comfort food | The Proof of the Pudding

Does a recipe need much more introduction than that video…? Probably not, but I’ll give you one anyway. Back in June I mentioned that I was going to France for a couple of weeks, and that I would be attempting to eat and drink all the cheese and wine that the country had to offer. Well, we put in a good effort and ate like kings (or queens) for two weeks. We had delicious homemade meals expertly cooked by my Grandpa, dined on fresh local seafood on the island of Houat, tried regional specialties like gallettes and cidre royal in Normandy and had the most simple lunch picnics by the side of the road that were turned gourmet due to the amazing quality of the ingredients – fresh baguette, perfectly ripe tomatoes and soft, melty cheese (thanks to the heat!).

By far the best meal we had out was in a small town in Normandy called Sainte-Mère-Église. Although it’s small, Sainte-Mère-Église is well-known and gets a lot of day visitors. This is partly because it was the first village to be liberated on D-Day, but also thanks to the incident involving the American paratrooper John Steele. In the very early hours of the morning on D-Day about 13,000 paratroopers of the Airborne Division of the US Army dropped into Normandy. The parachute of one particular paratrooper, 31-year-old John Steele, became tangled in one of the church spires, leaving him dangling on the side of the church. Despite playing dead, he was cut down and take prisoner by German soldiers, but he managed to escape a few days later and re-join his division to continue fighting through France. John survived the war and regularly went back to visit Sainte-Mère-Église during his life. He was made an honorary citizen of the town and had a statue erected in his honour – a model of a man, parachute attached, hanging from the church steeple. On our last night in Sainte-Mère-Église we ate at the Auberge John Steele, which is named after the soldier and was recommended to us by my parents. And so this is all a very long way round of saying that I had the best dauphinoise potatoes of my life at this restaurant! They were just the side to my main dish of steak and mushrooms, but I decided right then that I had to recreate them when I got home. So here we are: my version of the most indulgent, rich, creamy side dish you could ever ask for…

One year ago:
– Hot redcurrant and raspberry mousse

Ingredients (serves 2-4, depending on your appetite!) Butter for greasing 400g (about 2 large) floury potatoes e.g. Maris Piper, Red Rooster or King Edward 150ml double cream 100ml milk 1 garlic clove Fresh nutmeg Salt and pepper

15g parmesan, grated

Method 1. Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas Mark 5. Grease an ovenproof dish well with a little butter.


Happy New Year gorgeous readers! I hope your festive break was filled to the brim with your favourite people, your favourite food and drink, and your favourite films, music, books and games. I know mine certainly was, and so much more. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much. You know that kind of laughter that makes your stomach and throat hurt and your breathing difficult? Yeah, that.

And so now it is January. The fruit bowl has been piled high, the vegetable drawer in the fridge is stuffed full and gym memberships have been renewed with gusto. I have just discovered Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Days of Yoga and what a revelation it is. I had forgotten how amazing just a short yoga practice every day is, plus there is the bonus that Adriene is an absolute babe. Serious babe crush going on.

But on the other hand, we are still in the depths of winter. The days may be getting gradually longer, but it really doesn’t feel like it right now. So let’s all agree that we still need some comfort food every now and then, yeah? We can stick to stir-fry and steamed vegetables and baked fish during the week, but on a Sunday night let’s snuggle up together on the sofa, wearing our comfiest pyjamas, with steaming bowls of stew and glasses of red wine. Cheers to that.

Ingredients (serves 2-3) 1 generous tbsp dried ceps (aka porcini mushrooms) 2 small onions, finely chopped 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped 2-3 small carrots, cut into chunky wedges 2 medium parsnips (or in my case, one daddy, one mummy and one baby parsnip), cut into chunky wedges 350g beef shin 180g mushrooms, either cup or button Large glass of red wine 2 bay leaves 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/Gas mark 2. Lightly crush the dried ceps in a mortar and pestle.

Cover with a few tablespoons of hot water and leave to soak. 2. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a casserole pot or pan and gently fry the onion and garlic over a low heat for 5-10 minutes until soft and just beginning to brown.

3. Turn the heat up so the onions sizzle and add the carrots and parsnips, mixing well to coat them in oil. Allow the vegetables to cook for another 5 minutes.

4. Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside. Add a little more olive oil and wait until very hot. Generously season the beef shin with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan. Fry on a very high heat for a couple of minutes until brown and caramelised on both sides.

5. Pour the wine into the pan and bubble for 3-5 minutes to reduce the liquid by about one third.

6. Add the vegetables back into the pan, along with the now-rehydrated ceps (including the soaking water), and stir. Season and tuck a couple of bay leaves into the stew, pop the lid on the pan and put into the oven.

7. Remove the stalks from the mushrooms, peel and cut in half. If you’re using button mushrooms then skip this step and use them whole! Ain’t nobody got time for that.

