Monthly Archives: July 2016

The Everyday (Weekend) Table: Oven Ribs with all the sides

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This is dinner for when you have slightly more time on your hands and a few hours to spend at home (to monitor rib progress in the oven). I had a craving for ribs yesterday so I turned to Smitten Kitchen for advice – I’m not really sure why except I get the impression Deb knows how to throw together good summer dinners. Her post for ‘oven ribs-even better‘ has all the things you need to make a glorious dinner – a recipe for oven ribs and links to broccoli slaw (I used some quick pickled onions in mine that made it superb although Andrés confessed to really not liking raw broccoli); avo-cucumber salad (with jalapeños and coriander on the side for me); and cornbread, baked during the last half hour of the ribs time in the oven. The ribs were precisely what I wanted to eat and by some miracle of chance, tasted exactly how I wanted them to taste. How have I never made these before myself? I am a converted woman.

The Everyday Table: Aubergines with Sweetcorn Polenta

I finally (finally!) got a new phone. I was going to keep going with the-phone-with-the-broken-camera ad infinitum but I dropped it and smashed the screen a few weeks back and it seemed to be a sign. A ‘just get a bloody new phone’ kind of sign. So I did. Now I have a working camera on my phone and I have already begun taking photographs of ordinary life again. I posted a picture to Instagram on Monday of our dinner and there seemed to be a few interested responses so I thought I might start a series here, documenting our ordinary dinner days. Like other attempts at series on this site, heavens knows how long it’ll last. But here goes.

I’m calling this series ‘The Everyday Table’. I’m hoping to post fairly frequently but sometimes these things are best left unplanned, lest it all falls apart. These are non-recipes (to coin Food52, whose new-ish app I will also be posting to too) – I generally do not cook weekly dinner with the aid of recipe books (although I use them for ideas and inspiration) and this series will show you that. So don’t expect weights and measures but guidance and advice.

To start, yesterdays dinner recipe was based on the sweetcorn polenta in Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. Last week, I went slightly crazy at the fruit and vegetable stall that comes twice weekly to work and bought: sweetcorn, aubergines, two varieties of tomatoes, lettuce, courgettes, peaches, nectarines and two punnets of strawberries. Summer produce! We’ve been eating our way slowly through it all and by yesterday (Wednesday) only some of the tomatoes, the aubergines and sweetcorn were left. So I decided to reconstruct a recipe I haven’t made for about five years but remember distinctly. I followed the main steps, rather than the ingredient amounts. I fried up some halloumi that needed using to serve on the side. I made enough for leftovers for today’s lunch (for both of us, although they are reasonably small portions).

Aubergine and Tomato Sauce with Sweetcorn Polenta

Adapted from Ottolenghi’s Plenty

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Dice 2 aubergines into chunks and fry in olive oil on a medium heat in a large saucepan until brown (be generous with the olive oil) and beginning to caramelise (about ten or so minutes). Slice half a red onion and add to the aubergines. Add in a generous squeeze of tomato paste, a handful of tomatoes, a glug of water, and either a tin or box of tomatoes (my box was 320g). Half fill the box/tin with water and add to the mixture. Stir everything and turn the heat down so the mixture simmers. Cook until slightly thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes. While the sauce is cooking, slice the corn kernels away from the cob of two sweetcorn. Simmer in water for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving a ladle of the liquid. Blitz into a puree, thinning with the cooking water as necessary (I find it needs very little additional water). Season with pepper. Add in a half cup of feta and a generous grating of parmesan. Season with salt, if necessary. Serve with the aubergine sauce. (The aubergine sauce makes very good pasta sauce too.)

Reading List (26/7)

‘Please stop putting things in my brownie that aren’t chocolate, because it makes me sad’. (This is from February, but still a fascinating account of what ‘wellness bloggers’ are doing to our eating habits, body image and potentially, our health.)

I love the sound of this twice weekly pop-up. And the photos of the space look amazing. And this food studio in Edinburgh, only open a few nights a week.

This model for a small restaurant business is fascinating.

A list of dinners to make when the prospect of turning on the oven fills you with dread.

