The Proof of the Pudding | …is in the eating | Page 2


I absolutely love sharp flavours. I love the sour tang of a fizzy sweet or a slice of lemon tart, my salad dressings are always strong with lemon juice or vinegar or both, and don’t even try giving me a fish supper without a pickled onion on the side. Pickles are the ideal antidote to a craving for something sharp and sour, and they come in any variety you could want: onions, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, walnuts, beetroots, the mysterious pickled egg (which I am yet to try…it seems a pickle too far to me but do correct me if I’m wrong). Pickling is also a fantastic way to preserve fresh vegetables either if you have a huge glut or if you’re a small household, like us.

I got a bag of home-grown fresh beetroot from my dad a couple of weeks ago, but with only two of us in the house, one of us feeling very under the weather and the weeks menu already planned and bought I wasn’t sure where to incorporate these beautiful little vegetables into our meals. Pickling it was. A jar of pickled vegetables will keep extremely well in the fridge for several months, if not longer. Just make sure that you sterilise the jar before filling – wash the jar in hot soapy water, fill to the brim with boiling water and then drain and leave upside down in a warm oven or on the counter top to air dry completely.

One year ago:
– Pasta carbonara

Ingredients (makes one large jar) 500g beetroot 300ml white wine vinegar 200ml water 200g light brown sugar 2 bay leaves 3 whole cloves 1 tsp peppercorns 1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp course sea salt

Method 1. Give the beetroots a scrub under cold water if they still have earth on them, and trim the leaves and roots. Place in a large pan of water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the beetroots, until a sharp knife can be easily inserted.


As the Starks are so keen to tell us, Winter Is Coming. And they’re not wrong, but first we have my favourite season of the year to enjoy: Autumn. For the next few months plums in the UK are at their prime and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and flavours and colours. There are tiny, intensely sweet greengages or plump, juicy Black Amber and Denniston’s Superb varieties or dark indigo-blue damsons with their sharp, distinctive flavour. One of the most commonly available plums in our shops and supermarkets is the Victoria plum. Oval in shape and red or yellow in colour, Victoria plums are sweet and have a firm texture so are perfect both eaten straight out the fruit bowl or used for baking.

Almonds are a perfect pairing with the sweet and sharp flavour of plum, so a frangipane tart seemed like an ideal way to incorporate this seasonal fruit into some baking. Frangipane is a sweet filling used in cakes and pastries, which combines ground almonds with butter, sugar and eggs, and sometimes a little flour or flavourings like vanilla or alcoholic liquors. When cooked in a tart frangipane puffs up in a most satisfying way to create a light, moist filling.

I first made this tart a couple of weeks ago, and by happy coincidence the following weeks Great British Bake Off episode (only the best television show ever amirite?) was pastry themed, and what did they have to make in the first challenge but frangipane tarts. This inspired me to add a layer of jam between the pastry and frangipane filling when I made the tart again last weekend. The addition got a resounding thumbs up from the lucky taste-testers. Finally, since frangipane requires a fairly long bake, there’s no need to blind bake the pastry first. Of course, we don’t want any soggy bottoms here, but we also don’t want burnt pastry. Paul Hollywood would not be happy, and that thought is scary enough, let alone imagining Mary Berry’s disapproving face.

One year ago:
– Dark chocolate mousse

Ingredients (makes a 28cm tart) 500g shortcrust pastry 12 small Victoria plums (about 400-450g) 100g unsalted butter, softened 100g caster sugar 2 eggs, beaten 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tbsp plain flour 100g ground almonds Optional: 2-3 tbsp plum jam

Crème fraiche to serve

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Roll the pastry on a floured surface until it is just bigger than the tart case and about half a centimeter thick.


The first time I made this recipe (shown in the picture) I went very thin with the pastry, so it was almost see-through, but I think it’s better to keep it a little thicker so the tart has a good, solid base and you can appreciate the short, crumbly texture of the pastry.

2. Carefully place the sheet of pastry into the tart case – drape it over your rolling pin and use this to lift it up and over. Gently, but firmly press the pastry into the case. I tear a little pastry from a corner, roll it into a ball and use this to press the pastry into all the edges, so that my nails don’t puncture the delicate pastry.
3. Trim the excess pastry with a sharp knife, prick the base with a fork and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

4. Halve and stone the plums.

5. Place the soft butter and caster sugar in a large bowl and beat until light and fluffy.

6. Pour in the eggs a bit at a time, beating well in between each addition until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and flour and mix well again.

7. Fold the almonds through the mixture, ensuring they are evenly combined.

8. If using the jam, then spread a thin layer on top of the chilled pastry. Next carefully spread out the frangipane mixture into an even layer.

9. Arrange the plums on the top of the tart, cut side down, and push gently into the frangipane.

10. Place the tart on a large baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes until the frangipane filling has risen, the surface is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when pushed into the frangipane. Leave the tart to cool on a wire rack.

Serve warm or cool with some thick, creamy crème fraiche. The tart will keep for a few days in an airtight container, though it is best eaten on the day it’s made so tuck in!


When I was about 3 years old my family spent 3 months in Granada in the south of Spain. My dad was on a sabbatical with work and my mum was still on maternity leave after my little brother and sister had been born. Some of my earliest memories are from our time in Spain – vague, fuzzy recollections of eating jamón sliced off the bone on the balcony of our apartment, rows of kids lined up on the floor for our afternoon siestas at my nursery school and the very specific way that my nursery teacher used to peel fresh oranges (still known to this day as “The Mercedes Way” in our household). To help with all the children at home we had a live-in au-pair, a Spanish woman called Coco, and this is one of her recipes. It’s a rich, hearty stew and despite its peasant origins the dish has bags and bags (and bags) of flavour.

