Re-charging… please wait

The Larder is eating some pecorino and drinking various wines and doing a little rest in Sardinia. We will be back in a couple of weeks, full of new ideas borrowed from this wonderful island, still filled with sunshine so late in the year.
I hope to see you at the Green Door’s next supper club on the 23rd November.
For now, I’m off to try some of the little beauties from the local fish market.


Mini Green Door supper club with sort of porchetta: St Swithun’s Harvest Market

It’s all kicking off at Larder Towers. Work is insanely busy, and there hasn’t been a lot of time to blog lately, so please accept my apologies for the temporary disappearance. I could tell you I’m halfway through baking a tray of award-winning featherlight macaroons – but in reality I am watching the England qualifier match and waiting for the pizza delivery. Yes, it’s refined dining and rock’n roll all the way!

I do have a backlog of recipes, photos and restaurants to share with you as soon as I have a little break. For now, I may as well get out of the way that the Peckham Bazaar has been the most exciting place I’ve eaten at in ages. Amazing. Bear with me and I’ll soon go through photos, their succulent-delicious barbecued lamb neck, and the resident cat I so wish I could take home with me.

What else has been going on? A few recent highlights:

  • The Green Door Supper Club joined forces with the Hither Green wine club again last Saturday, and we rocked a fundraiser for the Jimmy Mizen Foundation at the Café’ of Good Hope. And I still have no photos to show for it! It’s all a bit of a shambles with the blog lately, I know. But I’m happy to report that the Italian menu I had inside my head worked just as I imagined. It wasn’t all my doing, though. The lovely and patient Iris from the beautiful Whatever Gets Your Through The Day blog (her photos make me so hungry!) provided valuable advice using her Friuli credentials to tweak some of the dishes and come up with great ideas.  Thank you, Iris! As per usual, I went a bit off-piste and didn’t strictly stick to the brief of a Piedmontese 3 course meal. There were mushrooms (tick), osso buco (tick), but I also sneaked in a classic Milanese risotto, which in my book is close enough to Piedmont. This was my personal favourite supper club menu so far, which I may repeat soon, as I don’t believe you can have too much osso buco.
  • St-Swithuns-Harvest-Market-768x1024If you’re somewhere around Southeast London tomorrow, the Green Door supper club will venture into StreetFoodLand and serve a variation of porchetta sandwiches at the Harvest Farmers’ market at St Swithun’s church in Hither Green. Since I am not planning to roast a whole suckling pig, this is not strictly porchetta as the Romans know it. But turn up and you’ll be rewarded with a pretty close approximation of it, in the form of very slowly roasted pork cuts in a herby sauce served with crusty bread. It’s how I’ve decided to welcome autumn into our hearts. The market will run from 12:00 to 18:00 and I am delighted to report they are licensed – which can only mean a reliable Hither Green Wine Club presence! Alex from GG Sparkes butchers – incidentally, the source of that scrumptious pork belly I will be roasting tomorrow – is bringing some pulled pork pies that can’t really be missed.
  • There’s some exciting news I am hoping to announce soon too, but for now I’ll just keep the aura of mystery and dreamy possibilities.
  • And above all, I am one week away of ridiculously much anticipated holidays! My first ever visit to Sardinia is planned to start with a pecorinocouple of very long sleeps, followed by a fortnight of exploring what should be a very empty and quiet island in autumn. Pecorino tasting, litres of cannonau wine and some adventurous Tyrrhenian swims – I am told its waters are at their warmest at this time of the year (no, I don’t know either) – are all in the list. First in the suitcase are the names of special food places recommended by Luigi from the Capocaccia stall of Sardinian delights at Catford Broadway Market. If the cheese I had from him last week is anything to go by, this is going to be a superb holiday!

Last bits of summer with pie, secret drinks, markets, and cake revelations. I heart London

After a pretty busy week at work and not much cooking, Friday evening was one of those moments that make me fall in love with London all over again. I’ve no idea how it passed me by in all these years living here, but here are a few gems I only discovered last week, all in Vauxhall, Southwest London:

–          Bonnington Square Garden: at the end of a very green, hidden side street and built on a WW2 bombed out site, the square has a great history of local community action making their neighbourhood a great place to live. The initiative to transform it, as well as current maintenance of the garden is all down to local residents. Their self-managed garden association then went on to plant trees and gardens in the surrounding streets, making the area feel a whole universe away from the nearby Vauxhall station.

