Monthly Archives: April 2016

Reading List (26/4)

Does what you eat matter more than the people with whom you’re eating? I’m quite interested in this idea – that company matters as much as (if not more than) the food. But likewise, I also think it is possible to enjoy a meal alone.

This video, where Jeffrey Eugenides explains about how he came to write The Virgin Suicides, is wonderful. The process of writing, the shaping of the novel, the idea. I love The Virgin Suicides. I read it whilst an undergraduate and found it engrossing, dark and poignant. The video led me to this interview with Margaret Atwood. (An old issue, 1990.) I do so love her The Handmaid’s Tale.

Baking advice from Dorie Greenspan. (‘Don’t start with your sister’s wedding cake’.) A new podcast find! Yay!

This! A totally fascinating account of mathematics, economics and the ability to predict markets. As someone who was an Economics undergraduate, and who could not understand the discipline’s obsession with models (because the real world does not act like the model), I may be slightly biased in thinking the article is illuminating.

I have been following the #RhodesMustFall campaign (and its various offshoots) with fascination. This is one of the more interesting commentaries I have come across.

Menus on the Titanic.

Creating entries about women and food on Wikipedia.

Should tapas have UNESCO heritage status?

Shakespeare died 400 years ago last week. His plays were peppered with food references from the time and also revealed where people stood on the social scale.

If, like the rest of us, you mourned Prince’s passing last week, there is this: a glimmer into his fridge (from 2011).

A collection of some of the reviews from Gwyneth’s new cookbook.


Reading List (19/4)

The difficulty of tracing recipe origins. And the mystifying power of Pinterest.

Should you be able to criticize government policy publicly if the government funds your research? The UK government thinks not…

I love an agricultural show. Do you? The animals, the vegetable growing competition, the tractor parades, the food… So at some point, I will have to attend the Salon de l’Agriculture.


Do you really know where the the food you’re eating comes from? Even when a restaurant declares its sources, you may be being deceived.

I like this series on breakfast from Lucky Peach. And this series on Eater.

Gentrification through foodstuffs.

This week I want to make these butterscotch creams with caramel apples. (Especially for you Jen!) Also this pistachio pound cake.

Edible ovens.

This is a fascinating article, written by Dan Barber, on tracing the origins of the taste of a particular matzo. The article takes you on a journey from the table to the farm, via the bakery, where you learn of the intense scrutiny of the wheat being harvested for the flour that will eventually make the matzo.

Churros for breakfast. Next time I am in Spain.



Reading List (12/4)

School gardens taking root in London. Teachers think school gardens can help combat obesity. A gardener reflects on the satisfaction of school gardens. ‘Schools need to realise that just because something can’t be quantified and stuck on a spreadsheet, doesn’t mean it isn’t important’. I would argue that rather than schools realising ‘something’ (I think life, possibly) cannot be quantified, it is policymakers that such concerns should be directed too. If we want to change how schools are, we need to change the policies that dictate what they do…

A feminist bake-sale highlights the gender pay gap (and inadvertently also the online violence against women who raise their voices).

Babka is so hot right now.

I enjoyed this 2 minute video on cooking.

More ‘when research is potentially very cool’. This time, tracking food deserts in the US via Instagram posts.

More on chef residencies.

Women writers to read. I particularly loved this article ‘The Secret of Grey Gardens‘ by Gail Sheehy and this article ‘I was a Warehouse Wage Slave‘ by Mac McClelland, although both made me fairly depressed about the state of the world.

Cake foodways – the way food is tied to place, tradition and culture and the difficulty in tracing those origins. I also now want to eat this multi-layered cake.

Americans in the Spanish Civil War.

Cookbook Club: Ottolenghi’s Plenty More



I made this ‘set’ (I think ‘deconstructed’ is a more accurate term but who am I to argue with Ottolenghi and Honey & Co?)  cheesecake for our inaugural Cookbook Club last month, which is an exciting new activity I’m participating in! I’ve been wanting to set one up for ages and finally organised a first meeting. Our first evening turned out to be a few friends with whom I regularly share dinner, but it was so much fun all cooking from the same book and sharing a meal. We all cooked from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More, which I chose because I love the book but hardly ever cook from it. We ate the cannelini bean puree with pickled mushrooms (and fried pitta pieces – dear god, what a moreish concept that is), potato cakes with mint that paired excellently with the aubergine pahi. I made the tomato tart and the ‘set’ cheesecake with plum compote which was a perfect balance of sweet, tart and crunch.