To get the depth of flavour in this dish you really need to get the right bit of Serrano ham – not the light meat which is sliced into thin slivers for eating, but the tough, dark meat right next to the bone usually used for stocks. Of course, if you’re living in Spain then getting your hands on this is easy, but it’s a slightly trickier task in the UK. Try Spanish or Mexican (or other) delis or even the deli counter at your local supermarket – they might do you a nice deal on this part of the ham. In my area of Edinburgh I was struggling to find the meat when I struck the jackpot at the tapas restaurant Tápame. The lovely chef there very kindly gave me a whole Serrano ham bone, which not only had plenty of dark meat on it but also added the most delicious, decadent flavour to the stew. You don’t need to add a bone to the stew – it isn’t included in Coco’s original recipe – but lucky you if you can find one! Be careful about adding salt if you use a bone – you probably won’t need to add any extra salt at all. If you can’t find any dark meat at all, then you can still use slices of the lighter ham, but the flavour won’t be quite the same.

Broad beans are in season right now, and won’t last much longer than the month, so get out to your local green grocers and get cooking!

One year ago:
– Mini puff pastry apple pies

Ingredients (serves two as a main course, or more as part of a spread of tapas) 150-200g dark serrano ham (or a 500g bone, with meat) 1.5-2kg fresh broad beans still in their pods (about 500-600g once podded) 6-8 large Spanish spring onions or 1 white onion 2 garlic cloves Extra virgin olive oil Small glass of white wine Freshly ground black pepper and salt

Optional to serve: fresh bread and poached eggs

Method 1. If you have managed to get your mitts on a gorgeous serrano ham bone then remove as much of the tough, dark meat as possible. You will need a small, very sharp knife to do this – I actually used my Swiss Army pen knife. If you have bought a chunk of meat then simply chop into small pieces.


2. Pod the broad beans (one of the most therapeutic kitchen tasks) and set aside for later.
3. Chop the onions and finely chop the garlic cloves.

4. Heat about 4 tbsp of good quality olive oil in a pan (large enough to hold the ham bone if you are using one). Add the onions and garlic and gently fry on a low heat for 5-10 minutes until soft.

5. Stir in the serrano ham, and continue to cook gently for about 5 minutes.

6. Add the broad beans to the pot and stir to coat well in the oil. Increase the heat and pour in the wine, allowing it to bubble for a couple of minutes.

7. Reduce the heat to the very lowest setting possible and nestle the ham bone amongst the beans. Cover the pan with a lid and cook very slowly for 2 hours. Keep an eye on the stew while it cooks and if it looks particularly dry add a splash of water.

8. Taste and season with black pepper (and salt, if necessary). Serve immediately, or leave to cool and reheat later. This can be kept in the fridge, or even the freezer, if you want to make it in advance.

9. To serve, gently poach 2 eggs (I managed to find some incredible duck eggs at our local organic shop) and slice some crusty bread to soak up all the delicious liquid at the bottom of the stew.




Summer pudding is one of my all-time favourite desserts; I think it could even give the chocolate fondant a run for its money. The pudding has a nostalgic, exciting feeling for me, partly because it meant that the berries and currants at my dad’s allotment were ripe and ready to be used which in turn signaled that summer was well and truly here, but also because I think it’s the first properly impressive pudding that I learnt to make. It’s a sinfully easy recipe, but turning out a perfectly set pudding and slicing into the stunning pink exterior to reveal the jumble of different summer berries inside is a very satisfying feeling indeed.

This is based on a Katie Stuart recipe (the kitchen goddess that our household regularly turn to for instruction, and who I’ve mentioned many times before), though she makes one large pudding to serve about 6 people. If you’re feeding a crowd then I’d highly recommend this – just double to quantities of fruit and sugar below to fill a 2 pint pudding basin (about 1.1 litres) and you will need to use a bit more of the loaf of bread. If, like me, you’re catering for less people then these make the cutest little treats.

A few tips before we begin: make sure you do use stale bread, so remember to buy a loaf in advance. I bought mine two days before I made these and it worked perfectly. Use whatever combination of summer berries that you prefer or have available, but try to use more redcurrants than other berries. For example, I used 180g redcurrants, 100g raspberries, 100g blackcurrants and 70g raspberries. Katie Stuart recommends 450g redcurrants, 225g raspberries and 225g strawberries for one large pudding (double this recipe). You do need to leave the puddings in the fridge overnight so that they set properly so no short cuts here I’m afraid! Inevitably you will be left with crusts and small cuttings from the slices of bread – throw them into a food processor or blender and blitz to breadcrumbs. They can be stored in airtight containers in the freezer for months and used as you require for recipes.

One year ago:
– Stuffed courgettes

Ingredients (makes 3 individual puddings) One loaf of stale white bread (you will use about half of it – the rest will make perfect toast!) 450g summer berries 70g castor sugar

Crème fraiche and extra berries to serve

Method 1. Rinse 3 small pudding basins (150ml capacity each) with cold water and thinly cut about half the loaf into 1cm slices – you can always cut more later if you need it.