–          Italo Deli: trays of just-made ravioli, fresh burrata, ham perfumed air, all to the soundtrack of a metal whisk preparing aioli. Like Italy, but quieter.

–          Brunswick House: why can’t I live there? This place is incredible! Set in a Georgian Mansion selling architecture salvage, right opposite the ugly chaos that is Vauxhall roundabout, Brusnwick House manages to be really laid back and very, very grand at the same time. The shop was already closed when I visited, but they kindly let me in anyway, and I got lost in the 3 floors and beautiful rooms filled with antiques, some of them available to hire for weddings and parties. The bar served great cocktails, and I hope I can go back and try their restaurant soon.  One of the coolest places I can think of in London. Definitely one to either impress on a first date, or show out of town visitors how in the know you are. Just be careful when you’re visiting the mansion, as the specter of a lion headed lady is said to haunt the place:


The Brunswick Lion Head Ghost is harmless as long as you give her cake

– Bonnington Café’: a former squat opposite the square, it’s now a very lively vegetarian café’, and clearly a secret only to me, given how absolutely packed it was. They’re not licensed, but also don’t charge corkage, so remember to take a bottle or two. Their gazpacho and the peanut tart dessert won the Resident Vegetarian’s seal of approval.

As for the week, it was full of early starts and long commutes, so only a couple of dishes worth the mention:

As the squashes and courgettes pile up this time of the year, I continued my love affair with smoked paprika and made this 5 minute wonder: thinly sliced courgettes marinated in olive oil and smoked paprika, then grilled over foil to avoid the mess. I mixed that into salads all week long.

I also decided to finally act on the common feedback I receive from people: why 2 martini glasses on the cover of a food blog? But I do love that shot, taken in one of my favourite South London parks, with the privileged view we suburbanites have into central London. And so I headed to the same spot, armed with a freshly baked raspberry tart, drinks and camera, to make the blog look more edible. As for the tart, I became slightly obsessed with this recipe since reading about it in Ruth Reichl’s book earlier this year, which also turned into weeks of immersion into her wonderful memoirs and recipe books. I won’t publish the recipe here, since I have not changed a single thing, except for the freshness of the ingredients, which probably didn’t match the ones Ruth encountered when she first tried this tart in Ile D’Oleron in France.  In the book, she describes the raspberries as ‘intoxicatingly fragrant’ and the tart as ‘so much better that other tarts’. And I really want people to love these books as much as I do, so go and read them and find your recipe there. This dessert is such a treat, and it was an easy winner when it came to pick a looker to represent the blog. Notice how the updated cover shot now features the Shard!

My slight heavy head on Saturday was beautifully taken care of by coffee at Brockley Market, in the company of a friend who was responsible for the second revelation of the week: gluten-free cake can be amazingly delicious. Who ever knew that? I must confess I had seen the Sugar Grain stall at the market week after week and, although their goods undoubtedly look very attractive, I couldn’t help but have reservations and downright prejudice about gluten-free baking. It was only thanks to my more enlightened friend, who insisted on buying me their lime and coconut cupcake that I was introduced to just what I needed in my life: a whole new world of cakes! I really want to be extra clear about this: this was not ‘good for a gluten free cake.’ It was really, really gorgeous! Everything that I believed was impossible to achieve without gluten, it was there: a juicy, fluffy, light, airy cake with A LOT of flavour. And what an inspired idea to pick limes rather than lemons for this. It made all the difference. Great food to munch on in the park while the sunny days last.


HL_squashfeastThe weekend was full of surprises. As I carried 10 kilos of pumpkins back from the market (yes, I know. I am using them in this Saturday’s supperclub. It’s Brazilian Independence Day, and the pumpkin overload is part of the celebrations), a restorative break at Café’ Oscars in Ladywell revealed a diamond of of a garden I never knew was there. It would be very easy to spend a whole afternoon there, especially with next door’s giant ginger cats pottering about.

And just to make it clear how much South London rocks, here are some highlights of the yet-to-take-off Catford Broadway Sunday Market. On the first Sunday of every month. It would be great to see you there!


TGBBO_logoThat’s it.