8. After an hour and a half remove the stew from the oven and stir in the mushrooms and redcurrant jelly. If necessary add a splash of water to the stew.

9. Continue to cook the stew in the oven for a further 30-60 minutes. The meat should be beautifully tender and the relatively large amount of fat in the cut of beef shin should have melted away into the sweet, rich liquid.

Serve with potatoes, cooked in the style of your choice, or some lovely fresh bread which you can use to mop up the delicious sauce. And of course, since it’s January, I suppose some steamed vegetables on the side will help to make us feel that little bit more virtuous.

Steak pie is a dish that is strongly associated with childhood memories for me. Just last week my sister and I were reminiscing about those rare evenings when we’d get home after school and spot a Marks and Spencer steak pie in the fridge – what a treat! We absolutely loved the rich, meaty filling and the crispy top on the puff pastry, but sometimes the best part was that bottom bit of the puff pastry right next to the beef which would go a little bit soggy. A serious pleasure. I still think you’re hard-pressed to find a better ready-made steak pie than those at M&S (apart from at a butchers I suppose), but a homemade one has all the same qualities – the melt-in-the-mouth beef, the rich gravy and the flaky pastry – with the added satisfaction that you get when you make a pie.

My method for steak pie is basically to make a delicious beef stew, allow it to cool and then pile it into a pie dish and top with pastry. I usually pack as much flavour into my stew as possible with extras like mustard, redcurrant jelly and herbs. A little glass of red wine or a dark beer will also add flavour to the stew, and I almost always add mushrooms, partly because I like the texture but also to bulk up the stew without spending lots of money on beef. You can cook the stew on the hob, but I find that a couple of hours in a low oven is the best way to achieve melting chunks of beef. You can also use short crust pastry – puff pastry is just my personal preference when it comes to steak pie, probably from those M&S ones – and shop-bought pastry is perfectly acceptable if you’re short on time. Or patience. This puff pastry follows the exact same method as I showed you before, and the ingredients are nearly identical. The one difference is that I substituted a small amount of the butter for white cooking fat for added flakiness. Never a bad thing.

Ingredients (serves 4) 450g casserole or stewing steak, cut into large chunks 2 heaped tbsp seasoned flour 1 white onion, diced 1 garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped 2 carrots, diced 250g mushrooms, cut into quarters if large 1 tsp dried rosemary 2 tsp dried thyme 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar Few drops of Worcester sauce Small glass of red wine or ale (optional) 500ml beef stock 1 tbsp Dijon mustard 1 tbsp red currant jelly 1 bay leaf

Vegetable oil

190g plain flour 100g butter 25g white cooking fat 20 tbsp iced water

1 egg, beaten

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/ Gas Mark 3. Toss the cut beef in the seasoned flour. You can do this in a bowl, but I find it easiest to pop everything into a freezer bag, tie the top and give it a good shake.

2. Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a casserole pan (the casserole pan needs to have a lid and be able to go in the oven). Fry the beef until golden brown and remove onto a plate with some kitchen roll to soak up the excess oil.

It’s best to do this in batches, so that the beef is just in one layer at the bottom of the pan. Don’t worry if the meat sticks to the pan, and leaves behind crispy bits – this is all added flavour in the end.

3. Throw the onion, garlic and carrot into the hot oil and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any residue from the beef that has stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 5 minutes until the vegetables are soft and turning golden brown.

4. Tip in the mushrooms and continue cooking for a few more minutes, then add the beef back in, along with the dried herbs, and give everything a good mix.

5. Pour in the balsamic vinegar and let it bubble for a few seconds. If you’re using wine or ale then add this now and bubble for a few minutes until the liquid is reduced a little. Otherwise go ahead and add the stock, mustard and red currant jelly. Bring to the boil, tuck the bay leaf into the stew, top the pan with the lid and pop it into the oven.

6. Cook for about 2 hours or until the beef is tender and the liquid has thickened to a gravy consistency. Check the stew after about an hour – give it a stir and add a little extra stock if necessary. Once ready, remove from the oven and leave to cool.

7. While the stew cools you can make the puff pastry. This follows exactly the same steps as the puff pastry I showed you here (with more pictures): mix the fats into the flour; add the iced water and bring roughly together with a knife; tip onto a floured surface and shape into a rectangle; fold the top third down, the bottom third up, roll, turn and repeat. Once you have a smooth pastry, cover in cling film and pop into the freezer for 10-15 minutes to rest.


8. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Spoon the beef stew into your pie dish and spread out evenly.

9. Roll out the puff pastry until it’s about 1cm thick and bigger than the pie dish. Lift the pastry onto the pie and press down firmly round the edges – a little egg wash round the lip of the pastry dish will help to stick it down. Cut round the pie with a sharp knife to remove the excess pastry.


