Salamagundi, Born On Monday

I thought I was all done with Port Eliot inspired dishes but I’ve actually got at least two more. Today’s is a much simpler version of the absolutely enormous salamagundi I saw Jeremy Lee make whilst he chatted to Rachel Cook.

A salamagundi is basically a giant salad and is as much fun to eat as it is to say. The dish originated in early 17th century England and was made with a variety of meats, fishes, fruits and vegetables.


Lee had all sorts of things in his: chicken, pigeon, anchovies, soft boiled eggs, broad beans, peas, a vast array of leaves and herbs, cherries, peaches, tomatoes, carrots, broad beans, fennel, beetroot… Enough that every mouthful would have been different. It was vast and beautiful and the perfect thing to feed a crowd on a lazy summer lunchtime.

jeremy lee

Mine is more minimalist. But, like Lee’s, it is all about the contrasts: salty samphire and sweet cherries, plump chicken and crunchy vegetables, warm gravy and cool greens.

(This uses only half the chicken, leaving you with the rest for another day. If you want to eat the whole thing then double the quantities of the other ingredients and consider adding one or two of the optional extras mentioned at the end.)


Summer Salamagundi with Chicken, Cherries and Samphire (serves 4 as a light lunch)


  • 1 small free-range chicken

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 little gem lettuces
  • handful rocket
  • 100g samphire
  • 150g cherries
  • several sprigs of fresh mint
  • sherry vinegar
  • pinch sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Massage the olive oil and butter into the chicken’s skin and season generously with salt and pepper. Pierce the lemon a few times with the tip of a sharp knife and put it inside the cavity. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes per 500g plus and extra 20 minutes.
  2. While it is cooking, prepare the other ingredients. Wash the samphire and check it over, removing any woody stems. Boil it for two minutes then drain and leave to cool. Stone the cherries and cut them in half. Separate the lettuces into individual leaves and shred the hearts.
  3. When the chicken is done remove it from the oven and leave to cool. When it’s comfortable to handle, remove and discard the lemon. Hold the bird vertically so all the cooking juices run into the roasting tin then remove it to a plate and pick all the meat from the bones (keep them for stock).
  4. Arrange the lettuce leaves on a large serving platter. Top with the rocket and samphire, then the chicken and cherries.
  5. Add a splash of sherry vinegar to the pan juices - taste carefully as obviously the amount needed will depend on how generous the juices are. Warm the mixture slightly, scraping to make sure all the sticky bits from the tin are incorporated. You don’t want it to be piping hot, just warm enough to melt any gelatinous, stocky bits and take the sting out of the vinegar.
  6. Pour the gravy/dressing over the salad just before serving and sprinkle on the mint.

Ifs And Ands

  • Peaches or nectarines would be good here instead of the cherries.
  • Mackerel or another oily fish would work instead of chicken.
  • Play with different herbs such as basil or dill and different leaves. A old-fashioned butter lettuce would give the dish a nostalgic feel.
  • Bring in even more textural contrast with some sliced boiled eggs (hard or soft, as you prefer) or crumbled goat or sheep cheese. Maybe some capers for little pops of acid.

Port Eliot 3 - Fish Tacos - Not To Be Confused With "Fishtachios"

The most delicious thing I ate at the Port Eliot Festival was a fish taco from the stall run by the people from the Rum & Crab Shack in St Ives. I also enjoyed their Crab Burger but the taco just pipped it. I don't like saying the words "fish taco" as it always makes me think of that episode of friends where Monica is creating Thanksgiving recipes with "Mockolate", the "completely synthetic chocolate substitute." When it's FDA approval is denied she is asked to work on "Fishtachios" which "taste exactly like pistachios, but they're made primarily of reconstituted fish bits." 


But I got over that and uttered the phrase and I'm glad I did. The taco contained a chilli-spiced mackerel fillet and a generous pile of white crab meat along with a slick of something guacamole-ish, fresh coriander and thinly sliced spring onion. A little messy to eat but in a good way and ridiculously fresh and zingy.