2. Trim the crusts from the slices of bread and cut 6 circles – 3 small circles for the bottom of the bowls and 3 larger ones to cover the top – and enough wedges to cover the sides of the basins. Firmly press the small circles into the bottom of the basins and do the same with the wedges round the sides. Make sure there are no gaps at all in the bread lining and plug any with small pieces of the leftover bread.

3. Put the fruit and sugar into a small saucepan and cover with a lid. Place over a gentle heat for 5 minutes until the fruit has softened.

4. Spoon the hot fruit into the pots, ensuring an even distribution of the different types of berries. Fill the basins right to the top, pouring over as much of the juice as possible.



If you have any extra juice left at the end then don’t throw it away – you can pour a little extra liquid over the puddings once they are turned out, especially useful if there are any little pieces of bread that haven’t been completely soaked through.

5. Place the basins on a large plate or tray (some of the juice will probably spill over the top so this keeps your fridge shelves clean!) and gently press the last 3 circles of bread on top of the puddings.
6. Put small plates or saucers on top of each pudding and weight down with tins or other suitably-sized heavy objects. Refrigerate the puddings at least overnight.

7. When you’re ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of each of the puddings and tip out onto small plates. If you have saved some, spoon over a little extra juice.

Serve with a generous dollop of crème fraiche and a few fresh berries or currants.

Sweet, soft, sharp and undeniably summery.

What do you like to do with summer berries? Do you have any favourite, nostalgic puddings?

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.

2. Peel and thinly slice the potatoes to roughly the width of a £1 coin, or thinner if your knife skills allows. You could also use a mandolin or a food processor with a slicer attachment. Don’t wash the slices potatoes as you want them to retain all their starch to help thicken the cream sauce.

3. Pour the cream and milk into a large saucepan and add the whole garlic clove, lightly crushed with the back of a knife. Season with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer.

4. Add the potatoes to the cream and stir well to coat. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your slices, until the potatoes are just cooked. Give the pan a gentle shake as the potatoes cook so that they don’t stick together or catch on the bottom of the pan. The sauce will begin to thicken from the starch in the potatoes.

5. Remove the potatoes with a slotted or wide spoon and carefully place in layers in your dish. Pour over any remaining cream sauce (remembering to discard the garlic clove!).

6. Sprinkle over the cheese and bake for 30 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through and browned on top – increase the heat for another 5 minutes until the top is crispy enough to your liking.

Leave the dish to stand for at least 5-10 minutes after baking, while you get the rest of your meal prepared. Don’t worry – the dish will stay piping hot, but this allows the hot, bubbling potatoes to settle and makes it easier to slice and spoon out portions.

Serve with any meat of your choice, though I’d recommend steering clear of any cream sauces, since this is such a rich, indulgent side dish! We had ours with this BBC Good Food recipe for chicken with mushrooms and peas, and a glass of crisp white wine. Perfect Sunday evening comfort food. Santé!

Something strange happened to our chilli plant. It went on holiday to my parents’ house for two weeks (while we holidayed in France for two weeks), and while sunning itself in their conservatory our humble little green jalapeños turned red! We bought the plant early last summer and had a generous crop of mild, but delicious jalapeño peppers for months. It stopped flowering over winter, but came back with gusto this summer and we began to use the green chillies again. I don’t know if the plant needed time to mature, or if it was the intense sun and warmth of the conservatory, but either way we returned to a glamorous plant bejewelled with fiery red chillies…

We’ve used some of the red chillies in stir-fries and curries, or fried them with garlic and kale for a simple side dish, but we used the final one (for now) to flavour this gorgeous chicken tagine. This is an amalgamation of a few different tagine recipes, and is also inspired by a tagine I was served by friends and one we had in our riad in Marrakech last November. It combines sweet honey, sharp preserved lemons, hot chilli and salty olives with succulent chicken legs and, with the essential addition of ras el hanout (a North African blend of spices), feels like an exotic treat. It’s a great dish for serving a large group, but the chicken is also perfect as leftovers for lunch salads or sandwiches during the week. My favourite bit is the plentiful gravy that surrounds the chicken legs by the end of cooking, and in my opinion requires a great hunk of crusty bread for dipping.

One year ago:
– Fennel and courgette salad (using red chilli, funnily enough!)
– Sangria
– Spanish prawns and chorizo

Ingredients (serves 4-5) 5 chicken legs (skin on) 4 small cloves of garlic, crushed Thumb-size piece of ginger, grated 1 tbsp runny honey 1 tbsp cumin ½ tsp turmeric 1 generous tsp ras el hanout 1 tsp salt 1 tsp pepper 5 tbsp olive oil 2 small white onions 1 red chilli 1 medium tomato 7 half slices of preserved lemons 15 green olives

450ml water

Method 1. Place the chicken in a large bowl or tub (or the container it came in!) and add the marinade ingredients (garlic, ginger, honey, cumin, turmeric, ras el hanout, salt, pepper and olive oil).

Mix very well so all the chicken is coated and then cover and set aside to marinade at room temperature for as long as you can – at least an hour is ideal, but you can prepare as far in advance as the night before (in this case put the chicken in the fridge overnight but remember to take it out a few hours before cooking so it can come back to room temperature).

2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Thinly slice the onions and place at the bottom of your tagine.
3. Prepare the chilli and tomato – deseed both and thinly slice.

4. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and brown the chicken legs on both sides over a medium heat. You might need to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan. Don’t worry if the skin looks a bit black – this is the sugar in the honey caramelising – just don’t actually burn the flesh!