The food at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The Strand bookstore in NYC has a quiz for potential employees.

A glamorous (Southern belle) version of spice cake which I intend to make for the princess the next time she visits. (Come visit Princess!)

I listened to the Bon Appetit Foodcast from July 7th last week. They talk to Jessica Koslow of Sqirl in LA. It’s a superb conversation full of jam, ideas and living by your own rules.And for some visuals of what Sqirl serves, look here. Links to the Eater Upsell interview here. Preorder Koslow’s book ‘Everything I Want to Eat’ (due October) here.


This is such a fantastic essay from Zadie Smith – on Brexit, on inequality, on London, on the future. She writes, ‘extreme inequality fractures communities, and after a while the cracks gape so wide the whole edifice comes tumbling down’. This is a well thought out piece about how, in the last thirty-odd years, the UK has fractured into spaces for those with money and spaces for those without, and how the people in these spaces live independently of each other, without seeing ‘the other’. Her discussion of how impossible it has now become to bridge these spaces, and purposively encounter people ‘other’ than oneself (she uses the example of a child her daughter was friends with at school but whose mother she couldn’t seem to start a conversation with) has stayed with me ever since.

Really thought-provoking podcast on the Food Programme last week, all about the funding for infant free school meals and the problems faced by small schools. The additional funding for small schools is being cut (it was only ever supposed to be temporary) and they will be expected to continue to provide a service for £2.30/child. This is problematic for small schools, who cannot operate on the economies of scale larger schools use, and who will struggle to keep their services afloat without additional help. In the programme they indicate that this may undo all the years of work that have transformed the school meals service in England.

Blueberry bbq chicken anyone?

Living in big cities is stressful. Community is important when you live there.

Do you need to build a restaurant empire to be a successful chef?

I listened to the Sporkful podcast on my way to work Monday. Last week’s episode was all about eating on presidential campaign trails and was totally absorbing and funny.

Pictures of Georgian London. (Also, this is a blog find! Notes for my next fieldtrip to Paris.)

Should you be able to buy olive oil alongside your CSA delivery? Debate about how ‘local’ locally supported agricultural programmes need to be and whether customers wanting to buy a great variety of products for delivery are really supporting local agriculture.

Things I will be cooking this week: peach and cherry cobbler (inspired by Claire Ptak’s version in The Guardian this weekend), tomato tarts inspired by this tomato pie and (if the universe sends me an ice cream maker) peanut butter and strawberry ice cream (also from The Guardian).

A list of workshops to stretch your creative skills.






Reading List (19/7)

The results of the quest for ‘perfect’ fruits and vegetables. And not teaching children to cook could result in more food waste.

This man has spent his lifetime building a cathedral.

How to eat more healthily (through brain subterfuge).

Cheesecake doughnuts with salted caramel anyone?

More on Brexit and food.

This article makes me want to go to Patagonia immediately. I mean, I know we’re going home in 39 days but the restlessness (like a penguin) is whelming at the moment…

Food inventions in Roald Dahl’s books.

A list of books with suggestions for related tv series and movies.

Are we too concerned with being ‘the best’ cooks? (Found via Smitten Kitchen)

Family food choices and food preferences of childhood may not really influence what we eat later in life.

A fascinating longer read on the moralising of food choices, the way different cultures understand food differently (not everyone labels foods good/bad, clean/dirty) and the importance of balance.

I really need to plan a trip to NYC.

An extract from Marcella Hazan’s posthumously published new book: Ingredienti.

On food and grief.

Taking houseplants and gardening indoors to a whole new level.

If this weather (whoop whoop) makes you want to grill everything and eat only outside, here are some ideas. I want to make this salad. And if you’re too hot to fuss, these recipes should help a little.

Cookies for ice cream sandwiches.


Chocolate Cake


This is Trude’s chocolate cake. I have written about this cake before but thought it needed an update, as the original post was quite rushed. This is the chocolate cake of my childhood – if there was a flavour profile for childhood celebrations, this would be it. It is also my Dad’s favourite and he visited for a whole 24 hours this week. So I made it to celebrate his unexpected trip. We ate it with Yotam Ottolenghi’s raspberry ice cream that was in this past Saturday’s Guardian. I am wholly in favour of the chocolate raspberry combination. I gave him slices in a tupperware to eat whilst in transit. The rest I took to the office.