10. Use the pastry trimmings to decorate your pie if you like. Brush with egg and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. If you’re not ready to bake the pie right away, you can leave it in the fridge until you are.

This pie will easily feed 4 people, served with a pile of lightly steamed and buttered green vegetables. However, you could definitely make it stretch to 6 people if you also make a generous helping of mashed potatoes.


A glass of red wine is not essential, but advised.


Just a quick little recipe today, but very much in-keeping with the autumnal theme. Stewing is a great way to use up a large batch of fruit, and means that the fruit keeps well for much longer than it normally would. At this time of year, gluts of apple are a common occurrence and we picked an enormous crop from my grandparents’ cooking apple tree last month. Although I used some of the apples in my mini puff pastry apple pies and a couple for a savoury apple sauce with roast pork belly, most have been used in three separate batches of my mum’s simple recipe for stewed apples. In the final lot I also had some plums in the fruit bowl which hadn’t ripened well, but are absolutely perfect once they’ve been lightly stewed. You can make this without the plums, using just apples, or you could add some pears, or even a handful of blackberries right at the end. Lovely autumnal fare.

Note: this recipe makes a very large quantity, so adjust depending on how much you want or how much fruit you have.

Ingredients 1.35kg fruit (I used about 900g cooking apples, and 450g plums) 550ml water 340g sugar

2 handfuls of raisins

Method 1. Peel and core the apples, then cut into small chunks. De-stone the plums and slice into eighths.

2. Heat the water and sugar until boiling.

3. Add the apple, plums and raisins and bring back to the boil. Simmer for about 3 minutes and turn off the heat. Leave to cool.

There are lots of options for your stewed fruit now, depending on how big a batch you’ve made! Use immediately while still warm, or leave to cool in the pan and then transfer to a tupperware tub…

This will now keep in the fridge for at least a week, or in the freezer for a few months. The fruit can be spooned over porridge or cereals for breakfast…

…or topped with natural yogurt and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon either for a light breakfast or a filling snack…

…of course, the options are endless. Re-heat gently and spoon over vanilla ice-cream, use to top meringues and cream similar to what I did with my spiced rhubarb compote, or smash the meringues up with the fruit and cream to create an autumnal Eton Mess.


It’s officially autumn. October has arrived, bringing with it darker mornings, clock changes, early Halloween decorations and the need for extra layering and a big, cosy scarf. We can complain about the weather and the darker mornings, but in the world of food there’s a lot to celebrate. Apples, figs, plums, pears, pomegranate, carrots, brussel sprouts, kale, leeks, parsnips and much more are in season and I’m hoping to pack in as many recipes as possible involving seasonal produce over the next few months. I’ve already planned some recipes involving apples, plums and carrots which I’ll post soon, but there will be plenty more to come.

Dreary weather and dark nights are also a perfect excuse for good old-fashioned comfort food. Again, I have a few recipes in mind to share with you, but we’ll kick things off with an absolute classic: meatloaf. I had never made meatloaf before, but after constant (unsubtle) hints from my other half (who never stops talking about his Grandmother’s meatloaf) I caved. I used this recipe from BBC Good Food, adding some extra ingredients for even more flavour like apple, mustard and thyme. Reviews after eating concluded that it was “very nearly as good as Grandma’s”, so I guess I’ll take that as a success…

Ingredients (cuts into 8-10 slices) 2 slices stale white bread 1 onion 1 garlic clove 1 apple Small bunch of parsley 500g pork mince 1 tsp dried oregano 1 tsp dried thyme 1 tbsp Dijon mustard 4 tbsp grated parmesan 1 egg

8-10 slices of serrano ham or prosciutto

Method 1. Look out a 1.5 litre loaf tin and preheat the oven to 170C fan/190C/Gas Mark 5. 2. Cut the stale bread into small chunks and blitz in a blender or food processor until you have fine breadcrumbs.

3. Finely chop the onion, garlic, parsley and grate the apple. You can also do this with a food processor if you have one – use the chopping blade for the onion, garlic and parsley, and then the grater attachment for the apple.

4. Mix together the pork mince, chopped ingredients, bread crumbs, parmesan, mustard, dried herbs and egg.

5. Line the loaf tin with the ham, overlapping each slice a little so there are no gaps. Leave about a third of the slice to overhang the edges of the tin.

6. Spoon the meatloaf mixture into the tin and press down firmly.

7. Fold the excess ham over the top of the meatloaf so that it’s entirely encased.

8. Place the loaf tin in a roasting tray and fill with boiling water to about halfway. Cook in the oven for 1 hour until the loaf has shrunk from the sides. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 or 10 minutes, drain the excess liquid and lift the meatloaf out.

Serve either warm or cold. The first night we had it for Sunday dinner hot from the oven, with a homemade tomato sauce and steamed vegetables. After storing in the fridge we ate the remainder of the loaf cold, served with baked potatoes and a salad.


