Tuesday 29 December 2009

The Rest

I often prefer all the food around the main event of Christmas; cold cuts, our family tradition of Gravadlax, pork pie, cheeses... this year I still loved it, though the main event was as good.

Christmas Eve dinner of foie gras with duck breast, plum and star anise sauce. Yes, that was one portion...

Christmas morning - scrambled eggs with truffles on toast

My home-made pork pie

Spaghetti with mushrooms and truffles

Boxing Day ham

Bubble & squeak

I hope you had an enjoyable holiday eating to your heart's content. A happy new year to you all!

Full Flickr set of Christmas indulgence is here.

Monday 28 December 2009

No Turkeys Here

We don't have turkey for Christmas; haven't done for years now. It's not a bird we enjoy eating, so we did away with it. In the past we had duck, goose and venison so this year we decided to do a classic; Beef Wellington.

I used the recipe on this blog, a Gordon Ramsey one which I tested for Olive. The mushroom mixture was studded with raw duck foie gras, for some festive cheer. Considering I cooked it alone with only gin for company, it worked out really well - perfectly rare and ridiculously rich. No dry turkey meat to struggle through in sight.

Making the rough puff pastry. It's a faff, but worth making your own

Mushroom mixture with duck foie gras

Herb crepes

Beef fillet, seared and brushed with mustard

Assembly - crepes, then Parma ham

Mushroom mixture added

Some skillful rolling

Out of the oven

Served with a rather scarily vibrant red wine sauce

Saturday 26 December 2009

A Pork Pie (or Three)

This year for Christmas, instead of presents, my family set the task of buying a food present worth the value of £10 that we could all enjoy (which rules out cheese and booze - my sister and mum are strange beings). I racked my brains for a while, and then came up with the perfect solution. Pork. Pies. There is no such thing as Christmas without them.

I'd first seen Josh's entry for these over a year ago and had book marked them to try, but of course never got round to it. With a combination of his and Just Cook It's recipe, I devised my own. A day was booked off work - this is a lengthy process and the weekend was too far away - and I set to work.

First thing's first, the jelly that surrounds the meat and the pastry needed to be made. Two pigs trotters, cleaved in half, went into a litre of chicken stock with bay leaves, black peppercorns, carrots, onion and celery. You want to simmer this for three hours, then strain it, and reduce it to 300mls.

The Pastry:

100gr lard
100gr butter
550gr plain flour
150mls water
1.5 tsp salt
2 eggs, plus one for glazing

Melt the lard and the butter in a saucepan but don't boil it. Add the salt to the flour, then break the eggs in and mix the water and fat. Mix until you have a smooth ball, wrap in cling film and chill for an hour.

The Meat:

375gr pork shoulder
375gr belly pork
2 rashers of smoked back bacon
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Chop the meat into small chunks. I couldn't be bothered to chop it any more finely, so I had quite coarse meat which I liked. In a mixing bowl, add the nutmeg, chopped sage, thyme, peppers and some salt. Mix together well, and take a teaspoonful and fry it, to check the seasoning. Food can taste a bit more bland when cold so be generous with the salt.

To make the pastry, pat into a rectagular shape and then cut in half. Then cut a third off each half to reserve for the lids. Using a well floured jar, shape the pies around the outside of the jar (I used a Branston Pickle jar). Ease the jar out and then fill with the meat mixture. Roll the lid out to fit the top of the pie and cut a hole out of the centre. Crimp the lid onto the pie.

I wanted to make a mini pie as well which is why I have three, but this amount should make two large pies. Glaze the pies with the remaining egg, and place in a preheated oven on 180 degrees for 30 minutes, then turn it down to 160 for 20 minutes.

Take the pies out and leave to cool a little. Stick a small funnel in the hole of the top and pour (VERY carefully) the trotter stock into the pie. Be slow about it as it takes some time to get in there. Leave to cool, and refridgerate overnight before eating with copious pickles and mustard.