So naturally I stole the idea and tried to recreate it at home. I left out the crab as it’s pricey but would add it back in if I was doing them for company. And, instead of the spring onions, I made some pink pickled ones like you get at Wahaca. (The Cool Chile recipe was helpful here.)

fish taco

Fish Tacos (makes 2)


  • 2 mackerel fillets
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1tsp chilli flakes

For the guacamole

  • ½ avocado
  • Lime wedge
  • pinch salt

Pink Pickled Onions

  • 1 red onion
  • 50mls cider vinegar
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes

To serve

  • 2 tortillas (wheat or corn depending on your preference - I think corn has a bit more flavour)
  • Lime wedges
  • Handful fresh coriander


  1. First make the pink pickles. Thinly slice a red onion into half moons and put them in a small bowl with the vinegar, salt, sugar and chilli flakes. Top up with water until the onion slices are just covered and leave for four hours by which time they should be a charming shade of pink and have a decent amount of heat and bite. Drain and put to one side.
  2. Then put the avocado in a food processor with a generous pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime and whizz it to a smoothish puree.
  3. Warm your tortillas according to packet instructions.
  4. Put a frying pan on a medium high heat and add the oil. Sprinkle the skin side of the mackerel fillets with chilli flakes and salt. Lay them (skin side down) in the pan and cook until most of the fillet has become opaque (about four minutes). Then flip to cook the other side for another couple of minutes.
  5. Spread half the avocado mixture on each tortilla. Lay a mackerel fillet over it. Sprinkle with salt and grind on some pepper. Add half a handful of coarsely chopped coriander leaves to each and a few pickles. Serve with a lime wedge on the side and maybe a green salad for a light lunch.

Ifs And Ands

  • The white crab meat of the original really did make the taco something special. Worth giving it a go if you come across some. 
  • Or try replacing the mackerel with salmon fillet, medium rare tuna steak or even a nice crispy fish finger.
  • Leftover pink pickled onions are great in cheese sandwiches.
  • If you don’t fancy the pink pickles you could go back to the Rum & Cracb Shack’s spring onions. Or a spoonful of those sliced, pickled jalapenos you can get in supermarkets would be nice too.
  • Push the whole thing in a slightly Middle Eastern direction by using babaghanoush instead of avocado and pomegranate seeds in place of the pickles.


Port Eliot 2 - Bringing The A-Game

Hello there. Welcome to the second of this week’s Port Eliot-inspired recipes.

There were plenty of stalls at the festival selling tasty-looking things, but I had my eye on Got Game right from the beginning. We ate their “Duke” burger on Saturday whilst sheltering from a short-lived shower and it was delicious. This is my attempt at a recreation.

venison burger

The Got Game menu description is as follows: “Wild Cornish venison burger, fresh spiced pear, goats cheese, rocket, brioche.”

I used quince instead of pear. It’s a fairly classic pairing for venison but I really only changed things because I bought rather too many of them the other day. They’re lying around on my kitchen table being all fragrant and everything but also going a bit brown so need using up. 

My burgers were made from venison steaks that I “minced” by whacking repeatedly with a massive knife then slicing finely. But if you could find ready-minced stuff I’m sure it would be lovely and save you a job.

Venison is very lean meat so I added a bit of streaky bacon to up the fat content and keep it juicy. I also put a little bit of mayonnaise on the bun, along with a dab of some truffle “pesto” I had in the fridge - a two-for-one moisture/indulgence combo I was pretty pleased with.

Serving suggestion....

Serving suggestion....

I do not know what this is but it was pretty.

I do not know what this is but it was pretty.

Venison Burgers With Goats Cheese, Quince and Rocket (makes 2)


  • 200g venison steak
  • 4 rashers streaky bacon

For the Quince

  • 1 quince
  • 2tsp sugar
  • 1tbsp cider vinegar
  • ½tsp Dijon mustard
  • pinch chilli flakes

To Serve

  • 2 rounds of goats cheese (creamy but not too mild)
  • 2 brioche buns
  • handful of rocket
  • 2tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2tsp truffle pesto