What are your favourite comfort foods for autumn nights? Are there any recipes you’d like to see next…?


It feels like there’s always a long gap between my latest blog posts, since I’ve only been posting one recipe a week for a while now. Life has been busy, especially what with a certain political event happening in my country next Thursday (oh, and I guess there’s that PhD thing to be getting on with too). As much as a healthy dose of democracy is wonderful (and necessary) in life, at times what you really need is a respite from excessive politics. And what is the greatest antidote to politics? No, not alcohol: that is fuel of politics (or at least, “politics” around the dinner table with friends and family). Chocolate. Chocolate is the answer.

This chocolate mousse recipe could not be simpler if it tried – in fact, it comes from a children’s cookery book that we absolutely loved as kids. Posh it up with berries and cream if you want to serve for a fancy dessert, but really this can be whipped up in an instant (barring the chilling time in the fridge) if life is getting just a bit much and you need a large dose of comfort.

Ingredients (serves 2) 60g good quality dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids) 2 eggs Sea salt Berries, or other fruit, to decorate

Crème fraiche for serving

Method 1. Break the chocolate into small chunks and place in a bain marie (a bowl placed over a pan of water, without the bowl actually touching the water) over a low heat. Heat slowly until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat and set aside to allow the chocolate to cool.

2. Separate the eggs and beat the two yolks together well.

3. Pour the yolks into the cooled melted chocolate and mix well to form a thick, glossy mixture.

4. Add a large pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk until the whites are fluffy and make stiff peaks when you lift the whisk.

5. Now the whisked whites need to be combined with the chocolate mixture – this is the trickiest step as you want to retain as much of the air that you just whisked into the whites as possible, so that the mousse has a lovely light texture. A good technique is to add about a third of the whites to the chocolate and stir fairly briskly to combine well and loosen the chocolate mixture. Now add another third of the whites, but this time fold gently with a large metal spoon until just combined – this should be a lot easier since the first batch of egg white went in. Finally fold in the remaining egg white, again folding gently.

6. Spoon the mixture into two small dishes or glasses and chill for at least a couple of hours before serving.

When you’re ready to serve, top the chocolate mousses with your chosen fruit and a small spoon of crème fraiche.


This is a rich pudding, with quite a bitter taste from the dark chocolate. You can use a lower coca content if you don’t like that bitter edge, but some gorgeously sweet berries will balance everything out otherwise. Comfort eat away!


This weekend was mostly about painting, even more trips to Ikea (do they ever end?), hammering things into walls and more painting. In between we did manage to fit in a meal at Kyloe Restaurant and Grill, to belatedly celebrate our birthdays and, of course, our new home. If you are a carnivore and looking for somewhere special in Edinburgh for a celebratory meal then I highly recommend trying out Kyloe: our waiter was lovely and talked us through all the different cuts of beef in detail; the bubbly and wine were delicious; and the food really was amazing, not just the steaks which of course were divine, but the starters, sides and puddings too.

Anyway, by the time Sunday evening came around we were in desperate need of sofa + dinner + Gogglebox (Leon is a hero, AMIRIGHT?). I wanted a pudding, but couldn’t find the energy for anything fancy, and there was a quarter of a loaf of bread going stale in the cupboard that just seemed like a waste to throw out. Bread and butter pudding it was.

For some reason, as a child I hated bread and butter pudding, but after having my grandparents’ version some years ago, with marmalade spread on the slices of bread and caramelised raisins scattered over the top, I was converted. It’s a rich, soft, sweet, tart, sticky hug in a bowl.

Ingredients (serves 2) A few tablespoons of very soft butter 3 slices of stale white bread (or any other “breaded item” e.g. baguette, croissants, etc) A few teaspoons of marmalade 40g raisins 1 egg 150ml milk 2 tbsp caster sugar

2 tsp muscavado or Demerara sugar

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/Gas 2 and butter an oven-proof dish.

2. Cut the crusts off the bread, spread with butter and cut in half to make triangles.

3. Spread each triangle with a little marmalade and layer into your dish, sprinkling a few raisins between each slice.

4. Beat the egg well, with the milk and caster sugar.

5. Top the bread with the remaining raisins and pour over the liquid. Leave to soak for 10-15 minutes.

6. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and bake for 30-40 minutes until the liquid is set and the top is golden brown.

Serve warm and for extra indulgence top with cream, ice-cream (Ross’ favourite) or crème fraiche (my favourite, as the sourness balances out the sweet pudding).

This is a really basic recipe that uses store cupboard ingredients, plus leftovers that would otherwise be thrown away, but the results feel like a real treat. Adapt the recipe to whatever bread, milk, dried fruit and sugar you have in the house, but trust me on the marmalade!