There's a few things I learnt from this pie adventure. Firstly - make absolutely sure you've crimped your lids on properly. After a warning from someone on Twitter, I thought I had made sure the lids were well sealed. Not so. As such, I had to make up a water / flour solution to plug the seams with to stop the jelly stock from dribbling out, and then pick the seam off. It worked, but it was a faff. Also, don't try and roll the lid too thinly, or it will crack right down the middle (but still taste good). Otherwise, these were perfect.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

A Festive Salad

Yes that's right - more aubergine! I can't help it, as soon as I see a recipe for them it has to be made. This one, again from Ottolenghi was so pretty in the book and it actually translated to plate, which doesn't happen with all cookbooks.

The dish was a great example of contrasting textures. Soft, silky aubergines were contrasted with the sweet tang of the bursting pomegranate seeds. The saffron yoghurt, lighter in colour than in the book, had a garlicky kick and moistened the components. Fresh basil leaves with their grassy, aniseed flavour were well judged. I loved the yoghurt so much it was difficult not to eat it out of the bowl with a spoon. I imagine it would go really well with our annual Boxing Day bubble and squeak breakfast.

Roasted Aubergine with Saffron Yoghurt

Adapted from Ottolenghi - serves 4

3 medium aubergines, sliced into wedges
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1 pomegranate, seeds removed
15 basil leaves
A small pinch of saffron strands
3 tbsp hot water
180gr Greek yoghurt
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Add the 3 tbsp hot water to the saffron strands in a bowl and leave for 10 minutes. Mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, the garlic clove crushed and the yoghurt. Taste and add salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Brush the aubergines liberally with oil, salt and pepper them and roast for 20 - 30 minutes, until browned and cooked through. Let them cool to room temperature.

Assemble the salad by arranging the slices on a serving plate. Drizzle over the yoghurt and scatter over the pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, and basil leaves.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Chicken & Mograbieh Soup

Another great thing about roasting a chicken is all the peripheral bits you get from it. The carcass, stripped of all it's meat simmers in a pot of water with some flavourings to create the perfect soup base or stock. Any leftover meat (usually the breast in our house) makes a good sandwich or pie filler, but this time I decided it was to go back in the soup.

One day when I was exploring my neighbouring Peckham, I chanced upon a bag of moghrabieh. It's a giant couscous from the Middle East and I grabbed it immediately. Of course, it was soon forgotten about when I couldn't think of something to do with it immediately. However, while my stock was simmering and I was looking through my over-stuffed cupboard of pastas, lentils and pulses, it sprang back to mind.

A few (of what I think are) Middle Eastern flavours created this light yet warming soup. Broth-like in base, the moghrabieh rolled around the mouth pleasingly and gave the soup body and texture. A spicy roasted red pepper relish added colour and vibrancy and the iron-rich spring greens gave it an almost Christmassy look.

Chicken & Mograbieh Soup

Serves 2

1 chicken carcass
1 carrot
1 onion, halved
1 stalk of celery (or 1lt of good chicken stock instead of the above 4 ingredients)
3 green cardamom pods
4 cloves
1 stick of cinnamon
A pinch of saffron
100gr moghrabieh (you can buy this in Turkish shops)
A large handful of cooked chicken meat
A handful of wintry greens, shredded

For the roasted red pepper relish:

2 red peppers
1 clove garlic
1 spring onion
20gr parsley
2 red chillis
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp dry breadcrumbs

Place the chicken carcass in a large stock pot with the carrot, celery, onion, cinnamon, and cloves. Bash the cardamom with the side of your knife and add it in. Simmer for at least 3 hours and strain. Alternatively, simmer the spices in some good-quality chicken stock for half an hour. Halve the red peppers and rub with oil. Place under a high grill and cook until blistered and blackened. Place in a bowl and cover with cling film, leave for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put a pan of water on to boil. Add the moghrabieh and simmer for 15 - 30 minutes - most recipes on the web say 20 mins but I found mine took more like 40, so keep trying it. When tender, drain and rinse with cold water.