I just wanted to remind everyone that it is tonight! The Great British Bake Off 2013 starts tonight!

Tonight. At eight. On BBC 2.

I trust you will drop what you’re doing and schedule your next few weeks around Mary Berry, Signature Bakes, Technical Challenges and uninhibited squirrels.

I’m stocking up on butter just in case.

Remember: it’s tonight! Enjoy.


HL's strawberry and pistachio number

HL’s strawberry and pistachio number

Ribollita of Sorts

cavolo nero

Cavolo nero is such a beautiful vegetable. The dark textured leaves would look lovely in any garden, and it has a sophisticated shade of green that would be perfect on my dining room curtains – had my dining room been approximately 16 times more spacious than it is. It looks very grown-up and much less everydayish than its cousins cabbage and kale. For me, it’s also immediately associated with ribollita, the rich Tuscan stew-soup dish. And to the beginning of the end of summer.

On Saturday, after an early rise and some exercise, I felt entitled to go on a meat feast at Brockley market. I had a BLT breakfast, then bought a healthy portion of calve’s liver for dinner, and evidently could not resist a bag of homemade pork scratching for a pound. On the way home, through the much more down to earth Lewisham market,  the sight of cavolo nero made me want to cook something rich and warm for the first time in weeks.

Ribollita is made with dark greens, beans – usually cannellini – and stale bread. It’s the ultimate thrifty food – the name ribollita translates as re-boiled, and this dish should keep

Johnny the cat is surprised at my use of chickpeas

Johnny the cat is surprised at my use of chickpeas

going for days with no risk of waste. I quite fancied chickpeas in place of beans, which is why I’m a bit wary of calling this dish ribollita. Of all the people I’ve eaten with, Italians tend to be the most precious about even the slightest variations to their dishes. I once caused a never-ending squabble between a group of Italians at work when I asked one of them for his recipe of carbonara. Little did I know the question of using onions or garlic was such a contentious one, and to this day I can’t eat a plate of carbonara without the guilty feeling I’m betraying someone. So, please accept my apologies for having the nerve of calling this ribollita. Not only did I use chickpeas, I also chucked in the leftover parsley sauce that was lying around from the previous night’s dinner – a very nice aubergine pasticcio that successfully auditioned for a future supper club. The parsley sauce worked very well as a replacement to the final splash of olive oil before serving. Since we’re confessing to food heresy, here’s another one. The smell of freshly baked naan at my local Indian shop was too sweet and irresistible, so I grabbed a packet and used that instead of a more traditional crunchy, thick crust bread. I did eat half of it with the parsley sauce, so we’re lucky there was any of either left for my counterfeit ribollita.

If you want the real thing, the River Cafe’ blue Cookbook has an authentic recipe. And you can also find the most amazing Tuscan recipes at Jul’s Kitchen blog. For an approximation of ribollita, here’s the one I made. Comforting and just warm enough for the slightly cooler evenings of late August. Ideally, make it and wait to re-heat it a few hours later/next day. It will taste significantly better.

Calls Itself Ribollita

  • a large bunch of cavolo nero, chopped. About 500g / a colander full of chopped leaves and stalks
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 to 2 dried red chilies
  • 4 to 5 tomatoes, peeled and chopped. A tin of chopped tomatoes will work fine
  • 400g cooked chickpeas. Keep the cooking water. If you want to use ready cooked chickpeas, look for a good brand and large chickpeas. I find the ones in glass jars are always of considerably better quality than the tin ones.
  • 2 handfuls of stale bread pieces
  • a handful of parsley
  • 1 tsp capers, washed
  • extra virgin olive oil


  1. Chop all the vegetables. Chop the dry chilies very finely.
  2. Gently warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large cooking pot
  3. Cook on low heat: cumin seeds, dry chilies, onions, celery, carrots, garlic. Let it sweat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is soft and well cooked, but not brown.
  4. Add the chopped peppers and tomatoes, turn the heat up to medium and bring it to the boil for a couple of minutes
  5. Add all the chopped kale and cover it for a couple of minutes so the leaves reduce in volume a bit.
  6. Mix well, then add the chickpeas and a couple of ladles of the cooking water.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, mix well, half cover half the pan and let it cook for 20 minutes on a gentle heat. If too dry, add a bit more of the cooking water. It should not be a soup, but more the consistency of a stew.
  8. After 20 minutes, check that the greens are well cooked and the liquid thick enough. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes more if needed. Add more liquid if needed.
  9. If you have time, leave the ribollita to rest for a few hours or up to the next day before reheating it and serving it.
  10. Chop the parsely and capers and add enough olive oil to cover them.
  11. Serve it in bowls and drizzle the parsley sauce over it.