5. Arrange the chicken legs on top of the sliced onions in the tagine.

6. Scatter over the chilli, tomato, lemons and olives and pour in the water.

7. Place the lid on the tagine and cook in the oven for 1 hour.

Take the tagine straight to the table for dramatic effect, and serve with fresh, crusty bread or a big bowl of couscous, and a herby green salad.


If you’ve never eaten a chilled soup before, you’re going to just have to go with me on this one. It might seem very strange, or even off-putting, to those who have never tried it before, but believe me when I say that you are missing out and need to rectify that ASAP. Gazpacho, a southern Spanish tomato soup, is probably the most famous of the chilled soup family and it is one of my all-time favourite recipes. There are slight variations in ingredients and methods between the recipes available (some including peppers or bread, some soaking the ingredients overnight before blending, some adding stock or basil at the end), but this simple recipe is the one that my family has always used, passed down from my mum’s mum, and it is the best there is (unbiased family opinion).

Gazpacho makes use of the fresh, young allium produce that are available during the late summer. If you can’t get your hands on any young red onions or “green” garlic, as it is sometimes called, then you can use the regular varieties though you may want slightly reduce the quantity you add to the soup as it will be stronger and sharper in flavour. Err on the side of caution, since you can always add more in after the first blend, but you can’t take it back out at the end! This is the perfect seasonal recipe for a light lunch or supper, or to serve as a starter at a summer dinner party. However, I can also highly recommend having a large bowl of the soup the day after a night of excess – it’s zingy and refreshing, is reminiscent of comfort-food-hero hot tomato soup, has a high water content and is packed with vitamins.

One year ago:
– Refreshing watermelon salad

Ingredients (makes 4-6 servings) 450g ripe tomatoes ½ a cucumber 1 medium young red onion 3 cloves young garlic 450ml tomato juice 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 tbsp white wine vinegar Salt and pepper

Green bell pepper and breadsticks or croutons to serve

Method 1. Begin by peeling and deseeding the tomatoes. The easiest way to do this is to plunge the tomatoes into a pan of boiling water for 30 seconds.

Remove and drain – the skin may already have started to blister – and leave to cool for a few minutes.

The skin should now very easily peel away, and then the tomatoes can be cut in half and the seeds either cut or scraped out.

2. Roughly chop the cucumber (including the peel and seeds), red onion and garlic and place in a large bowl.
3. Add the peeled and deseeded tomatoes to the bowl, roughly chopped.

4. Pour in the tomato juice, and add the olive oil, white wine vinegar and a generous season of salt and pepper.

5. Use a hand blender to blend the ingredients together. I like to keep the soup just a little bit chunky, but you can blend until you have the consistency you want – for a very smooth texture you will need to pass the mixture through a sieve. Taste the soup for seasoning (including vinegar, onion and garlic, not just salt and pepper) and adjust if necessary.

6. Chill the soup for at least 2 or 3 hours – this step is very important, so don’t skip it unless you are incredibly short on time, in which case having the tomato juice already chilled in the fridge is a top tip from my mum.

Serve the soup chilled, in chilled bowls if you’re feeling extra fancy. Top with diced green pepper and, traditionally, homemade croutons either baked or fried in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. At home we always just broke up breadsticks to scatter over the soup, which is far less effort and a little healthier too. This time we spotted a box of olive oil crostini at the shops, which worked perfectly too.

This soup will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 or 6 days, the flavours mingling and only improving with time.

Have you eaten chilled soups before, and if so what is your favourite type? Do you have your own gazpacho recipe? – I’d love to hear about it below!…

homemade pasta | The Proof of the Pudding


Let’s talk about pasta. More specifically, let’s talk about homemade pasta. Tasty, satisfying, versatile, impressive, quick and, best of all, easy; making your own pasta from scratch is guaranteed to have your friends and family oooh-ing and aaah-ing and complimenting you on the dedication you have to cooking. Well my friend, lap it up as you laugh on the inside and reminisce about the 2 glasses of wine that you knocked back while you made it. The longest part of the process is letting the dough sit in the fridge for an hour (this is when most of the aforementioned wine drinking probably took place) and the trickiest part of the process is rolling out the dough. If you have a pasta machine and a spare set of hands, then this is a breeze. If not, then never fear, I’ve found that pasta is easily a one-woman job. A rolling pin, or a bottle of wine (SEE? SO MANY USES), will do the job of the pasta machine and you can use a sharp knife to cut the pasta to size.

The only ingredients that you really need for pasta are flour and eggs. That’s it. 00 flour is the super fine flour that Italians use to make pasta so if you can get your hands on that then great. However, I’ve been advised by my go-to foodie friend that regular plain flour works too. The most basic pasta dough recipe that you can follow is 100g flour to 1 egg, which will serve roughly one person.

I add a small amount of olive oil for elasticity and a pinch of salt for seasoning. Semolina can also be added to your dough to give it more texture and bite. The proportions of semolina to flour in a recipe vary from family to family, and depend on where in Italy you are. Apparently, the further south, the more semolina in the recipe.

I’m yet to experiment with different proportions of semolina to flour, but here is the recipe that I have been using lately. I find it has a lovely bite, especially if only cooked very briefly, and a rich flavour. It holds up to a flavourful sauce and I’ve used it to make tagliatelle and raviolis so far (like here in my Seafood Tagliatelle).

Ingredients (serves 3) 225g 00 flour 75g semolina 3 medium eggs, beaten (if you have large eggs then add the mix a bit at a time in case you don’t need it all) Small glug of olive oil

Pinch of salt

Method 1. Weigh out the flour and semolina and mix together with a pinch of salt. Pour into a mound on your work surface and make a well in the middle.