Peel the skin off the peppers and chop finely. Place in a sieve for the water to drain out. Chop the parsley, chillis, garlic and spring onion. Place in a food processor or a pestle and mortar and pound to a paste with the salt. Add the red pepper and lemon juice and carry on pestling. Finally, add the bread crumbs and stir well.

To serve, boil the greens briefly in a little water. Add the moghrabieh to the sieved hot stock and simmer for a minute. Ladle into deep bowls, top with the chicken and the greens, and finally garnish with the roasted red pepper relish.

So, what else can I do with moghrabieh (and how to pronounce it)? Please share any favourite recipes you have.

Sunday 20 December 2009

New Cross Restaurant Crawl

Our Restaurant Crawl series, whereby we have a starter in on restaurant, a main in another, and finally a dessert somewhere else was devised one evening, probably in a pub. Dreamt up by Browners, we started off in Peckham, hosted by Food Stories. The next leg - the heady lights of New Cross, where I live.

We kick off with The Ginger Gourmand:

What better way to start a day of eating than with a dim sum breakfast?! The middle of the busy New Cross Road seems a rather odd place to find Hong Kong City so I wasn't sure what to expect (and neither, as it turns out, was Lizzie - a great wild card to kick start the day!). Although the service was friendly and prompt we were seated at the only table which was set with western cutlery rather than chopsticks. More than a little presumptuous on the waiter's part that we wouldn't want to (or couldn't?) eat with chopsticks and bordering on the rude when we had to ask for them a couple of times. A shame really, as the dim sum were pretty good.

First up was a Vietnamese Salad (a nod to the Vietnamese influence in Hong Kong City's menu) - a simple, yet colourful plate of lightly pickled carrot, cucumber, radish, red pepper garnished with coriander, mint and peanuts which counter balanced the richness of the more traditional dim sum quite well. Next was Helen's choice of Fried Dough Stick Cheung Fun. I'd never had this dish before, but Helen seemed fairly excited about so I couldn't wait to give it a whirl. It's unusual (not in a bad way). But it didn't really set my world on fire! It was all about the textures - biting through soft glutinous rice noodles before crunching on the crispy fried dough stick. Har Gau (steamed prawn dumplings) are a must on any visit for dim sum and I was somehow lucky enough to snaffle two of these little beauties with their translucent steamed skins and good textured prawns. Finally the dish which was probably my favourite of the day was the Deep Fried Cuttlefish Cakes. For some reason I expected them to be quite heavy and chewy. How wrong could I be?! These were the lightest little 'fish' cakes I've ever eaten and packed with the earthy flavours of the cuttlefish, which almost melted in your mouth. I would go back to order these alone.

' take on the dim sum:

I arrived at an almost deserted Hong Kong City on New Cross Road having braved hoards of crack heads and mid morning piss heads having forgotten to wear a stab proof vest. I was almost disappointed that I sat down with the gang without even us much as a knife wound. Lizzie did the honours and ordered us an array of dim sum ranging from the expected to the more obscure. All of which were delicious. But then again, I was so pickled that even a moldy Shreddie would have tasted like nectar.

Taro croquettes with minced meat were like miniature quails’ nest. The delicate fried outer coating crunched and crackled like a particularly loud rice crispy. And the middle was filled with a globule of minced meat. I loved the fact they were served in paper cupcake shells. But also got a bit confused because in my hung-over state I wasn’t sure whether what I was about to eat were going to be sweet delicacies or savoury delights.

Grilled pork dumplings were cunningly divided by Lizzie using the tail end of my chopsticks. Their singed brown shells encased a generous stuffing of dense, juicy pork. Given that I was craving sausages, they came pretty close to satisfying my porcine addiction.