  1. First prepare the quince. Peel, core and chop the fruit into 1cm chunks. Put them in a pan with the sugar, vinegar and chilli flakes and just cover with water. Simmer for 40 minutes or so until the quince is tender and the water evaporated (but top up if it looks dry or as if it might burn). Add the mustard, season to taste and cook for another few minutes then take off the heat and set aside until needed.
  2. Mince the venison by hand or in a mincer. Do likewise with the bacon. Season with salt (only a pinch) and pepper (several grinds). Mix by hand and shape into two patties.
  3. Set a pan or griddle to a medium-high heat and add some oil. Cook the burgers for approximately four minutes on each side. (This leaves them a little pink in the middle. If you like them well done then turn down the heat slightly so they don’t burn and give them another couple of minutes each side. You risk them being a bit dry though.)
  4. Once the burgers have been flipped place a round of goats cheese on the cooked side to melt slightly.
  5. Spread both halves of your buns with the truffle pesto and mayonnaise.
  6. When the burgers are done, let them rest for a few minutes. To serve place a burger on the bottom half of the bun, goats cheese up. Top with a tablespoon of the quince, half the rocket and finish with the bun top.
venison burger
venison burger
venison burger
venison burger
venison burger

Ifs And Ands

  • The original spiced pear was great and takes less cooking than quince. Or you could try a spoonful of redcurrant jelly, another traditional accompaniment for game.
  • Swap the goats cheese for blue.
  • If you were going all-out, a couple of crispy bacon rashers would be a nice addition.
  • Come winter, if you wanted to make a heartier meal, I think this would be delicious with celeriac chips - just peel a celeriac and chop it into chip shapes or wedges, toss with olive oil and salt and roast at 200C/gas mark 6 for about 40 minutes.

Post Port Eliot

So we’re back from the Port Eliot Festival and London looks particularly grimy in comparison to the bucolic Cornish scenes we left behind.

port eliot festival
port eliot festival
port eliot festival

I think it might have been the loveliest festival I’ve ever been to. Certainly it has the most beautiful setting, in the grounds of a historical manor house. Such an eclectic line-up too.

Among many other things, we saw poets Murray Lachlan Young and Luke Wright do their stuff and watched cookery demonstrations including one by Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis. I’d always liked his food but had had no idea he was such a charming chap. We listened to Dusk ‘Til Dawn, a narrative collage of nighttime sounds from the estate by wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson, caught sets by Vangoffey, The Caezers and Ezra Furman and made some music ourselves, taking part in a singing workshop with the Chaps ChoirMathematical writer Alex Bellos demonstrated his elliptical pool table and comedian Dominic Frisby explained Bitcoin.

me at port eliot
alex bellos

We also spent a decent amount of time strolling about enjoying the sunshine , drinking G&Ts by the river and eating delicious things from the many and varied food stalls.

Therefore this week is therefore going to be given over to recipes inspired by the Port Eliot experience. Although today’s isn't based on anything I tasted there, instead it is constructed from the prize James won on the festival's coconut shy. He later hit someone in the head with it whilst playing catch. Sorry to that chap if you're out there! Thankfully the residual guilt didn't impinge on the taste of the dish.

It’s based on the Bean Carrot Thoran, one of my favourite things on the menu at Rasa Travancore, a lovely Keralan restaurant in Stoke Newington. A dry curry, it goes well with rice as a vegan main or alongside meat or fish as a side.

bean carrot thoran

Bean Carrot Thoran (serves 4)


  • 1 coconut
  • 1tbsp coconut oil
  • 1tsp mustard seeds
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • a few sprigs of curry leaves
  • 2 green chillies
  • 2 inches fresh turmeric root
  • 1 onion
  • 5 medium sized carrots
  • 350g green beans


  1. First crack the coconut. I did it with a hammer in a tupperware box so as to save the water (just strain through a sieve and drink - a delicious cook’s perk). Put the bits in a hot oven for 10 minutes or so then let it cool. This dries the “meat” of the nut slightly and makes it easier to pull away from the shell.
  2. Meanwhile dice the onion and carrot and chop the beans into ½ cm lengths.
  3. When the coconut is cool enough to handle prise the white flesh from the shell (a knife blade or screwdriver helps) and use a vegetable peeler to remove its brown skin.
  4. Put the coconut flesh in a food processor with the chillies and the turmeric and whizz until finely chopped.
  5. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and the curry leaves and cook until they start to crackle. Then put in the onion.
  6. When it is beginning to go translucent add the coconut mixture and let it cook stirring occasionally for five minutes.
  7. Lastly add the carrot and beans. Put a lid on the pan and allow them to cook for 10 minutes or so. You want the vegetables to be cooked but retain a bit of bite. This is supposed to be a dry curry but you might need to add a little bit of water just to stop things sticking. If you do, remove the lid for the last few minutes to let it evaporate.
  8. Add salt to taste and maybe a pinch of sugar too which really brings out the sweetness of the coconut.