Coriander and chickpea flour fish cakes


What to do with leftover fish? The way my freezer is going, it’s best not to add to its overpopulation problem. Since I seem to have gone all Latina with the cooking lately, I decided to try my hand at these fish cakes I once lusted after for an entire summer.

A long time ago, along with a then inseparable friend, we took a bus to the Farol de Santa Marta beach in the South of Brazil and spent the summer holidays there. Rock’n roll that we were in our early 20s, we took: a pile of books, very little money, and the capacity to talk for hours and hours on end. I suspect that place is still quite remote today, but 20 years ago, and before mobile phones or the internet, we really were in the middle of nowhere. We spent some of the very little money to rent a little fisherman shack, which we thought was ever so delightful. It was, at least until the day it rained, and then it became delightfully flooded. And so we spent the weeks reading, walking on the beach, talking and laughing incessantly, I’m not quite sure at what. To this day, we hold the irritating habit of bursting into inexplicable laughter when we’re together.

Farol de Santa marta-110

The lighthouse at Santa Marta

With the very little money, and the sad obsession of staying hot in those bikinis, we also didn’t eat a lot, cooking most meals at home. But every few days we’d treat ourselves to one of the local ‘restaurants’. (I’d also treat myself to the fantastic caramelised coconut sweets I soon found out about. Maybe she was a fairy or a vision, but there was this lady I would see sometimes in my early morning walk on the hill behind our shack, with a basket loaded with the little beauties. That lady made a lot of money that summer.) Now, Santa Marta is a fisherman’s village, and a surfers/hippie paradise. What we, with our students budgets and our dieters’ goggles on thought of as Michelin star was in reality someone’s front room, serving a one dish menu of rice, beans, toasted manioc flour, salad, and a choice of grilled fish or fish cakes. For what must have been about 50p. And those fish cakes became our nirvana. Our dream. A happy place in my mind to go back to in moments of stress. They were packed with flaky fish and parsley, with just a bit of crunch on the outside, and light and airy when you bit into them. So very tasty and moist. Apart from the famous and wonderful Portuguese cod cakes, I never had anything like that.


We both grew up. We remain solid friends, even living an ocean apart. We revert to giggly idiots and still never stop talking for one second when we meet. I like to think our palates and pockets evolved a bit since then. But the taste of that fish cake was no illusion. Just thinking of it, I want to go back to the shack and order a whole wheelbarrow of the things.

IMG_1229With my leftover tilapia fish, I made my own version of them, from memory. It was one of those leftover everything numbers again: fish, onions, parsley, spring onions, green peppers, coconut milk, and 2 ingredients I don’t believe should ever be used parsimoniously: ginger and coriander. By the armful. I marinated the fish in the herbs for only a little while, then fried them in a little olive oil – instead of boiling them as in some fish cakes recipes I came across. The coconut milk just adds a hint of sweetness and keep the cakes moist, and is not overpowering at all. Because I’m going through a chickpea flour phase, I used some of it mixed with plain wheat flour, hoping to achieve a bit of depht, but fearful it would end up with a nutty rather than fresh taste. It didn’t. As soon as I tried the first batch, I knew I was onto a winner. And I kept frying. And frying. Boy, there were a lot of cakes! So a couple of neighbours were treated to bowls of free dinner last night. And this morning I had one of them at my doorstep, notebook on hand, asking for the recipe! Here it is:

Coriander and chickpea flour fishcakes:

  • 500g white fish: I used tilapia. What would also work: cod, sea bass or any white fish you like.
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 of a tin unsweetend coconut milk (300ml or 1 1/2 cups)
  • At least couple of handfuls fresh chopped coriander and parsley. Or more, according to taste. Don’t be too precious about removing the stalks; they taste good and add a nice crunch.
  • 1 to 2 tbps fresh ginger, very finely chopped.
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped, leaves included
  • 1 finely chopped green pepper
  • 130g / 1 cup all purpose flour.You may need to add a bit more or less to reach the right dropping consistency
  • 50 g /  1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • vegetable oil to fry (I used sunflower oil): enough to fill a large frying pan 2 inches high.
  • one lime or lemon