I was a bit worried that curried baby octopus might be a bit of a challenge first thing on a blurry Saturday morning. But it turns out that they are the ultimate cure for bad heads. You have to concentrate so hard on picking them up that your brain doesn’t get a chance to scream at you. Lizzie commented that this is the one occasion that she ever gives Chinese curry sauce the thumbs up.

Prawn & chive dumplings were a success. They weren’t the most exciting in the world in comparison to some of the more interesting dishes we had, but they didn’t let themselves down at all.

Hong Kong City on Urbanspoon

Gin & Crumpets: As a misanthropic alcoholic, an old man's boozer is my natural habitat. So it was with joy in my withered heart and liver that I followed the other restaurant crawlers to The White Hart.

It wasn't Hollow Legs' first choice of boozer. That had been The Montague Arms, a brick-a-brack pub that welcomes coach parties and has a cult following among Goldsmith's irony-rich, penny poor students. But, being a students pub, it was shut (no respectable art student is out of bed at midday). Until a few month's ago The White Hart was no ordinary boozer. It was a Gentlemen's Club, where local dandies could come and admire naked ladies with a pint of beer in one hand and a packet of pork scratchings in the other (important to keep their hands busy). Unluckily for the landlord, New Cross is a neighbourhood with high moral standards and he was forced to put the poles away. Consequently, it is the only old man's boozer I've been to that has a small stage in the front bar and a mirrored dance floor out the back. The ladies loos are also pristine.

Otherwise, it is like every other dying old pub. Thick curtains, dust and a few working lights keep it gloomy. Pie and mash is available for £3.75, mass produced lagers are on tap and behind the bar there's a glass cabinet displaying crisps and peanuts. Remembering Dad's wise words ('They can't interfere with the bottles.') I ordered a bottle of Becks. We also had pints which all looked clear and gassy and suggested that someone is looking after the cellar properly. If you're looking for a pint in a dark, empty pub, you won't do better that The White Hart.

Cheese & Biscuits - I have often wondered about Ocakbasi restaurants, considering each has its own bread oven which they seem perfectly willing and able to use, why is the bread always so disappointing? I've been to a handful of pretty authentic-looking Turkish grills and sampled any number of pides and house breads and never been impressed. I know its primary role is a vehicle for shovelling hummus or minced meat into your face but fresh bread baked on the premises has the potential to be a destination in itself, not just a throwaway gimmick. Which is why Meze Mangal is special. Their house bread is thick and fluffy, boasting a delicate brown crust and a splendid soft dough. It's head and shoulders above any other Ocakbasi bread I've tried and is almost worth a visit alone. Fortunately, the other dishes managed to impress just as much. A selection of cold mezze, including hummus, preserved vine leaves and rice, and a shocking pink taramasalata was admittedly nothing more than you would expect but nevertheless very well presented and all perfectly fresh.

A very deft hand was on display at the grill. Chicken wings were moist and nicely charred, a kofte kebab was spicy and juicy and lamb chops were tender. The slightly larger cut which came as part of the mixed grill was perfectly pink in the middle, rather than four smaller examples which came as a separate order, which weren't. But they still went down well.

The place was packed to the rafters on a miserable rainy Saturday afternoon, and you can easily see why. Friendly, cheap and authentic, it was a lovely spot to fill our stomachs before eventually rolling on. It's certainly worth a special journey, which is just as well for them, as it's in the middle of bloody nowhere - handily equidistant between New Cross, Brockley and somewhere called St John which I'm not even sure is a real place. But take it from me, you'll be glad you made the effort to find it.

Meze Mangal on Urbanspoon

Food Stories: Our bellies fit to burst with dim sum, grilled meats and beer, there was only one thing for it: more food and more pub. We staggered towards the twinkly lights of The Royal Albert and were swiftly absorbed into its warm, glowing, festive arms, nestling ourselves in amongst stacks of board games and granny lampshades. The pub, arguably one of the best (and cosiest) in New Cross, seemed like the perfect place to mark the end of our crawl and test the limits of our distended bellies. Unfortunately, The Royal Albert, despite offering a menu brimming with starters and mains, doesn’t do desserts. “B52’s all round then?” someone suggested. I pondered the last time I’d even heard of a B52, let alone drunk one, and came to the conclusion that it was not in this century. It was the closest to ice cream I was going to get though dammit and, credit to the concoction, it slipped down easily; a sweet, creamy fun bomb. I licked my lips and fancied myself ten years younger.

