Twenty years ago I started my rocky relationship with dough. For some reason I like to do things the hard way. Never having produced a loaf in my life, I embarked on mastering sourdough bread and making my own natural yeast starter. With my digital thermometer, proofing baskets and imported strong Canadian flour, I was practically ready to start my own bakery. Sadly, my result was a bucket of murky black slop that made my flat smell like a brewery. Deflated but tenacious, I BOUGHT yeast and tried again. My rocky loaves were more akin to weapons than a sandwich ingredient. Continue Reading »


Last year, after purchasing my rice maker, I swore I wouldn’t buy any more kitchen appliances. That promise was short-lived. After my recent sojourn to Garson’s Farm (see corn post) and acquisition of five buckets of raspberries, I wanted to (or more like HAD TO) make sorbet. (I didn’t have the jars to make jam, so it was the only solution) My Magimix ice-cream maker only accommodates one litre and I had double that amount of mixture. In the end I made half sorbet and the rest granita. Icy treats do require a fair amount of effort and forward thinking and one litre just doesn’t seem worth it. My husband and two sons can polish off a container of ice-cream quicker than you can say ‘Haagen Dazs.’ If you can make two litres at once, it makes it a bit more worthy. Continue Reading »


Last Saturday I had a crushing hangover, and it was nearly a grade five (I categorize them 1-5, with five being the most evil). It’s the sort where even if you go running, take aspirin all day, eat donuts and drink ten glasses of water- nothing is going to help you feel better. In the evening, when you start to feel a little more human, some foods can bring you relief. Curries, with their sweat-inducing character, are top of the list. I chose to make a proper home-made job and whizz up my own paste. Continue Reading »

Corn field serendipity


I kind of feel sick right now because I’ve just eaten 6 leftover corn cakes for lunch. Don’t get me wrong, they were delicious but I could not stop eating them. Yesterday was my children’s last day of freedom before school starts  and we decided to have a day out at Garsons, which is a pick-your-own farm in Esher. www.garson.co.uk The sun was shining and after collecting five containers of raspberries we discovered the corn.  We cracked them right off the tall stalks and took them home to shuck. The problem with going to these places is that you get over-excited and pick too much. By the time I got home, I had now gone off the idea of making raspberry jam and had 23 ears of corn to deal with. Continue Reading »


As the sunny weather dwindles in England there is still something to be cheerful about-ripe, late summer vegetables. Gazpacho is one the best ways to reap their tasty goodness. Its bracing icy texture and sharp garlic tomato flavour are pure refreshment. For the last couple of weeks my family and I were in Antibes, in France’s sunny Cote d’Azur. The beautiful seaside beaches and lovely towns are straight out of a movie set, but I can’t say the same for the food. You need to fork over big cash to get the good stuff. Even the local market made the London Borough market look like a bargain. We struggled to find good food that wasn’t overpriced but did come across a little gem cafe run by three Danish women, called Copenhagen. They made a gazpacho which featured a salsa of granny smith apples. The crisp tart fruit in the velvety smooth vegetables was pure genius. Although it’s Spanish by heritage, this quintessential cold soup is served all over the Mediterranean. Over the years I have created different versions for magazines and a previous cookbook, Small Bites. Anything from beetroot (fantastic colour and taste), ancho chili puree, chopped boiled egg, croutons or crabmeat can be used to top off or swirled through. One basic stays the same though-RIPE vegetables.

Gazpacho with granny apple salsa
prep time 10 minutes
serves 6

500g or approx. 6 juicy ripe tomatoes
half a large cucumber or 2 small Lebanese
1 medium sweet white or red onion
1 pepper (yellow or red)
1 handful of white crusty bread
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
400ml/1 and 3/4 cup chilled vegetable or chicken stock
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika)
1 granny smith apple

Roughly chop the vegetables, except the apple, discarding the cores and cucumber peeling. Save a small amount to dice up for the salsa. Mix the vegetables with the vinegar, oil, salt, paprika, bread and stock. Puree in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Core and finely dice the apple. Mix with the reserved diced veg and set aside. At this point you can chill the soup for 3 hours or pour immediately over cups of ice. Sprinkle the diced vegetables over and drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.