  1. in a big bowl, marinade the raw fish in all the herbs, onions, spring onions and ginger. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Leave the fish in the bowl for 5 minutes or more.
  2. in a large frying pan, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Tap the fish pieces clear of the herbs and onions (it’s fine if some remains on it) and fry them in the oil on a medium-low heat. Cover and leave until all the fish is just cooked. It’s fine to add them all at once and stir.
  3. Remove the fish from the heat and transfer it to a blender.
  4. Add to the blender: the eggs, green pepper, coconut milk, and all the marinade ingredients that were left in the bowl.
  5. Blend it just enough so it turns into a thick paste, but still has some bits to it. Look for the consistency of baby food.
  6. Turn the paste into the bowl and gradually add both flours and baking powder, mixing with a large spoon. Be careful not to add too much flour. The dough should not become thick enough to roll with your hands. It should be of a dropping consistency.
  7. In a large frying pan, heat the oil on medium heat until it is very hot. using a tablespoon, gently and carefully drop spoonfuls of the dough into the oil and fry on both sides until golden (about a minute on each side).
  8. Eat them fresh and MAKE SURE you eat them with a squeeze  of lime or lemon on them. It makes ALL the difference.
  9. Close your eyes and pretend you’re on a tropical beach.

The Green Door supper club has taken off!

Wrong Side of The TracksJul2013

I can’t remember having been that excited since I was 8 and my mother would come back from work early on Christmas eve, ready for our long family summer holiday, with the Christmas hamper where I knew I’d find panetonne, torrone, and lots and lots of chocolate, eat the whole lot, and then be continuously sick during a 6 hour car journey on the way to my grandparents. Ah, fond childhood memories. My parents were lucky to have me.


P1080768The measured start I had planned for the supper club, at home, with maybe 6 or 8 diners, somehow turned into a 35-guest evening hosted by the fabulous Café’ of Good Hope in Hither Green, South London. In a moment of folly, I agreed to join forces with the Hither Green Wine Club and deliver a feast of food, wine and live music to a lot of people. We called the evening The Wrong Side of The Tracks, hoping to rid North Londoners of the outdated notion that we don’t have fun south of the river.

So, how did it go? Well, the menu worked just as I had planned. We described it as a Latin American inspired dinner, and built a very summery menu. Not strictly Latin American, but then I am from Sao Paulo, and we had so many different food influences there that it would be impossible to be a purist about the menu. I went with the food I knew from growing up in a city built by, just to mention a few, Italians, Lebanese, Portuguese, and the migrants from the North of Brazil, with their rich African heritage.


As I long suspected, the big winner of the night was the pao de queijo, the chewy Brazilian cheese bread, a bit on the lines of French gougeres, but with fresh cheese and a very Brazilian cassava starch. My poor niece serving the canapés kept rushing back to the kitchen to report that people were hunting her down for more. People also went wild for the bacon jam empanadas, and the watermelon Pimms granita went down well too, although it didn’t resist the heat for more than 2 minutes  – we had to serve it with straws in place of spoons.

P1080744 (non iphoto)P1080780


A very happy surprise was to have some guests bringing me flowers and small presents. Given that the evening was not free, I had not expected that – but hey, keep them coming! Presents are ALWAYS welcome! I like islands, gold mines and exotic animals.


Scott Slocombe

So, was it like a dinner party, then? It was louder than even my dinner parties and certainly had better conversation and entertainment. That suited me very well, since I was able to revert to my natural bellowing voice and go completely unnoticed. How I enjoyed screaming SERVICE, PLEASE every 5 minutes! We also had the highly entertaining Matthew Robins with his band and stories in between courses. I won’t mention names, but there were a few tears in the room during his beautiful Wicker Cat tale. Musician Scott Slocombe kept the joyful atmosphere going with his acoustic guitar, soulful looks and dreamy voice.