Ifs And Ands

  • If you don’t have coconut oil just use vegetable oil instead.
  • Use dried turmeric instead of fresh. Just put in 1tsp after the onions and cook for a minute before adding the coconut.
  • Serve garnished with fresh coriander leaves. 
  • This would work with plenty of different vegetables. Cabbage, courgettes, runner beans. I think beetroot would be gorgeous. It would take a little more cooking to soften but be such a beautiful colour.


Cherry Bomb

A shortish entry today. I am not in a jam exactly but I am next to one. Several infact. Or, to be strictly accurate, two preserves, a chutney, a marmalade and a curd. 

I’m off to the Port Eliot Festival on Friday and pretty excited about it. It's on a beautiful Cornish estate and has all sorts of writers, artists, musicians, comedians, thinkers etc performing there. Also, perhaps most importantly, a huge array of chefs and interesting foodie people. There will be delicious things to eat - definitely no dodgy burger vans at Port Eliot - and they even have a village-fete style Flower & Fodder show, complete with flower arranging, vegetable sculptures and competitive jam making, cake baking etc.

In a fit of (perhaps misplaced) enthusiasm I entered all of the jam/chutney/preserve categories as well as the ones for pasties and raised pies. As ever, despite knowing that preserves improve with age, I have left everything to the last minute. 


Hence why I have spent the last two days slicing lemons, pitting cherries etc and need this to be quick so I can get back to it. I'll share all the recipes in due course but today I just wanted you to know about this one as it's quick and seasonal. 


Amaretto Cherries


  • 1kg cherries
  • 200ml Amaretto
  • 200g caster sugar
  • juice and zest of two lemons
  • 100ml water


  1. Wash and stone the cherries. I used Tala’s Cherry Pitter
  2. which was surprisingly easy. Certainly a lot less faff than the weird poking syringe thing we had when I was little.
  3. Put everything in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer until the cherries begin to go soft but remain whole (about half an hour).
  4. Strain the fruit, reserving the syrup, and put them into sterilised jars.
  5. Taste the syrup and adjust sugar, lemon and Amaretto according to your personal preference. I like it as a fairly liquid syrup with a reasonable almond hit from the Amaretto but if you want it thicker then continue to simmer until reduced to your liking.
  6. Pour the syrup into the jars to cover the cherries and seal.

Ifs And Ands

  • Vanilla essence would make a nice extra flavouring.
  • Leave out the Amaretto and use almond essence instead if you don't want it to be boozy.
  • Any leftover syrup makes a beautiful base for a Prosecco cocktail.
  • Eat the cherries themselves over yoghurt, with ice cream or drain a few and add them to an extra special Bakewell tart or chocolatey baking such as brownies.

Nice As Pie

I made some more Mivvi-style lollies last week so was delighted when we were granted a reprieve from the rain on Saturday in which to enjoy them.

Usually when I make ice cream I just throw the egg whites away. The waste bothers me but I’m never sure what to do with them. But this time I’d just invested in a hand whisk so decided to turn them into meringues.

lemon meringue ice cream
lemon meringue ice cream

It then seemed pretty obvious what flavour ice cream to make. I churned the custard and, just before putting into the freezer to firm up, added the crumbled meringues and a few spoonfuls of lemon curd. Voila! Lemon meringue ice cream! Using good quality lemon curd gives it a proper zing and stops it from being too sweet. And adding the meringue pieces right at the end lets them to retain a bit of crunch which is nice texturally. Lovely with some summer berries on the side.

Lemon Meringue Ice Cream


The basic ice cream mixture is, again, based on the one in Julie Fisher’s Ruby Violet book but I used a slightly higher proportion of egg yolks. The custard sat in the fridge overnight before I churned it - I’m not sure if this had anything to do with the fact this was one of the most deliciously creamy ices I’ve ever made. I took my meringue tips from Angela Nilson in the BBC Good Food Magazine.