The cheesecake was so moreish that I made it again last week. Andrés accused me of not fully explaining that the cheesecake would not materialise as a cheesecake as such – he was apparently waiting for me to put it together while I was sneakily portioning it up and eating it when he was at work, totally oblivious to the fact that he hadn’t actually had any. (Which was obviously my secret plan).


The key thing here is the cheesecake mixture – cream cheese, mascarpone, double cream, caster sugar and some citrus. The rest is infinitely adaptable, depending on your mood. You just have to be organised enough to make the cheesecake mixture the night before so it has time to ‘set’.

My mood was raspberry/almond/lime this time but really, I suspect any citrus and fruit compote combo will work here. Cherry compote perhaps? (Also with lime?) Blueberry compote with lemon? I changed up the crumble/base a little as I am an oat girl when it comes to crumbly-things-randomly-scattered-amidst-decadent-sweet-cheesy-things and so I added oats (and used almonds rather than hazelnuts because store cupboard!). I procured black sesame from the Asian supermarket near my ballet class. (I also found birthday cake Oreo’s! Which, come on! Birthday cake Oreo’s!)

You can find one version of the recipe here. The recipe in the book uses regular plums in the compote  instead of greengages. I used the zest of one lime instead of a lemon and also made half the cheesecake amount – which was enough for four or five after a large meal. When I made the cheesecake the first time I followed most of the recipe to the letter (apart from scaling down the cheesecake side of things) and the leftover crumble kept fine (I found it went really well with yoghurt and the leftover compote as breakfast food). When I made the crumble this past week, I used the same flour/butter/sugar/black sesame measurements but then added in a handful of oats and a handful of almonds (toasted and slightly bashed up). For the compote I heated a handful of frozen raspberries with a tablespoon of caster sugar and a squeeze of lime juice.  I made half the cheesecake mixture again too.

The best thing about Cookbook Club was the way it forced me to actually use a cookbook I’d had on the shelf for ages. (Resolution anyone?) We’re meeting up again this month and are going to do Nigel Slater’s Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food. I am already excited at the prospect. (There’s a recipe for Marmalade Chicken which sounds a) fascinating and b) like an excellent way to use up some of the marmalade stores!)





Reading List (5/4)

Hello April! Spring! More blue skies than grey! This strange thing the British officially (and affectionately) call Summer Time and which my southern hemisphere soul can never quite get used to. You just set the time at your own choosing? It is light until 8pm now? And nearly 11pm in high summer? What a strange place this is!

Are you reading all about the Panama Papers leak? I fell down a wormhole on Monday reading all about it. It mostly made me angry – all that money sequestered away! – but also slightly gleeful that something might come of it. I particularly enjoyed The Guardian’s live feed of reactions and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists dedicated webpage to the various stories. And I loved this piece in The Atlantic (in my head I term this ‘when research is very cool’), about a sociologist who trained as a wealth manager (immersion ethnography) in order to meet and interview actual wealth managers.

Here is the rest of the reading list:

Chicken tenders have no history, they have no metatext, they have no terroir‘. God I love Helen Rosner.

On traveling in such times.

On Jacques Pepin and life changing meals. I really loved this story – how a random lunch can bring you back to life, remind you of the world and the good things in it. I enjoyed reading some of the details of Pepin’s career and life. And was reminded of the importance of telling people about the impact they have in your life, however small.

Markets inside schools. You find children going to school hungry in unexpected places, and this is one idea that can help resolve this issue.

Dieting, not dieting, eating sugar, eating fat…

On being black in a professional kitchen.

What happens in the brain of someone who has an eating disorder and the fascinating programmes designed to help aid recovery.

Literature’s memorable meals, photographed.