Cook in heavily salted, boiling water. The pasta will cook in 2 minutes.

If you give homemade pasta a go then let me know how it works out, or if you have your own favourite pasta recipe or semolina to flour ratio then I would love to hear it!

In our house, Friday night is fish night, and it has been for as long as I can remember. Friday mornings involve a trip to Eddie’s Seafood Market, an amazing fishmonger in Edinburgh which offers up a huge range of fresh seafood from crabs to monkfish to sole to scallops to cod roe to mussels to mackerel, and much, much more. Rick Stein named it as one of his Food Heroes, so take it from him if you won’t from me! Friday evenings start with the lights being dimmed and mum lighting the Shabbat candles. The melodious tones of Alanis Morissette or Joni Mitchell often float through the house. Sometimes things are a bit more upbeat and we’re going 70s style with Billy Joel, Elton John or David Bowie. There’s wine chilling in the fridge, fresh bread on the table with real butter to slather over it and a general feeling of contentment that the weekend is beginning.

So I guess this recipe is the first of my odes to glorious Friday nights. (We actually ate this dish on a Sunday. So sue me.) I made homemade tagliatelle, a recipe for which I will post soon, promise, but you could use bought fresh or dried pasta. I chose prawns and cute little baby scallops, but if you’re taking a trip to your local fishmonger, or even the supermarket, then don’t be restricted by that – go for whatever looks fresh. If you pick mussels or clams then I would clap a lid on top of the pan after the wine and cream goes in, until they have opened up. This feels like a truly indulgent pasta dish, but it’s actually not too rich. Crème fraiche is quite aciditic, plus the white wine and the lemon juice cuts through the creaminess of the sauce. The chilli adds a perfect hint of heat.

Ingredients (serves 3) 1 shallot Bunch of flat leaf parsley 3 cloves garlic 1 red chilli 1 lemon 1 small glass dry white wine, plus a large one for the chef 300g dried or fresh tagliatelle, or homemade pasta made with 300g flour and 3 eggs 1 tbsp olive oil 175g scallops 200g king prawns 2 heaped tbsp crème fraiche

Salt and pepper

Method 1. Finely chop the shallot and parsley and crush the garlic. Finely slice the chilli. I used about ¾ of the chilli, but you can test a small piece of yours to see how hot it is and make a judgement from there. Juice the lemon and measure out the wine.

2. Put a pan of water on to boil and liberally season with salt – apparently pasta should be cooked in water as salty as the Mediterranean Sea. Cook the pasta according to the instructions. Dried pasta will probably take about 10-12 minutes so get it on now. Fresh pasta will take 4-5 minutes and homemade pasta only 2 minutes, so wait until the sauce is nearly ready before cooking. 3. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the shallots for 2 minutes. 4. Add the garlic and red chilli and fry for a minute. 5. Increase the heat under the frying pan and add the seafood for 2-3 minutes until it starts to become opaque (fancy word for the seafood gaining colour and being less see-through) . 6. Add the wine and allow the alcohol to cook for 2 minutes. 7. Add the crème fraiche and bubble the sauce for 2-3 minutes. Note: this is the time to chuck your fresh pasta in the pot, if that’s what you’re using.

8. Finish the sauce with the lemon juice, parsley and season with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta and mix through the sauce.

Serve with a green salad, crusty bread and another large glass of chilled white wine.

When I was little, I remember it being such an exciting feeling to be allowed to stay up a bit late, join mum and dad at the table and taste some unusual new seafood or have a sip of wine. Now I’m allowed to decide my own bedtime, but it’s still just as lovely to relax lazily with the perfect combination of company, music, food and wine.

I guess that it comes with the territory of being an insane food-lover that most of my fondest memories tend to involve food in one way or another, and I’m sure there will be more to come on the blog. Do you have any particularly happy food-related memories? I’d love to hear them if you do.

Anyway, enough of these sentimental, and probably tedious, ramblings. Whatever you’re doing tonight, I wish you the most lovely of Friday nights…

brambles | The Proof of the Pudding


One of my first ever recipes on this blog was for a rhubarb crumble, spiced with star anise and vanilla and served with homemade custard. While rhubarb crumble is a celebration of spring, this recipe is the ultimate, turbo-charged celebration of autumn. I mentioned the combination in that first post about crumble: a mixture of apples, pears, plums and brambles. These fruits are the absolute joys of autumn produce and come in a wide variety throughout the season, so you can make this recipe slightly differently each time. Use blackberries instead of wild brambles (though picking wild brambles is another joy of autumn in itself), use eating apples instead of cooking apples, use whatever types of ripe plums you can find at the shops.

One ingredient I highly recommend making the effort to get hold of is a bag of damsons, which are tiny darkest-blue plums that have an incredible jammy texture when cooked. They’re also quite sour after cooking, which balances out all the sweetness in the rest of the crumble. They are difficult to find in supermarkets, but you should have better luck getting them at a greengrocer.

I wished I’d had ground almonds in the cupboard when I made the crumble topping, as I think almonds go so well with fruits like pears and plums. Add a few tablespoons to the mixture with the oats if you have some. This makes a very generous quantity of crumble topping, which freezes very well, so if you don’t end up using it all just pop the remainder in a labelled plastic bag and store in the freezer for another time.