Tuesday 15 December 2009

The Giaconda Dining Room

Sometimes I can be a bad friend. You know, the unreliable type. "Yes, let's definitely go for dinner", said I, earlier that week. A client lunch got in the way and I ended up boozing in the most excellent bar at Hix, and I dragged my poor friend there to join me. We both went home, pissed and hungry.

Luckily my friend gave me another chance and we rebooked our dinner at Giaconda Dining Room. Nestled among guitar shops, I knew already that it was a small place with only 32 covers, but I was still surprised when I walked in. The place is tiny; tables are close together and I was worried I'd be too loud.

For a £1 cover charge, we were brought some decent, crusty bread and some standard olives. As we perused the menu, I found it really difficult to decide what to choose, which is pretty standard for me. I contemplated having a raw, beefy meal with the carpaccio to start and the steak tartare for main, but it was a cold night and I needed something a little more nourishing.

The ceviche of salmon and seabass was buried under a mound of thinly sliced fennel, cucumber and chives. Dressed with lime and the merest hint of chilli, the fish was fresh and firm. The fennel was surprisingly tame in it's aniseed flavour and worked well with the cucumber. It was a refreshing start to the meal and left me wanting more.

My companion wrinkled his nose when I announced I would be having the braised tripe with chorizo and butter beans (top). It came in an earthenware dish with a comedy large spoon; the tripe was slippery with a bit of bite, and well flavoured by the chorizo and paprika. Butter beans bulked the dish out and added creaminess. The dish was the perfect size and was homely.

We decided to share a dessert of Crème Brulée as we were both verging on full. The top was perfectly crisp, not too thick and was pleasing when you cracked your spoon into it. The custard beneath was rich and orange flavoured. I wondered if I would finish my half but on first taste, I wolfed it up.

Service was sweet and unobtrusive. When we left I realised we'd been there for three hours, which is a fair bit longer than I'd usually spend on a weeknight dinner. I never felt I was being rushed, even when people were turned away as the restaurant was full. It might be testament to the excellent company, but it flew by.

All in all, good solid cooking. The menu has quite a few options I'd like to try out, so I will definitely be back. At £35 a head including service and wine, it's great value for this part of town.

The Giaconda Dining Room

9 Denmark Street
London WC2H 8LS

Tel: 0207 240 3334

Giaconda Dining Room on Urbanspoon

Monday 14 December 2009

Leek & Celeriac Gratin

A recent trip to Lisbon reignited my love for roasted chicken. I often find that it is my least favourite of the meats, but there we had a meal of rotisserie chicken, brushed liberally with piri piri, served simply with some chips and some flabby salad. It was one of the best meals I had there. Ripping apart hunks of juicy flesh, I managed to scoff three quarters of the crisp-skinned beauty before I declared myself stuffed.

Last Sunday, peering out of the smudged window of the bus delivering me back to South East London, I wasn't feeling well at all. A Christmas cocktail of mulled wine, gin and some bad dancing rendered me forlorn and nauseous in the aftermath. I could only think of comfort; something chickeny, something decadently creamy, and a dinner was born. Earthy celeriac baked in leek-scented garlicky cream accompanied our roast that night. It made for a rather brown plate of food, but nevertheless, it was the perfect cure.

The creamy base of the gratin means that you don't need a gravy, but don't waste those gorgeous, marmitey meat juices. Strain the fat off, keep it warm, and dump some freshly boiled halved new potatoes in there. The potatoes suck the juices right up, and it imparts a chickeny flavour that is second to none.