  • 250ml double cream
  • 125ml whole milk
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 3tbsp lemon curd


  1. Preheat the oven to 100C/gas mark ¼.
  2. Mix the cream, milk and 30g of the caster sugar in a saucepan. Heat to dissolve the sugar and then bring to near boiling before allowing to cool for five or so minutes.
  3. Separate the eggs. Put the whites in a large bowl and keep them to one side. Beat the yolks in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. 
  4. When the cream mixture has cooled a little take a ladleful and add it to the egg yolks, stirring constantly (adding the eggs to the pan of hot cream might scramble them!).
  5. Put the egg/cream mixture into the pan with the cream and cook over a low heat, stirring all the while, until it begins to thicken into a custard. Add the vanilla essence.
  6. Fill the sink with cold water and ice cubes. Pour the custard into a bowl and put the bowl in the cold water to chill.
  7. Beat the egg whites until pale and foamy. They should stand in peaks when you remove the whisk. Then beat in the caster sugar, followed by the icing sugar.
  8. Cover a baking tray with a piece of oiled greaseproof paper and drop spoonfuls of the meringue onto it. You're going to crumble them up anyway so they needn’t be pretty.
  9. Bake for an hour and a half until crisp on the outside.
  10. Once your ice cream mixture is chilled churn it in an ice cream machine. Add the lemon curd, crumble over the meringues and stir quickly to combine. Put in the freezer for at least an hour to firm up before serving.

Ifs And Ands

  • If you like things really lemony, add an extra squeeze or so of juice to the curd before stirring it in. And maybe the zest to the ice cream too.
  • Use fresh strawberries or raspberries. Or heat them briefly with a little sugar and puree once soft. Use the fruit or the puree instead of the lemon curd for Eton Mess Ice Cream.

Double Dip

Some of my early days in London were spent sharing a flat on the Holloway Road with four friends. It wasn’t exactly luxurious. 

The ceiling leaked (through a light fitting), there was no ventilation in the bathroom which was full of earwigs and it was above an illegal gambling den. We were woken more than once by police helicopters circling overhead and, peeping out the window, saw dogs being let out of vans to search the adjacent railway tracks for fugitive criminals. 

Nevertheless, they were happy times. Our meagre starting salaries didn’t cover much after rent except a few (too many) post-work drinks but we could go clubbing on a school night and wake up for work hangover-free. We had some awesome parties and recovered from them in front of SM:TV. My abiding memory of living in that flat is of lying on the floor laughing until it hurt.

Also, we ate a lot of hummus. There would be at least three pots of it in the fridge at any one time and formed the basis of a worrying percentage of our dinners.

So when two of my one-time flatmates (and two other fabulous women) came round the other night I knew what would constitute at least part of the spread. Although I decided not to accompany it with Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar Kettle Chips, the other dietary staple of our youth. 

hummus and pitta chips

I used a jar of chickpeas which I think give a slightly better, creamier texture than tinned but without the faff of soaking things overnight. Homemade is so much nicer than the stuff we used to buy from the corner shop and eat in front of the TV.

Man I feel old now. Those days are nearly a decade-and-a-half ago! We had a lovely evening catching up but you know a Rubicon of adulthood has been crossed when you host a social occasion and have more wine in the fridge at the end of the evening than the beginning. That never would have happened in that Holloway Road flat. But then we don't wake up without hangovers these days either. 

Nevertheless, I shall use some to drink a toast: Ladies! Here’s to the next 15 years!


Hummus Two Ways (Spicy Red Pepper/Lemon & Coriander)


  • 1 garlic clove

  • 1tbsp tahini
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 tsp chilli oil (or hot sauce)
  • 1 small bunch coriander


  1. Put the tahini and garlic in a food processor with a few spoonfuls of the chickpea water and whiz until combined.
  2. Add the chickpeas a handful at a time and blend until creamy.
  3. Add half the lemon juice, tasting as you go. Season. There you go. Basic hummus! Eat it now if you like.
  4. Or take half the hummus out of the food processor and put it aside. Add the coriander and the rest of the lemon juice and blend again.
  5. Put it in a serving bowl and return the rest of the hummus to the food processor.
  6. Quarter and deseed the red pepper. Put it under a hot grill until the flesh is soft and the skin blackened then remove to a bowl and cover with a plate for five or so minutes.
  7. When they’re cool enough to handle the skin should peel off. Put it in the processor with the chilli oil and blend.
  8. Serve with crudités and the pitta chips below.