Did it run like clockwork? Er, no. We were very lucky to have the most gracious bunch of mostly friends and family attending, and they all showed buckets of tolerance for the delays, for the fact that I forgot to introduce the menu properly, and for some other mistakes – every single one of them easily attributed to me. Generosity was the word of the day, and help just turned up before I even asked for it. In the end, we got all the food out, but only thanks to the many helping hands and a great improvised team. Judging from the constant chatter and laughter and an obviously happy atmosphere, we did deliver a fun night. For me, the great reward was to see clear plates coming back to the kitchen and people raving about the food. Now it’s a matter of ironing out the imperfections and making this better next time.



Was it worth it? Hell, yes! Even though I was up at 06:00, did not stop once until I went to bed at 03:00, I couldn’t possibly describe it as hard work. I had the most fun time ever! I was on a high that still did not subside on Sunday morning, when my husband gently suggested I went for a walk to give him 5 minutes of peace and quiet reflect on the previous night.

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My Week in Food: calf’s foot, bossa nova pizza and a cherry pick


Seriously, stop it now. It was cute for a while, but now this heatwave is  beginning to crawl inside my very soul, making me slower and lazier by the minute. Yesterday, I had to leave the tube at Charing Cross and have a little Agua Fresca at Lupita before I could see straight again.

  • This has been a largely liquid week, partly to keep us all hydrated, but also in honour of  The Resident Vegetarian’s birthday. To celebrate, we had a splendid dinner at Locanda Locatelli, with passion fruit Bellini and mint limoncello to kick off the evening, a sommelier that read our tastes and pockets like a clairvoyant, and the bliss that is functioning air conditioning. Of course I was incapable of considering any other starter after spotting calf’s foot salad on the menu. It was a wise choice. The


combination of tangy and bitter leaves broke the richness of the tiny and delicious gelatinous meat cubes, and then came the deep fried slices of more sweet calf, which I believe were put there purely to make me happy. Amazing, but rather a generous portion, which, along with my earlier binge at the grissini and the bread basket, prevented me from eating more than a fraction of the lobster linguine. And that worked very well: I am tucking into the linguine leftovers as I type this! Birthday boy had what he claims is the best burrata of his life, then ravioli filled with red onions, topped with salted buffala ricotta and a chianti reduction. Hardly summery, but still light and there was not a molecule of it left on the plate. Sadly, I had to pass on dessert, but we still got a Happy Birthday plate of Locatelli’s famous and unforgattable amaretti biscuits. Light and moist and tender and very, very good. Happy birthday, Salad Man!


  • Next day, we visited South London’s latest pop up darlings, Van Dough pizza, who ran Catford’s new monthly supper club, at the unlikely location of Catford Broadway, right by the South Circular. We like to call it edgy. Cocooned inside a massive white tent, with very attentive service, cool bossa nova IMAG0933on the speakers and a flow of Brockley’s Micro Brewery‘s drinks, we quickly forgot the less than glamorous surroundings. If you don’t know Van Dough, you’ll be amazed to learn that their perfect pizzas come out of a wooden fire oven … inside a van! Yes, it is a mobile pizza van. I had had their pizzas before, and they’re consistently beautiful. The mozzarella, funghi and garlic seemed to be the chosen winner that night. What came as an added bonus was the stellar chocolate pecan pie. They were concerned that the hot weather had made the filling too soft, but for me it was the perfect consistency, not to mention the rich, top quality chocolate. It was very smooth, on the right side of gooey, with the slightest crunch of pecans when you bit into it. A great evening. My only tiny suggestion would be to include the humble (and in my opinion, the queen of pizzas) Margherita on the menu. But then again, they would have made it if only I had asked. They were happy to oblige when the vegan lady next to me asked for a tomato and garlic pizza.
  • On one of the hottest nights all I could come up with was potato salad, to which I added some roasted beetroots and rosemary, a couple of soft eggs, then sour cream and parsley. Very refreshing with some rocket on the side. No recipe today, but I recommend a go at this salad as a cold dinner.



  • To crown the end of the week, I met Mr Hither Green Wine Club at the Catford Bridge Tavern for a double mission: a) to toast the fact that we sold out the 30 tickets for the inaugural Green Door Supper Club!,  and b) to go over the menu for the millionth time and make sure our shopping and To-Do lists are even longer now. Only a week to go and the excitement is making me louder and louder!
  • And a final thing: if you’d like to try my cherry brioche and butter pudding, you can select it from the 20 entries that made it to Food 52’s Community Pick on their latest contest pages. Just click on Test This Recipe. Very happy at seeing my dessert up there!