Leek & Celeriac Gratin

Serves 4 frugally, or 3 generously

1/2 a celeriac
2 leeks
1 fat clove of garlic
300mls double cream
150 mls milk
A scraping of nutmeg
Salt & pepper
A handful of chopped flatleaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Chop the leeks finely and wash thoroughly. In a small non-stick frying pan, fry the leeks in a little oil slowly, until they are softened and add the clove of garlic, crushed. Fry until the moisture has evaporated. Meanwhile, peel the celeriac and slice to the thickness of a pound coin. Add the cream and milk to the leeks with the nutmeg and bring to the boil.

In an appropriate dish (I used a 24cm oval Le Creuset) lay the first layer of celeriac and season with salt and pepper. Add the leeks in the cream to make a layer, then repeat with the celeriac, seasoning as you go. Add the leek cream mixture in alternate layers until you run out of celeriac. The milk and cream should cover the top of the celeriac but if it doesn't, top up with some milk. Cover with foil and place in the oven, baking for half an hour. Take the foil off, turn it down to 160 degrees C and bake for another half hour. At this point you could sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and cheese, but to be honest it's pretty rich as it is. Stand for a good 10 minutes before sprinkling with the parsley and serving.

This kind of dish is perfect with roasted meats; the oven is on anyway, and it can be finished off when the meat is resting.

Saturday 12 December 2009


A friend alerted me to what looked like a brilliant lunch deal at Roussillon, a Michelin-starred French restaurant in the depths of Sloane Square. For £35, they were offering a 3 course lunch inclusive of half a bottle of wine. I booked the day off work and we booked a table.

When I arrived, my friend was already seated. A quick glance around the light and airy dining room showed the restaurant was populated by mainly businessmen, unsurprising for the area. Having looked at the menu, we were tempted to go for the vegetarian option as Roussillon is said to be famous for doing vegetables well, but we eventually came to our senses and ordered meaty courses. A little plate of amuses arrived - hot sticks made with chickpea mash to dip in mustard, and little pink slivers of pork atop a cube of pear. A slate plate of butter arrived - the salted had a pretty line of pink Himilayan salt across it to denote the difference. Bread rolls were plentiful, though fumbled by a lack of the server's dexterity with a fork and spoon but were fresh, warm and delicious.

The next amuse bouche arrived, and when it was placed before us I glanced at my friend; he looked aghast. For one panicked second we thought these were our starters, which while pretty, were miniscule. Perfectly roasted sea bream atop a sweet, creamy parsnip puree, ofset by the hint of iron of the winter greens. So far, so good.

For my proper starter, a vol au vent of veal sweetbreads, turnips and morels were moistened by the beef jus. The pastry was light and buttery. The sweetbreads were pillow-like, while the morels added earthiness and texture.

My main was far more impressive. Roasted Highland venison was perfectly cooked; ruby red with just a millimetre of brown around the edges. It was pungent, gamey and cut like butter. Wild mushrooms completed the autumnal theme, while celeriac was refreshing and soaked up the juices well. I loved this dish and could have eaten it twice.

A pre-dessert of an exotic fruit tuile, vanilla-flecked custard, coconut and blackberry paved the way for the desserts. The tuile was brittle and tasted of mangoes and pineapple, the coconut bringing it all together. It also cleansed the palate and made way for the final course.

I chose the fresh pineapple roll with green tea ice cream. The ice cream was well made without a hint of bitterness that green tea-flavoured ice creams can be. I wasn't sure how well it went with the pineapple roll, which had a great balance of acidity and sweetness. It was crunchy and a light end to the meal. The restaurant were kind enough to allow my friend to have their famous Louis XV - Croustillant de Praline dessert from their a la carte menu for no extra charge.

