an adventure into my cookbook collection: soul-searching, doing things differently & the truths I learn along the way...

deseeding pomegranates is feminine & erotic, unless you hit them with a wooden spoon...


Thursday, 7 August 2014

Thyme and citrus roasted carrots with lentils, hazelnuts and yogurt

Based, sort of, on a recipe I saw by Yotam Ottolenghi in the Guardian

I haven’t got any profound or inappropriately personal words to go with this one, because I have been feeling a bit artistically blocked - with writing, not with cooking.

I know this looks like a huge amount of ingredients, but it does all make sense.

Serves 4


500g Carrots, feel and slice them into skinny-ish sticks or wedges, reminiscent of spindly spring carrots
1 orange
1 lemon
1 tbsp (approx) agave syrup
About 6 thyme sprigs
Olive oil
About 180g cooked lentils – puy or beluga
1 medium sized banana or echalion shallot, finely diced
1 (scant) tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
150g (ish) greek yogurt (full fat preferably)
Half clove of garlic, crushed
Handful hazelnuts, halved or roughly chopped and toasted in the oven or a frying pan until they are golden brown and their skins can be rubbed off
Fresh spinach, rocket, pea shoots or whatever green leafy thing you like
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (or 190 with fan)

Zest and juice the orange and the lemon.

Arrange the carrots in a roasting dish with five of the thyme sprigs. Drizzle with the agave syrup, roughly 1 tbsp of olive oil, half the citrus zests and about 1 tbsp of the citrus juice. Add a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss everything together and roast for 35-45 minutes, until the carrots are cooked through and caramelised in places, fragrant with thyme and citrus. Turn the oven off and keep the carrots in the oven to stay warm until you are ready to serve.

Mix the yogurt with the remaining citrus zests, garlic, a pinch of salt and drizzle of olive oil, and keep it in the fridge until ready to serve.

Put the lentils in a bowl with the diced shallot and fresh thyme leaves from the remaining sprig. Season with salt and pepper and dress them with the vinegar, more olive oil, and another tbsp of citrus juice.

To serve, scatter the lentils over your chosen form of green leaf in a nice bowl, and top with the toasted hazelnuts and warm carrots. Add some artful blobs of the yogurt sauce and enjoy!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Gooseberry fool

"Gooseberry bush" was 19th-century slang for pubic hair, and from this comes the saying that babies are "Born under a gooseberry bush." (Wikipedia)
And now, everything I write about gooseberries will seem slightly inappropriate...
In times like these where you can get pretty much anything at any time of year, it seems like gooseberries are one of the few things left that are truly seasonal. They freeze really well, so get them while you can! The other day I literally bought eight boxes of gooseberries from Waitrose so that my Mum and Grandmother could stock up.

I love gooseberries. For me they are so evocative of childhood summers and meals with my grandparents – and after polling some of my friends I think that the same is true for a lot of people. When I was growing up we had a whole load of gooseberry bushes in the garden, and ate a lot of delicious gooseberry desserts (and strangely lumpy gooseberry soup), until one year they all died - our neighbour’s leylandii were blamed and all-out war was declared.

You may think less of me, but I made this recipe with custard made from Birds Custard Powder. Birds custard is one of the best things ever – it makes the most delicious yellow thick custard, and it is vegan too. If using Birds (which I would recommend), add slightly more powder than usual, as the custard should be thicker.

Gooseberry fool is rich and creamy, and an excellent dessert to make for special occasions, or for when you just really want to spoil yourself.

Serves 8-10


800g red or green gooseberries, topped and tailed.
2 tbsp caster sugar – plus more to taste
1 tbsp Date syrup
Approx. 1 pint custard, homemade from scratch, with Birds Custard Powder, or bought.
300ml double cream


Stew the gooseberries in a few tablespoons of water and the sugar until they have completely collapsed. This might take around 15 minutes.

Allow them to cool slightly, add the date syrup and use an immersion blender to wiz them into a smooth sauce. They should really be sieved at this point too, but I can never be bothered – the seeds aren’t too annoying. Taste the pureed gooseberry and sweeten further if needed (remember that the custard will be sweet too) – use date syrup if you want it to be more caramel-y, or just use normal sugar.

When the pureed gooseberry mixture is cold, whisk it together with the custard and cream, and leave it in the fridge to thicken, for at least a few hours until you are ready to serve.

See here for a recipe for gooseberry fool from 1914.