I hope you’re having cool and wonderful weekends.


Smuggler’s Pecan Pie


I just came back from 2 weeks work in Johannesburg, during which I had planned to blog about all the exotic and wonderful food experiences I was having. Sadly, the working hours were long, and I ended up either eating (dreadful) hotel food, or at bland mall restaurants every night. It was such a missed opportunity, as I’m sure an exciting city like Johannesburg has lots of amazing places to eat. I just didn’t have the chance to explore. The happy exception was the wine, invariably better than South African wines we have in the UK. I did, however – and because it would be impossible not to notice – stay there long enough to appreciate how warm and welcoming people were to me in South Africa. It is especially lovely to be greeted with big open smiles by people in big cities, where they have reasons to be grumpy and stressed out.

IMG_0677I could have used my weekend there to visit the many food markets I kept hearing about, and catch up on nice food, but once I heard the words baby and lion, all I could think of was to visit this place in Pretoria that a friend of mine recommended in ‘Do Not Leave South Africa Without Visiting It’ terms. Horseback Africa is indeed a place I cannot praise highly enough.IMG_0745

Part country lodge, part conservation project, it is a beautiful, peaceful, happy place. If you like horse riding, you can go on a mini safari and come very close to giraffes, baboons, springboks, warthogs. Yes, the lions are kept separately. As a friend worriedly noted: lions run faster than horses. So, don’t worry. You’re safe from lions during the horse ride. There are also trekking tours, or plenty of space by the pool where you can read a book and enjoy the company of the many oh so sociable resident dogs. In other words: it is heaven. And then if you are a very lucky person – as I am – you get the room by the cubs’ enclosure, and get to play with 2 month old lions all day long. And so I spent 2 days on a high that lasted well into the week, thanks to the cutest animals scratching my door in the morning so I’d come out and play. And yes, you do get a little bit bitten and bruised, but nothing serious. If you don’t mind the little pests stealing your shoes and growling at you when you dare demand them back.


And whereas the barbecue by the campfire in the evening, by the light of a full (nearly super) moon was really nice, it was the pecans they had lying around the place that really became the food superstar of my weekend. The only pecans I knew were the supermarket variety – which I love anyway – , but what they had there was in another league altogether. I cracked a couple from a bowl they kept at reception for guests, and before I knew it, a mountain of pecan shells had been formed. Since they’re just wild pecans the family collects once a year, there wasn’t a lot of them, but seeing my equally uncultivated behaviour towards the nuts, they kindly offered me a bag to take home – probably wondering if we don’t have enough food in England. And thanks to the good folk at Heathrow, the bag of pecans made a successful entry back in London. Where I promptly selected a pie recipe to make the best of those babies.

IMG_0966Taken from the Back In The Day Bakery cookbook – now THAT was a food holiday to remember, with daily visits to this wonderful bakery in Savannah – , it has pecans, chocolate chips and bourbon in it. A Holy Trinity pie. The only change I made was to replace the recommended corn syrup by golden syrup – more easily available in the UK. I would have added some maple syrup too, but had none at home.IMG_0965

The dough is one of those very easy affairs, a bit like the cookie base for a cheesecake. No need to rest of roll out; you just press the crumbly crust onto a pie dish.

The result was a golden, deep flavoured, very sweet and yet not sickening pie. The buttery crust is only slightly crumbly and holds the treacly nutty filling perfectly. The nicest souvenir I could have brought from South Africa. Apart from the baby lions.


Bourbon Pecan Pie – ever so slightly adapted from the Back In The Day Bakery cookbook

Easy Shortcrust Pie Shell:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar (the recipe says you can also use granulated sugar, but why would I?)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted.

Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Slowly drizzle in the butter and stir with a fork until the mixture looks moist and crumbly.

Press the dough evenly over the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie dish.


  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups golden syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon all purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 3/4 cups pecan halves
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 180C and position the rack in the lower third of the oven.

Stir together: both sugars, corn syrup, salt, flour and eggs. Whisk well for a couple of minutes until completely combined. Stir in the vanilla, bourbon and butter until well mixed. Fold in the pecans and chocolate chips.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie case. Place the pie dish over a baking tray lined with parchment.

