Sunday, 24 July 2011


We had my Dad over for lunch this Saturday and I decided to go for French – probably still my favourite kind of food if I had to choose.  Much as I love Indian, Thai, Chinese, Spanish, Italian (to a point) and all things Middle Eastern, my last supper would be French, with wines to match.  So this lunch menu included ham hock terrine with soused vegetables, duck breasts with cherry sauce and potatoes dauphinoise and lemon, orange and almond tart.   

For the terrine I turned to Raymond Blanc for guidance, from his latest book Kitchen Secrets.  I didn’t follow the recipe slavishly but the general gist is there – I didn’t use enough gelatine so the set was a little softer than I wanted but the flavour was delicious, and the soused vegetables set it all off beautifully. 

The tart recipe comes from Mireille Johnston’s French Cookery Course Part 1.  She had two television series in the early 1990’s and both books are very useful additions to the cook’s library, packed with regional French dishes.  The television programmes were lovely, it's a shame they have never been repeated - my ex had quite a crush on Ms Johnston! 

For the terrine I used my Le Creuset terrine dish.   I bought it years ago so that I could make an iced orange souffle from the La Potiniere cookbook.  The Potiniere was a near legendary restaurant in Gullane, East Lothian (near Edinburgh) where there was a three year waiting list for Saturday dinner.  It was run by husband and wife team David and Hilary Brown (he did front of house and wine, she cooked) and they offered a fixed menu - no choice at all - and only opened for lunch time four times a week and Saturday evening. Their book, gives a flavour of what it was all about.  The restaurant is still there but no longer run by the Browns. I was forunate enough to have had two memorable lunches there.

But enough reminiscing..... 

Ham Hock Terrine 

1 ham hock (or knuckle) approx. 2.5kg in weight
A bouquet garni comprising 2 bay leaves, parsley and thyme
10 black peppercorns
10 g leaf gelatine
1 carrot diced
10 sprigs flat leaf parsley 

Soused vegetables 

400ml water
80ml white wine vinegar
80 g honey
Pinch white pepper
Large pinch sea salt
Sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
100g carrots cut into 4cm sticks
100g cauliflower cut into small florets
60g cornichons 

Put the ham hock into a large saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and skim off any scum. Bring down to simmer and add the bouquet garni and black peppercorns.  Simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours until ham is coming off the bone. 

Remove hock from pan, leave to cool and strain liquor and reserve 500 ml. The rest can be used as a base for soup etc.  Remove meat from hock, taking care to remove most of the fat, tendons, membranes etc.  Reserve six large pieces of ham and chop the rest roughly. 

Cook the carrot until just tender, strain and allow to cool. Chop the parsley finely. 

Soak gelatine leaves in cold water for ten minutes then add to the warm ham cooking liquor. 

Line the terrine with a double layer of cling film. Put in a layer of chopped ham, then half the chopped parsley, half the carrot, the large pieces of ham in a single layer, the rest of the carrot, then the parsley, then the rest of the chopped ham.  Pour over the ham liquor until the level of liquor rises above the ham.  

Fold the cling film over and put the terrine in the fridge and cool for at least twelve hours. 

To make the vegetables, put all sousing ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to boil. Add carrots and cook for 20 minutes, then add cauliflower and cook for a further ten minutes.  Remove from heat. Cool rapidly and add gherkins. 

Serve  the terrine in thick slices with the soused vegetables and some good bread.

Tarte au Citron et a L’Orange 

First a word of warning…when this goes in the oven it looks highly unlikely it will ever turn into something solid and edible.  Just stick with it – it may need a little more cooking than the recipe says but once it has set to a wobble bring it out and let it cool.  It will be wonderful…
I use jus-rol sweet pastry.  I am perfectly capable of making it but I find this product so good I don’t see the point unless I am really in the mood…. 

I pack Jus-rol sweet pastry

For the filling
3 lemons
2 oranges
75g caster sugar
70g butter
2 eggs
4 tblsp sieved marmalade
25g flaked almonds
Icing sugar to dust 

Roll the pastry out quite thinly and line a 23 cm loose bottom flan tine.  Bake blind at 190 for 20 minutes until set and lightly browned.

Grate the rind from 1 lemon and 1 orange.  Squeeze the juice from 2 lemons. Peel oranges and 1 lemon with a knife, cutting off the pith, then cut down through the membranes to release segments. Add any juice collected to the squeezed lemon juice. 