Bourdieu‘s graph of food spaces, delineating food choices using culture and economic capital, updated for modern times. Where do you fall on the graph?

The peculiar eating habits of (white male) geniuses. If anyone has any ideas for clever women’s eating habits (or pretty much any clever person not white or male), feel free to share.

These striking photographs of the sky.

Are you watching the Bake-Off Creme de la Creme? Please say yes. Let’s talk about the rulers. And the judgy judges. And the apple crumble sculptures in episode one!

I started reading The Spice Box Letters. So far, so good. It strikes me as a good summer read – easy, engaging story, potential for romance…

Making your own butter. Genius.







I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this but I’m obsessed with trifle. I had forgotten about this obsession until quite recently. It had manifested in other ways – my take on Nigella’s Italian Christmas Pudding Cake which I’ve made for several years for dessert on December 24th; my love of all things custard. But pure trifle, unfussed with, traditional sponge cake, custard, berries and cream trifle, I hadn’t made in a long time until we went to Spain (of all places) last May.


There I met Andrés’s friends for the first time. We had a braai one day and they requested that I bring trifle as dessert. (They all pronounce it so it sounds like ‘truffle’ to my ear, elongating the ‘i’ so it sounds more like ‘e’, which makes it sound much more magical and alluring.) So I made a strawberry trifle. It was such a hit – gone in about 30 seconds – it made me remember the magical power of trifle. The power trifle has to make things better, seduce people, make you feel like the world is going to be a better place. That comforting memory of early childhood, where adults knew how to fix things, and the world was a place full of wonder and magic… (Of course, there are other takes on trifle, possibly not fueled by the same experiences I had, which you can hear about on this BBC Food programme or read about in this book, which is on my wish list.)

In need of such reassurances recently, I made what I like to term ‘freezer trifle’. This is trifle thrown together from things you already have skulking about in the back of your freezer. In my case there are always cake pieces and frozen raspberries (as well as emergency gin – like I suspect other people have homemade ready-meals, muffins and vegetables). Add in some super fast and easy vanilla custard, a slightly whipped double cream (and hazelnut praline for the funsies) and you have an easy dessert, any day of the week.


So this is not a recipe for trifle as such, it is a collection of ingredients that can be used to make trifle. With the exception of the custard – I’ve given you the recipe for that.

Some leftover vanilla cake pieces

Sherry (if you have it. I didn’t so mine were non-alcoholic trifles. We can debate whether this renders the dessert something else entirely if you’d like.)

Frozen raspberries, about a handful if there are two of you, heated with a tablespoon of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. You just want them slightly mashed and a bit juicy. (If you have a syrupy raspberry preserve, that’d work too.)

One quantity vanilla custard (see below)

Double thick cream, whipped to soft soft peaks.

Hazelnut praline. Toss a few hazelnuts (about half a cup) in a nonstick pan until they start to brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, heat some sugar – add just enough to cover the base of the pan. Cook until the sugar is a deep golden. Add in a knob of butter and swirl to incorporate. Roughly bash the hazelnuts and then place them  on a sheet of baking paper, on a tray. Pour the caramel over the nuts and leave to cool. When cold, bash up so you have different sized pieces.

For the custard (This recipe comes from my cooking school days and so I think belongs originally to Sam Marshall.)

180ml full fat milk

1 tbsp vanilla extract (or one quarter of a vanilla pod, split with seeds extracted)

2 egg yolks

60g caster sugar

25g plain flour

double cream (1-2 tbsp)

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Heat the milk and vanilla to scalding point. Whisk the yolks, sugar and flour together until thick and no lumps remain. Temper the hot milk into the eggs. Whisk to incorporate. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook out over a low heat until the custard is thick. (A wooden spoon is best here.) Pour into a container and cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming. Leave to cool.


Once the custard is cold, you can assemble your trifles. Layer cake pieces at the bottom of the serving dish. Splash with sherry, if using. Pour over the raspberries. Then distribute the custard. This makes enough for three (or two plus the cook eating what is left in the dish). Cover with cream and sprinkle generously with the praline. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour so things can settle. Eat.