One year ago:
– Meatloaf
– Stewed apples and plums

Ingredients (makes one very large crumble to feed a crowd) 150g cold unsalted butter 250g plain flour 75g soft light brown sugar 50g oats 1.5kg autumn fruit (approximately – I used 3 cooking apples, 3 pears, 8 greengages and 3-4 handfuls each of damsons and brambles)

2 tbsp granulated sugar

Toad in the hole with onion gravy | The Proof of the Pudding


Toad in the hole is one of those inexplicably odd British phrases and no one really knows where the name comes from. A lot of people think that it comes from the idea that the sausages look like frogs peaking up through the batter…..I know, weird. But there is not really any evidence for this, and there is not a consensus on the correct origin. In the end, who really cares about the name when basically it gives us an excuse to combine Yorkshire puddings and meat in one dish. That’s all that toad in the hole is: Yorkshire pudding batter poured over golden sausages (or traditionally just cheap cuts of meat). It’s easy and quick enough for a weekday dinner, but also a nice idea for Sunday dinner since you don’t have to make individual Yorkshire puddings, which can be a bit of a faff.

Use whatever sausages you like in this dish – flavoursome types with lots of herbs or spices will give a lot of extra flavour, but whatever you have in the house will work. Apple is the perfect accompaniment to pork and the chunks of apple in the batter soften during cooking to give bursts of soft, sweet flavour. And, of course, we couldn’t have toad in the hole without a rich onion gravy to smother over the top.

Ingredients (serves 3-4) 1 egg 100g flour 300ml milk 8 sausages 1 apple, cut into wedges

Vegetable oil

mango | The Proof of the Pudding


Happy New Year from Proof of the Pudding! Or is it bad form to wish you that when January is already nearly over? January can be a hard month, especially where I live as we know there are still a couple of months of dark mornings and evenings to get through, and if we’re to get a bad snow storm this year then it’s yet to come (EDIT: I spoke to soon, it seems this weekend is our first of the season). Sometimes you feel ready to jump into January with gusto: stocking up the cupboards, fridge and fruit bowl with healthy foods, pulling on your gym gear to work off that Christmas dinner and diving back into work at 9am on Monday morning, to-do list at the ready. But sometimes it takes a few sluggish days, or even weeks, to get back into a routine and not want to rush home every evening and immediately get your pyjamas on. However your January started, I hope it’s ending well. Let’s all look forward to February and longer days and Pancake Tuesday!

Now I’m not going to try and pretend that this is in any way a healthy recipe (see double cream and sugar), but it’s certainly refreshing and might be a welcome change from all that trifle and chocolate and Christmas pudding. This is also a satisfyingly straightforward ice-cream recipe which doesn’t require you to have an ice-cream maker (although if you do then by all means use it). The freeze-blend-freeze method ensures that the ice crystals are broken up and gives a smooth texture. Make sure you buy very ripe mangos for this recipe, for both texture and flavour. The squishier the better really. In particular, if you can find alphonso mangos these have an incredible, sweet flavour.

One year ago:
– Minestrone soup
– Courgette antipasto rolls

Ingredients 3 large ripe mangos (approximately 1kg) 300ml double cream 100g caster sugar ¼ tsp vanilla extract (optional)

50g frozen raspberries, defrosted

seafood | The Proof of the Pudding


Following on from the sangria recipe in my last blog post, I have another Spanish-themed recipe for you. This would actually be a perfect dish to serve with a big jug of chilled sangria, either by itself as a main course or alongside a feast of other tapas dishes like tortilla, calamari or patatas bravas.

This is a simple recipe, with ingredients that work together like a dream. The chorizo is salty and spicy, but doesn’t overpower the sweet prawns. The lemon and white wine (or, even better, sherry) add the acidity that the prawns need, and the parsley brings everything together. This dish is best made with raw, unpeeled prawns, but I couldn’t get my hands on any raw ones this time. Using cooked prawns is fine, but reduce the cooking time accordingly – add the prawns and alcohol at the same time, rather than waiting for the prawns to colour first. If you’re not on board with peeling your own prawns then feel free to use ready-peeled ones, but the shells add extra seafood flavour and there’s nothing better than an interactive dinner. Who doesn’t like to play with their food?

Ingredients (serves 1 as a generous main, or 2-3 as a starter or tapas dish) 150g chorizo 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 150g prawns with the shell on 1 small glass (about 150ml) of white wine or sherry 1 lemon

1 small bunch parsley, roughly chopped

Method 1. Slice the chorizo into small bite-sized chunks.

In our house, Friday night is fish night, and it has been for as long as I can remember. Friday mornings involve a trip to Eddie’s Seafood Market, an amazing fishmonger in Edinburgh which offers up a huge range of fresh seafood from crabs to monkfish to sole to scallops to cod roe to mussels to mackerel, and much, much more. Rick Stein named it as one of his Food Heroes, so take it from him if you won’t from me! Friday evenings start with the lights being dimmed and mum lighting the Shabbat candles. The melodious tones of Alanis Morissette or Joni Mitchell often float through the house. Sometimes things are a bit more upbeat and we’re going 70s style with Billy Joel, Elton John or David Bowie. There’s wine chilling in the fridge, fresh bread on the table with real butter to slather over it and a general feeling of contentment that the weekend is beginning.