Bake for 1:15h, or until the pie is firm around the edges and just a bit wobbly in the centre.

Remove it from the oven and cool for at least 1 hour on a wire rack before slicing it.  Mine did leave the over rather loose in the middle, so waiting for an hour is good advice.


In Defence of Green Peppers

Or: my favourite hangover cure


I have definitely read the words green peppers and least noble together in some food magazine I can no longer find. And I have Nigel Slater’s excellent book Real Fast Food right here in front of me, where he calls peppers magic, but before  embarking on a selection of recipes, warns his readers against the green pepper’s ‘failure to exude the same rich juices when heated.’

Even at the supermarket once (I do love a chatty checkout lady) I was told having a basket full of green peppers was most unusual, because nobody liked them.

Well, I am sorry, but a great injustice must be undone. Because green peppers are delicious. Yes, yellow peppers are sweet, and the orange ones really delicate, and the red ones look and taste great in a salad, but the greens have character, strong flavour, and in the words of my father, the liberal, it’s real men food!

IMG_0497For me, green peppers, minced beef and onions were born for each other. It is such a comforting combination! And it also has a quasi-miraculous curative property on hangovers. You wake up feeling a bit delicate, and may be tempted to have a greasy breakfast to help you face the world. But resist the urge and go for a plate of peppers gently cooked with onions and minced beef. No, make it a bowl. You want to eat this in a bowl, whilst wrapped up in a blanket. With some boiled potatoes, which you can gently mash with your fork. It will feel like a warm hug on your stomach and soul. If you can mince the beef yourself – or ask the butcher to do it – that will certainly make a difference. Choose a good quality cut with some fat in it, for flavour. Sirloin is a good option, and I hear neck also makes great mince. But depending on your state of ill health, ready minced beef may have to do. Invest in the best you can afford and look for some fat in the meat.

But it’s not all just prosaic homely food. I’ve been waiting for summer to try a cold soup I had last year in Italy that was a thing of beauty. It was glorious in the hellish heat of Ferrara’s summer: green peppers, almonds and saffron.  Even though this is a cold soup, it feels very different from drinking (or is it eating?) gazpacho. Equally refreshing, but not straight forward refreshing. It is velvety and cools you down bit by bit, as the different flavours keep turning up and bringing a smile to your face.

snack on potatoes while the peppers cook.

snack on potatoes while the peppers cook.

Today, I opted for the more humble recipe. Not that I was in need of sobering up, but a couple of stressful days at work called for the comfort of this dish. If you’re feeling under the weather, a bit down or in need of a cuddle, you’ll love this.

Say no to pepper discrimination. Bring a green pepper home today!

Green Peppers Hangover Cure

(For one. You will want this when you’re alone at home ignoring your phone.)

–          2 green peppers

–          1 onion, the sweetest you have. Red onions work well too.

–          3 royal jersey potatoes. Or a handful of new potatoes.

–          1 courgette

–          200g of minced beef.

–          a handful of parsley

–          extra virgin olive oil

–         salt, pepper, ground cumin

Start boiling the potatoes in plenty of salted water.

Chop the green peppers roughly. You want some big chunks of peppers rather than delicate bits.

Chop the courgettes into slightly smaller cubes.

In a large frying pan or sautee’ pan, warm a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add the onions.

Cook the onions in a medium –low heat until translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the mince and let it get a bit of colour, always on a gentle heat.

After a couple of minutes, add the peppers and the courgette.  Add a little bit of water, about 3 tablespoons. The beef and the courgettes will release quite a lot of liquid anyway, but the extra water will ensure this is cooked really gently and not burn. Season it with salt, pepper and a tiny pinch of cumin.

Cook in a lowish heat for just under 10 minutes, covered. Don’t overcook the peppers. Check that the mince is cooked through, and leave it a few more minutes if needed, but stop while the peppers are still a little bit crunchy.

Drain and peel the potatoes. Either serve them whole, or cut into halves, depending on their size.

Serve the potatoes with the mince and peppers on the side. Mash the potatoes only slightly with your fork and pour some of the liquid from the mince on them. Sprinkle chopped parsley over the food, and add a little bit of olive oil too.

Eat in front of the trashiest daytime telly you can find, and feel yourself gradually coming back to life.