I was visually overcome yesterday in Whole Foods Kensington by a striking tower of strawberries. Boxes of sweet, dark red fruit with long green stems were stacked high and (even better) on sale- 2 for £5. Yes, I know you can get them cheaper in other stores but these smelled and looked liked real strawberries in season. The sad little under-ripe pink ones you see in the supermarket just depress me. Even if they look good, the taste is vacant. I don’t shop often at Whole Foods, but when I do, it’s an all-out pilgrimage. Watch this space because I’m going to do a whole posting on it soon. Its a complete inspiration to go there and the free tastings don’t hurt either. Whatever you buy, you know your precious items are going to taste lovely. Continue Reading »


Growing up, Sunday evenings were our family’s designated night for dessert. Apple pies, fruit cobblers and all sorts were produced but the one I really treasured and dreamed about all week was the banana splits. Scoops of ice-cream, thick hot fudge sauce, chopped nuts, whipped cream and a maraschino cherry were sinfully devoured fast-as-lightning so the ice-cream didn’t melt. Continue Reading »


The only thought that comes to mind when you bite into these Vietnamese crystal spring rolls is utter refreshment. No deep fat fryers are required, but I won’t lie and tell you that they are a doddle. A deft hand is needed for rice paper wrappers, which can be slippery nightmares. But even when less-than-perfect looking, they still taste amazing. Nigella Lawson demonstrated them on her Forever Summer program and I can’t say they were very beautiful. If hers aren’t, then you’re certainly allowed a few wonky ones. I have been making them for years and the trick is not to hurry and keep them skinny. Too much filling makes them rip and then you can start to get edgy. Get everything chopped, ready and then get a feel for the technique. Continue Reading »

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The first sound I heard when we arrived at our hotel in the old quarter of Hanoi, was a rooster crowing across the street. Clearly, fresh food was close by. The sun-kissed ingredients of Vietnam were tasty indeed and the chicken and pork tasted like the old days, before battery farming drummed out all the fun. Little food stalls with mini stools (best suited for people under 4 feet tall) line the streets everywhere, each with their specialty: pho, fried spring rolls, bun cha (noodles with pork) or banh mi (grilled pork sandwiches). Pho, the National dish of Vietnam, is noodle soup with beef, chicken or pork and garnished with chilis, herbs and fish sauce. Its eaten primarily for breakfast but you see people slurping it up all day. Your stomach will be full for about an hour and then you need to eat again. Hence all the abundance of street food. One of my older posts has a recipe for chicken if you fancy making some. (see tab for recipes)

Fruit is practically super-sonic there. Menus have laundry lists of choices; watermelon, lychee, mango, pineapple and all sorts. Curries and spring rolls also incorporate it, making the sweet/sour tastes come alive. We simply did not have a bad meal, not one gripe to speak of. As we moved from Hanoi to Hoi An, a city further South, it just kept getting better. The best bit was that it was cheap as chips. Even at a sit-down restaurant you weren’t set back more £15.00

The lack of bad smells really surprised me. That whiff of fermenting fish that pervades most Asian markets was non-existent. It’s surprisingly clean for such a gritty urban city. If you had to choose a downside to Hanoi it would be the millions of motorbikes that swarm through the streets like a pack of bumblebees. You need a neck like an owl to spot which direction they are zooming from. Little grannies wander into thunderous intersections, whilst balancing heavy goods on shoulder poles, without even a glance. Miraculously, the bikes swerve around them as if some guardian angel was hovering over them. One little granny was walking with boiling oil on one of her two balanced trays, frying tofu. Safety shmafty!

So over the next couple of posts I want to share a few of the dishes I experienced. This prawn cake recipe is typical of the street food eaten there. When the prawns are roughly pureed in the food processor, the sticky flesh bonds together so there is no need for egg. The sweet chili dipping sauce that accompanies it can be used for all sorts. Grilled salmon, chicken or anything fried is divine with it and it keeps in the fridge for ages.

prawn cakes with sticky chili sauce
Makes 8 cakes, serves 4 as a starter

500g raw peeled prawns, 400g
3 shallots, thinly sliced
3cm chucnk ginger
1 lime, zested
1 handful coriander chopped
half red chili, thumb sized seeded and diced
1 tbsp fish sauce

250ml rice vinegar
175g castor sugar
1 red chili sliced

In a small saucepan, boil the sugar and vinegar with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes until syrupy. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

Place the ginger, coriander, 2 of the shallots, and half the chili in the food processor and blend until fine. Add the prawns, lime rind, and fish sauce and pulse until chunky. Grind plenty of black pepper over. Form into 8 flat cakes. Preheat oven grill. Brush both sides of the cakes with a tiny bit of vegetable oil and place on a baking tray fitted with a rack. Cook for 2 minutes one side and turn over. Cook another 2-3 minutes or until opaque. Add the chili and remaining shallot to the vinegar syrup and mix. Serve the warm cakes with the sauce.

prawn cakes  with sweet chili sauce
photo Maja Smend, food styling Jennifer Joyce