So I guess this recipe is the first of my odes to glorious Friday nights. (We actually ate this dish on a Sunday. So sue me.) I made homemade tagliatelle, a recipe for which I will post soon, promise, but you could use bought fresh or dried pasta. I chose prawns and cute little baby scallops, but if you’re taking a trip to your local fishmonger, or even the supermarket, then don’t be restricted by that – go for whatever looks fresh. If you pick mussels or clams then I would clap a lid on top of the pan after the wine and cream goes in, until they have opened up. This feels like a truly indulgent pasta dish, but it’s actually not too rich. Crème fraiche is quite aciditic, plus the white wine and the lemon juice cuts through the creaminess of the sauce. The chilli adds a perfect hint of heat.

Ingredients (serves 3) 1 shallot Bunch of flat leaf parsley 3 cloves garlic 1 red chilli 1 lemon 1 small glass dry white wine, plus a large one for the chef 300g dried or fresh tagliatelle, or homemade pasta made with 300g flour and 3 eggs 1 tbsp olive oil 175g scallops 200g king prawns 2 heaped tbsp crème fraiche

Salt and pepper

Method 1. Finely chop the shallot and parsley and crush the garlic. Finely slice the chilli. I used about ¾ of the chilli, but you can test a small piece of yours to see how hot it is and make a judgement from there. Juice the lemon and measure out the wine.

2. Put a pan of water on to boil and liberally season with salt – apparently pasta should be cooked in water as salty as the Mediterranean Sea. Cook the pasta according to the instructions. Dried pasta will probably take about 10-12 minutes so get it on now. Fresh pasta will take 4-5 minutes and homemade pasta only 2 minutes, so wait until the sauce is nearly ready before cooking. 3. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the shallots for 2 minutes. 4. Add the garlic and red chilli and fry for a minute. 5. Increase the heat under the frying pan and add the seafood for 2-3 minutes until it starts to become opaque (fancy word for the seafood gaining colour and being less see-through) . 6. Add the wine and allow the alcohol to cook for 2 minutes. 7. Add the crème fraiche and bubble the sauce for 2-3 minutes. Note: this is the time to chuck your fresh pasta in the pot, if that’s what you’re using.

8. Finish the sauce with the lemon juice, parsley and season with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta and mix through the sauce.

Serve with a green salad, crusty bread and another large glass of chilled white wine.

When I was little, I remember it being such an exciting feeling to be allowed to stay up a bit late, join mum and dad at the table and taste some unusual new seafood or have a sip of wine. Now I’m allowed to decide my own bedtime, but it’s still just as lovely to relax lazily with the perfect combination of company, music, food and wine.

I guess that it comes with the territory of being an insane food-lover that most of my fondest memories tend to involve food in one way or another, and I’m sure there will be more to come on the blog. Do you have any particularly happy food-related memories? I’d love to hear them if you do.

Anyway, enough of these sentimental, and probably tedious, ramblings. Whatever you’re doing tonight, I wish you the most lovely of Friday nights…

The Easiest-Ever Loaf: Crusty no-knead white bread | The Proof of the Pudding


I have something special for you today. It is the easiest loaf of (yeasted) bread that you will ever make. I add the caveat in case anyone wants to argue about soda bread, but this is a pure loaf of yeasted, white bread: crusty on the outside, soft and springy on the inside, a satisfying open crumb and an incredible flavour. And all of this with no weighing (necessarily), no kneading (hallelujah) and just one prove. You might be in a state of disbelief right now, but I tell no lies. All you need is time, a cast iron pot and these most simple of ingredients…

I’ve seen this recipe in various places around the internet, but it’s originally a Le Creuset recipe. However, you don’t need a fancy Le Creuset pot in order to make this loaf, any cast iron pot with a lid will do. I first attempted this recipe in a wood-burning stove while we were on a “yurting” holiday. I’ll save you the trouble and recommend that you use a regular oven with a steady temperature.

As I said above, one thing you need to bake this bread is time, since the single prove required takes 10-12 hours. I find that it’s most convenient to mix up the dough in the evening or right before bed, and then the next morning it will be ready for baking, the hard work having been done overnight while you slept. One thing you definitely don’t need to bake this bread is a lot of money. No fancy flour is required, since the long prove is what helps give the bread its flavour, and the other ingredients are simply dried yeast, salt and water. Out of interest I calculated the cost of my loaf using the basic ingredients I bought in Sainsburys and it came out to a whopping…23 pence! For the pedantic out there, I even calculate the price including the (estimated) cost of running an oven for an hour and it comes to 58p. If you’re interested in the calculations, I’ve popped them at the bottom of this post.* I challenge you to find as good a loaf available to buy for as little money. So there are no excuses now: plan one night ahead, grab your flour and get baking!

Ingredients
(One of the beautifully easy features of this recipe is that you can use cups but I’ve converted to grams/ml for those who not have cup measurements or just prefer metric weighing) 3 cups (500g) plain white flour ½ tsp fast action dried yeast 1½ tsp salt

1½ cups (300ml) water

Easter | The Proof of the Pudding


I love an event or special occasion. Whether it is birthdays or anniversaries or Christmas or Halloween or Burns Night or even an election, I’ll take advantage of pretty much any excuse to do the two things I enjoy the most: planning and partying. I’m not even 100% sure which aspect I enjoy more given my obsession for lists and timetables and A PLAN, but there is nothing better than new decorations, nice drinks, great food, even better company and perhaps even a few days off. Even Valentine’s Day, which I will scorn for being an utterly commercialised “holiday”, gives us a (sometimes much-needed) excuse to make time for our other halves, even if it’s just the simple effort of lighting some candles and having a tasty dinner at home together. Anyway, the latest excuse for some planning and indulgence is Easter weekend.