Ifs And Ands

  • I’m not a purist when it comes to hummus. I don’t even have a strong opinion on how to spell it. You can put an ‘o’ or two in there and add any number of spices. I won’t mind at all. Cumin is particularly good. But there are limits. Hummus with sweet chilli sauce is an abomination and the Devil’s own party snack.
  • Make a dip with other beans. It won’t technically be hummus but it will be nice. Cannellini work well. Or try adding double-podded broad beans or peas.


Za’atar Pitta Chips


  • As many pitta breads as you like
  • Olive oil
  • Za’atar


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.
  2. Sprinkle the pittas with water and heat them in a toaster or under the grill.
  3. When done, use a sharp knife to split the breads open round their edges and peel them into two halves.
  4. Cut the halved pittas into triangles. and lay, rough inner side up, on a baking tray.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with za’atar.
  6. Put in the oven for two minutes or so until crisp.

Ifs And Ands

  • Instead of drizzling the oil and sprinkling the spice mix, make a paste of them and spread it on the bread (maybe add a crushed garlic clove too).
  • Add some thyme or oregano.
  • Use paprika and chilli powder instead for spicy chips.


The New Black

If you are lucky enough to have a garden, may I suggest this pasta dish as an almost perfect thing to eat in it? Especially if it happens to be a balmy summer evening and you have some chilled rosé on hand.

squid ink pasta

It’s delicious eaten indoors too though. And good enough for company as the dramatic colours are guaranteed to impress and distract attention from the fact it is very easy to make.

The recipe was born several years ago after I picked up some black pasta on a work trip to Italy. I’m fond of it as it’s the first dish I was aware of actively trying to develop. The first time round I used dried chorizo and sundried tomatoes with the squid but it was all wrong, far too intense and not fresh enough. But I knew I was onto something with the idea and eventually I got it right. For a while I was pretentious enough to consider it my “signature dish”.

squid ink pasta
squid ink pasta
squid ink pasta

Anyway. You should try it. The robust savouriness of chorizo and sweetness of the tomatoes are a great foil for the iodine hit of the pasta and allow the squid itself to shine. Looks pretty too. Serve with a green salad and maybe some crusty bread to soak up the juices.

Black Pasta With Squid, Chorizo And Fresh Tomato

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 150g black (squid or cuttlefish ink) pasta*
  • 2 cooking chorizo sausage (I like Brindisa's picante ones)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • 150g raw squid rings or two small squid
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • Small bunch parsley


  1. This is simple to put together but the squid but needs timing just right if it isn't to become rubbery so it might be best to prepare everything in advance. That way you can also pretend you are a TV chef as you go. Chop the sausages lengthways and then into 1cm half moons. If using whole squid, cut them into thin rings. Crush the garlic to a paste, cut the cherry tomatoes into eighths, pick and roughly chop the parsley leaves.
  2. Put the chorizo chunks in a large frying pan over a low heat. Cook until they begin to give out their lovely brick red oil then add the garlic. Stir until it is fragrant but not yet browned and pour in the wine.
  3. Meanwhile get the pasta going in a large pan of boiling water. Cook as per instructions  o the packet - it’ll probably about 10 minutes which is plenty of time to finish the sauce.
  4. Squeeze half the lemon into the sausage pan. I do it through a coffee strainer so as to avoid pips sneaking in there. Turn the heat up and let the sauce bubble away until the pasta is ready.
  5. Drain the pasta and put it in your serving bowl.
  6. Check the lemon levels and seasoning. Add a good grinding of black pepper, salt and more lemon only if you think it needs them.
  7. Chuck the squid rings into the sausage pan. They don’t need more than 30 seconds in the hot liquid really or they’ll become rubbery. Pour the contents of the pan over the pasta.
  8. Add the chopped tomatoes and parsley to the bowl and toss- the heat of the pasta will warm the tomatoes through - and serve ASAP.
squid ink pasta
chorizo and farlic
chorizo and squid

Ifs And Ands

  • Try prawns or scallops instead of the squid and bacon in place of the sausage.
  • If you like it spicy consider adding a finely-chopped fresh red chilli along with the garlic. Or even some ‘nduja, that spreadable sausage that seems to be all the rage these days.
  • For a creamy take on the dish use only half a glass of wine and add the same again of double cream along with lemon zest just before serving.