Alexis Gauthier, the head chef, apparently trained at Louis XV in Monte Carlo, where he learned this recipe. It was a thing of great beauty, which my photo doesn't really do justice of. It was so glossy you could almost see your reflection in it, and the gold leaf was a pretty touch. I had a taste of it and it was fantastic; the ganache encased a cold chocolate cream, which sat on a base of biscuit and praline. "Well, it's... nice" my friend commented of my dessert after having tried his own, which led to a fit of tear-inducing laughter. The pitiful pineapple roll stood no chance and it paled in comparison.

Petit fours were a bit uninspiring, though I rather liked the coffee marshmallow. Roussillon must have one of the best lunch deals around; we shared a half bottle of white wine and half a red, which complemented our courses well. Other places I've tried had only two or three choices on the menu, all far less appealing than the a la carte but it wasn't the case at Roussillon; it felt like rather than berudgingly having a cheaper set menu, they relished it. Along with not one but two amuses and a pre-dessert, it makes the £40 each including service an absolute bargain.

A note on the service. I had a niggling doubt about it when the head waiter commented that my friend was "running around like he owned the place" just because he stepped outside to take an important phone call. Though in a light-hearted tone, it seemed a bit of a strange thing to say; it was a Friday lunchtime, and better than taking the call mid-meal in the restaurant. My niggles were compounded when I realised the sommelier refused to even look at me when explaining the wine; he steadfastly spoke only to my friend, and then had him taste both wines. I know it's very formal French service, but I am a bit of a feminist and a bit of recognition, or even a glance in my direction would have been appreciated. It is the 21st century, after all.

Full Flickr set here.


16 St Barnabas Street
London SW1W 8PB

Tel: 0207 730 5550

Roussillon on Urbanspoon

Wednesday 9 December 2009


One thing I look forward to most at the weekend is breakfast, or rather, brunch options. A nice lie-in and a potter around the kitchen is a luxury most of us can't afford on weekdays, not when you like to sleep as much as I do. Some people might express distaste at eating anything remotely spicy or heavily spiced so early, but I rather like it - it wakes you up a bit.

Kedgeree is something I've been meaning to make for a while; I'd never pass up an excuse to eat rice for breakfast. It is said to have been derived from the Indian dish, Kitchuri, dating back from the days of the Raj. Back then, breakfasts were far grander affairs - no sad little bowls of muesli, nor cardboard-like pieces of toast munched solitarily at your desk. Instead, fish caught that morning was often used since it was so hot in India, it would turn bad by evening. Ingredients like egg were added to cater to British tastes.

The subtle spicing coats each grain, with a delicate, smoky flavour of the fish in the background. Traditionally the dish is made with hard boiled eggs to garnish, but I prefer a soft-boiled. Cutting into the egg, the yolk seeps nicely into the rice, enriching the grains already glossy with butter. A scattering of parsley freshens it up some.


Serves 2

180gr basmati rice
1 large undyed smoked haddock fillet
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 level tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
A pinch of chilli powder
1 small onion, diced
50gr butter
300ml milk
1 bay leaf
A handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
Half a lemon
2 eggs
Salt & pepper

In a saucepan or large frying pan with a lid, place the fish and bay leaf and add the milk, which should cover it. Bring to the boil and then immediately take off the heat, leaving the fish in the milk. In a non-stick frying pan, add half the butter. Once it's foaming, add the onion and fry slowly until translucent and soft. Add the spices, stir well and then add the rice with plenty of black pepper. Lift the fish & bay leaf out of the milk. Reserve half the milk, diluting it with enough water to cook the rice, and add to the pan. At this point I transfer it all the the rice cooker, but if you don't have one, just carry on cooking your rice in the pan as you normally do. Flake the fish and set to one side.

While the rice is cooking, place the eggs in a small saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. As soon as the water boils, take the eggs out and plunge in cold water. Add the flaked fish and the remaining butter to the rice, stirring carefully. Add the parsley and peel the eggs, which should be soft-boiled, and place on top. Season, and garnish with a quarter wedge of lemon.