I think Easter weekend is particularly appealing to me because it marks the change of the seasons from dark, cold winter to cheerful spring. The clocks are going forward, the days are getting longer, the daffodils and crocuses have opened up in all their beauty and the spring break is tantalisingly near. So, hot cross buns and a lamb leg have been bought, the flat is full of spring blooms, Easter eggs are hidden away until Sunday and a long walk has been planned to make the most of the bank holiday Monday. All we need now is for 5pm to arrive and the weekend to begin.

I actually made this particular pavlova for my mum’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, but I think it would be the perfect pudding for a big Easter Sunday roast dinner. This is a relatively straightforward recipe to make for a large crowd, the component parts can be made ahead and assembled at the last minute and most importantly it is totally delicious. The outside of the meringue should be completely dried out and crisp but the inside should be soft, almost cloud-like, in texture. The cool topping balances the sweet meringue, especially with the addition of yogurt to balance the richness of double cream which I think can be too much on its own sometimes, and the passionfruit and lemon add the final sharp bite to the dish. Finally, if you’re looking for something to do with your leftover egg yolks, treat yourself to some homemade garlic mayonnaise, perhaps as an accompaniment for a bank holiday brunch or dinner.

One year ago:
– The Easiest-Ever Loaf: Crusty no-knead white bread
– Vanilla espresso martini

Two years ago:
– Guacamole and zingy bean dip
– Mini lemon curd tarts

Ingredients (makes one large pavlova to serve 6-8 people) 4 medium egg whites 250g caster sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tsp corn flour 1 tsp white wine vinegar 250ml double cream 200g Greek yogurt

3 tbsp lemon curd (homemade is particularly good – find a recipe here)

3 passion fruit

Moroccan chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives | The Proof of the Pudding

Something strange happened to our chilli plant. It went on holiday to my parents’ house for two weeks (while we holidayed in France for two weeks), and while sunning itself in their conservatory our humble little green jalapeños turned red! We bought the plant early last summer and had a generous crop of mild, but delicious jalapeño peppers for months. It stopped flowering over winter, but came back with gusto this summer and we began to use the green chillies again. I don’t know if the plant needed time to mature, or if it was the intense sun and warmth of the conservatory, but either way we returned to a glamorous plant bejewelled with fiery red chillies…

We’ve used some of the red chillies in stir-fries and curries, or fried them with garlic and kale for a simple side dish, but we used the final one (for now) to flavour this gorgeous chicken tagine. This is an amalgamation of a few different tagine recipes, and is also inspired by a tagine I was served by friends and one we had in our riad in Marrakech last November. It combines sweet honey, sharp preserved lemons, hot chilli and salty olives with succulent chicken legs and, with the essential addition of ras el hanout (a North African blend of spices), feels like an exotic treat. It’s a great dish for serving a large group, but the chicken is also perfect as leftovers for lunch salads or sandwiches during the week. My favourite bit is the plentiful gravy that surrounds the chicken legs by the end of cooking, and in my opinion requires a great hunk of crusty bread for dipping.

pavlova | The Proof of the Pudding


I love an event or special occasion. Whether it is birthdays or anniversaries or Christmas or Halloween or Burns Night or even an election, I’ll take advantage of pretty much any excuse to do the two things I enjoy the most: planning and partying. I’m not even 100% sure which aspect I enjoy more given my obsession for lists and timetables and A PLAN, but there is nothing better than new decorations, nice drinks, great food, even better company and perhaps even a few days off. Even Valentine’s Day, which I will scorn for being an utterly commercialised “holiday”, gives us a (sometimes much-needed) excuse to make time for our other halves, even if it’s just the simple effort of lighting some candles and having a tasty dinner at home together. Anyway, the latest excuse for some planning and indulgence is Easter weekend.

I think Easter weekend is particularly appealing to me because it marks the change of the seasons from dark, cold winter to cheerful spring. The clocks are going forward, the days are getting longer, the daffodils and crocuses have opened up in all their beauty and the spring break is tantalisingly near. So, hot cross buns and a lamb leg have been bought, the flat is full of spring blooms, Easter eggs are hidden away until Sunday and a long walk has been planned to make the most of the bank holiday Monday. All we need now is for 5pm to arrive and the weekend to begin.

I actually made this particular pavlova for my mum’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, but I think it would be the perfect pudding for a big Easter Sunday roast dinner. This is a relatively straightforward recipe to make for a large crowd, the component parts can be made ahead and assembled at the last minute and most importantly it is totally delicious. The outside of the meringue should be completely dried out and crisp but the inside should be soft, almost cloud-like, in texture. The cool topping balances the sweet meringue, especially with the addition of yogurt to balance the richness of double cream which I think can be too much on its own sometimes, and the passionfruit and lemon add the final sharp bite to the dish. Finally, if you’re looking for something to do with your leftover egg yolks, treat yourself to some homemade garlic mayonnaise, perhaps as an accompaniment for a bank holiday brunch or dinner.

One year ago:
– The Easiest-Ever Loaf: Crusty no-knead white bread
– Vanilla espresso martini

Two years ago:
– Guacamole and zingy bean dip
– Mini lemon curd tarts

Ingredients (makes one large pavlova to serve 6-8 people) 4 medium egg whites 250g caster sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tsp corn flour 1 tsp white wine vinegar 250ml double cream 200g Greek yogurt

3 tbsp lemon curd (homemade is particularly good – find a recipe here)

3 passion fruit