the insane greenness of St Paddy's Day.

a seductive blood orange curd

blood orange curd
I woke up blearily, befuddled with sleep, and looked out my bedroom windows to see what the day was bringing. Oh dear god, I thought. Those windows are in need of a serious spring clean. It turned out it wasn't my windows that were grubby; it was the filthy grey sky that was in definite need of a clean, having lost its spring sparkle.

hamilton's fragrant thai prawn curry

hamilton's fragrant Thai prawn curry
One of the absolute pleasures of the internet is being able to read other people's adventures, whether it is a passion for history, a love of literature or, like mine, an obsession with food. Having your own blog brings additional happiness because other bloggers come and introduce themselves.

This is what happened when Hamilton Courtney from Home + Food came to say hello. I just had a look at his beautiful blog and was intrigued by his combination of both British and Thai home cooking, a result of his mixed family heritage. It definitely resonated with me and I would urge you to check him out. 

another perfect sauce: hazelnut and sundried tomato pesto

hazelnut and sundried tomato pesto
A hazelnut and sundried tomato pesto will probably have Italian grandmothers from Calabria to Sicily gesticulating violently at this bastardisation of Italian cooking. But if a good idea works, what is the problem?
erhaps the old ladies will calm down once they have tasted this pesto as the intense nutty flavour of toasted hazelnuts with sweet dried tomatoes really is delicious.

fancy a weekend food project? dosas with a pea and potato curry and paneer

dosa pancakes with peas, potato
and paneer curry
Do you fancy trying a weekend food project? Dosas, lacy savoury southern Indian pancakes made from a fermented mixture of soaked rice and urad dal lentils are not difficult, just a little time consuming. It may takes about two days, but the results are well worth the effort. If you follow the recipe for dosas by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall here, you should have no trouble at all! 

This curry is one of the simplest - it is a useful curry to have in your back pocket, particularly if you need a vegetarian one in a hurry! 

thai beef chilli noodles (neua pad prik)

thai beef chilli noodles (neua pad prik)
Following on from my post on a roast beef sandwich using up leftover Sunday roast brisket, I've got another recipe for you. This time it is a quick lunch using the cooked beef and my favourite chilli noodles. Of course, you don't have to use leftovers - in this case you could use uncooked steak, marinating it for an hour or so in the soy and fish sauce before stir frying.

sticky demerara orange and almond loaf cake

sticky demerera orange
and almond ca
I seem to be obsessed with citrus fruit at the moment. It probably isn't that surprising since apart from stores of apples and pears, British fruit isn't in season. But I am more than happy to satisfy my need for fruit by eating some that is in season somewhere else. Which doesn't strictly adhere to my intention to only cook seasonally and locally. But I've always liked bending the rules, particularly when they are my own.

So in the past few weeks, apart from gloating over my haul of citron beldi (like a fat, scaly dragon covetously protecting her precious hoard), I seem to return home every day with yet more citrus fruit, from blood oranges to minneolas. The blood oranges have to be a given really because their magic is in the secret lurking under their skin - a beautiful deep pink flesh and juice. Truly glorious stuff.

what's in season: march

a few crocuses in my back garden!
The north-cast wind has come from Norroway,
Roaring he came above the white waves' tips!
The foam of the loud sea was on his lips,
And all his hair was salt with falling spray.
Over the keen light of northern day
He cast his snow cloud's terrible eclipse;
Beyond our banks he suddenly struck the ships,
And left them labouring on his landward way.

The certain course that to my strength belongs
Drives him with gathering purpose and control
Until across Vendean flats he sees
Ocean, the eldest of his enemies.
Then wheels he for him, glorying in goal
And gives him challenge, bellowing battle songs.

March - Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)