This is a lighter chocolate cake than the one I made for A’s birthday. This is an oil/cocoa powder cake, easily made with store cupboard ingredients. It is simple to put together, although I seemed to use more bowls than I would like (washing up elves!), but I suspect this was just because I was being thorough. Or some such.

Trude’s Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup boiling water

1/2 cup cold water

4 eggs, separated

pinch of salt

1 3/4 cups plain flour

1 1/2 cups ordinary (granulated, white) sugar

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup oil

1 tsp vanilla

Line two 22cm tins with butter and baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180C.

Whisk the cocoa powder with the boiling water and set aside. Whisk the egg whites with the salt until stiff. (Hold-it-over-your-head-and-the-mixture-doesn’t-move-kind-of-stiff.) Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder together. Whisk the egg yolks, oil and vanilla together lightly, just to emulsify. Add the cold water to the cocoa powder.

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Pour the cocoa powder mixture into the yolk/oil mixture. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add this liquid mixture in. Mix well. (Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl so you don’t end up with any dregs of flour making an unexpected appearance as you pour the batter into the tins.) I like to whisk this part and then switch to a spatula to fold in the whites.

Fold the egg whites into the mixture in two batches. Be gentle with the second batch – you don’t want to knock too much air out. Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before icing.

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For the icing, combine 170g softened, unsalted butter with 390g icing sugar and 2 tbsp cocoa powder. Mix on a low speed until it all comes together. Add in a few splashes of milk and once combined, beat on a high speed until smooth and gloopy.  This will make enough to fill and ice the cake.


Reading (12/7)

I like this infographic tracing Ottolenghi’s relationship with certain ingredients through his recipe books.

Summer trifle from Lily Vanilli.

We should grow more indigenous foods in South Africa.

I made these aubergine rolls for dinner last week, and baked them in a tomato sauce with some mozzarella. They were ridiculously good.

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Other things I made from the newspapers this weekend: a ridiculously more-ish lamb and pitta salad from Peter Gordon (we used apricots as we couldn’t find figs) and a cherry clafoutis.

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I met Alicia at the Longhouse Food Scholars programme in 2014. She is a total legend, and chef extraordinare. I honed my pasta making skills under her guidance. This is a great write up of her place in NYC – Once Upon A Tart.

An old article (2014) but a cool list of Bon Appetit’s Favourite Cookbook Stores.

Joan Didion’s answers to the ‘Proust Questionnaire’.

Molly Yeh’s photographs in her latest blog post make me want to organise a food and writing retreat somewhere hot and sunny, and talk to people about food, and cook all day. (Watch this space!)

This week, I want to make these carrots.

I’ve finally finished Sophie’s Bakery for the Broken-Hearted and I am now rereading Behind the Scenes at the Museum, mostly because Kate wrote about it in her Guardian column last week and now I have to reread it for all the food scenes I missed the first time. I fell down a rabbit hole on her blog and found these Youtube videos of Julia making croissants.

A series of cool infographics and relatable statistics about lay vs expert nutrition knowledge in the USA. Think you think like a nutritionist when it comes to foodstuffs? Don’t be too smug. (Via Smitten Kitchen)

Cooking paella in rural Spain.

Strawberry obsessive.

A guide to eating along the American coast.

More advice on cooking with cherries.


Eating with the Princess: The Draper’s Arms

I am not entirely sure why, but I do love The Draper’s Arms. This local pub in a  leafy, residential part of Islington, is welcoming, noisy and vibrant. And the food is always great too. We dined early, as I had a train to catch. We shared the salt beef with picked onions on a toasted loaf. I then had duck with peas and pancetta, the Princess had lamb pie and we shared some wilted, buttered greens.



There was no room for dessert. But next time. Their menu changes often, which makes return visits compulsory.

The Draper’s Arms

44 Barnsbury Street

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