*A note on pasta: I think a linguine type thing works best. You used to be able to get a nice one from Carluccios but they switched to a thick spaghetti (pictured here) which doesn’t hold the sauce as well. If you can find something a bit flatter but not too wide then go for that.

Short And Sweet (And Sour)

Just a quick post today. I am feeling a bit "meh". It's grey and muggy and the house feels very empty without my brother and his family who were staying with us for all of last week. These agrodolce (Italian for "sweet and sour") peppers provided a much-needed shot of colour.


They are nice scattered with rocket and basil as a quick side dish for meat or fish. Have them over pasta for a quick dinner or combine with torn fresh mozzarella as the topping for a green salad.

agrodolce peppers

Agrodolce Peppers (serves 6 as a side dish)


  • 3 red, orange or yellow peppers
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 1tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar


  1. Core, deseed and chop the peppers into strips.
  2. Put the oil in a pan over a high heat. Add the peppers and the sugar. Stir to distribute the sugar then leave undisturbed for a couple of minutes. You want the edges of the peppers to begin to catch and caramelise but not to burn. (Depending on the size of your pan you may need to do this in two or more batches.)
  3. Turn the heat right down and add the salt and balsamic vinegar. Continue to cook over a low heat until the peppers are soft and the vinegar has mingled with their juices and reduced a little to form a syrupy sauce (about 15 minutes). Serve.

Ifs And Ands

  • Try different vinegars: red wine, white wine or white balsamic give interestingly different results.
  • Add some black olives, anchovies or capers for extra interest. 

All On A Summer's Day

One could make one’s own puff pastry and it would undoubtedly be delicious. But it would also take ages. So unless it’s for a really special occasion when the difference would be noted, I am generally in favour of using the ready made stuff.

Be alert to the possibility it might get arrested on weapons charges and change it’s name to P Pistry. That notwithstanding these are very, very easy. I pinched the courgette and pesto idea from my friend Julz who is a great vegetarian cook but now lives in New York so sadly I don't get to eat her food these days. They would be lovely with a salad: a balsamic-dressed tomato one with the courgette tart or green leaves with the tomato and mozzarella.

puff pastry tarts
puff pastry tarts

Puff Pastry Tarts: Courgette & Pesto or Tomato & Mozarella (makes 4)


  • 1 packet readymade puff pastry, either block or ready rolled
  • 1 egg


  • 1 courgette
  • 3tbsp pesto


  • 24 cherry tomatoes
  • 250g mozzarella


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.
  2. If you have a block of puff pastry, roll it out to approximately ½ cm thick, if ready-rolled just lay it out. Divide it into four quarters. Put them on a baking tray.
  3. Score a line in the pastry to form an inner border, 2cm from the edge.
  4. Grate the courgette into a bowl and mix in the pesto. Spoon it onto the pastry, keeping within the line. OR Chop the tomatoes in half and tear the mozzarella into pieces. Arrange them within the line.
  5. Whisk the egg and brush a thin layer on the exposed pastry outside the scored line.
  6. Bake the tarts for 10-15 minutes or until they are golden brown with the sides risen. Serve straight away, perhaps with a few fresh basil leaves scattered on top.

Ifs And Ands

  • Substitute shredded spinach for the courgette or piece of red pepper for the tomato.
  • Goats cheese or feta would be lovely instead of mozzarella.
  • Plenty of other fillings would work to: mushrooms sautéed briefly in garlic butter, cheddar cheese mixed with finely chopped onions or softened leeks mixed with blue cheese.
  • Sweet fillings work too. Try fresh berries or roasted rhubarb and sprinkle some sugar on top of the egg-washed pastry before the tarts go in the oven.