Beat together the sugar, butter and orange and lemon rinds until light and fluffy, gradually beat in the eggs and then the lemon juice.  It will all start looking curdled but don’t panic.  Put the mixture into the pastry case, level off, and arrange the orange and lemon segments on top.  Brush over with the warmed sieved marmalade and sprinkle with the almonds.  Bake for at least 20 minutes at 190, but if it still looks too wet leave for another 10 minutes.  Leave to cool in tin for at least 10 minutes then transfer to serving plate and dust with icing sugar just before serving.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Chinese braised pork cheeks

I was browsing the meat shelves in Morrisons a couple of weeks ago and saw packs of pig cheeks – so of course, I had to buy some, and at £2.75 for 500g it seemed churlish not to. The first time I cooked them I used Essex Eating’s recipe, and they were delicious, but the texture of the meat – soft and yielding with that delicious gelatinous quality, made me think of chinese pork belly and all those other bits they cook.  So why not make chinese style pig cheeks?

I looked to the master, Ken Hom, for inspiration, and amended his recipe for braised pork belly, marinating the meat first and not using as much hoi sin.  The result, served with egg fried rice and oyster sauce stir-fried vegetables, was delicious. 

Serves 2 

500g pigs cheeks 


3 tblsp. Chinese rice wine
Clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsp. five spice powder
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil 


Braising ingredients 

4 dried chinese mushrooms, along with the soaking water
5 slices ginger
1 tblsp. whole yellow bean paste
3 tblsp. chinese rice wine
2 spring onions, sliced diagonally
2 tsp. hoi sin sauce

Combine marinade ingredients and marinade pig’s cheeks for up to 3 hours.

Remove cheeks from marinade and reserve liquid. Dry cheeks, dust with cornflour and brown in vegetable oil. Set aside.

Combine all braising ingredients and left over marinade in a wok or shallow pan.  Bring to boil, add pig’s cheeks then lower to simmer, covered.  Cook for 2 hours, but for last 30 minutes remove cover to allow sauce to thicken.

Before serving, slice each cheek into three and return to sauce – makes eating easier with chopsticks!!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


I often tell people we live between different worlds…. we live right on the East side of Peckham Rye, a wonderful green place where William Blake once saw a vision of an Angel and where now people of all ages, colours and creeds play football, frisbee, cricket, run, jog, take their dogs for walks, picnic and sunbathe. The picture at the top of my Blog is the view fromthe bus stop outside our flats....

Behind us is Nunhead, across the Rye on the west side is East Dulwich and up the road is Rye Lane, leading to Peckham High Street.  I am going to make sweeping generalisations about these areas that may upset some people (if anyone is actually reading this!!) but they are my personal observations after living here for three years.  

East Dulwich is definitely the poshest of the three areas, a typification of yummy mummy-ism.  Stroll down Lordship Lane on a Saturday and you will be dodging three-wheeler jog-buggies and careering toddlers.  There are lovely shops on Lordship Lane – East Dulwich Deli which has great bread, Roses the butchers, Moxons the fishmongers, Green and Blue wine merchants and Franklins grocers.  There are also more Indian restaurants than you can count, a Thai, Chinese, Turkish, Mexican, a very idiosyncratic French restaurant and gastro pubs – anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I am particularly fond of Franklins, in the same family as the grocers and serving great seasonal food all day.  Northcross Road Market also offers some of the best hot dogs in London on a Saturday, courtesy of The Dogfather.

Nunhead feels completely different, almost like a town street from the 1960’s – but in a good way.  Two great butchers, Ayres the Bakers, Sopers Fishmongers and a lovely greengrocer means you can pick up most of what you need…and coming soon is Bambuni, a coffee shop and deli which will fill a big hole in the whole area I think. 

And last but not least, the direction I often end up heading in (and not just because there is a big Morrisons at the end if it) is Rye Lane. Rye Lane is an incredible experience for anyone used to shopping in the ordinary High Street.  My dad, now 85, was in the Merchant Navy in the 1940s and 1950s and spent a lot of time shipping to and picking up from West Africa. The first time I took him down Rye Lane he said ‘I could be in Lagos’…and that’s how it feels. Most of the shop have open fronts with stalls, selling every variety of fish, meat and vegetable you can think of.  It’s not all African – Indians and Arabs look after the fish and meat, whilst Africans will sell you any kind of palm oil you can imagine.  A Chinese supermarket selling the biggest prawns, razor clams and crabs you’ve ever seen completes the picture.  And there has to be a special mention for Persepolis, a Persian oasis on Peckham High Street, where Sally will sell you everything to make the most amazing Persian meals…including a cookbook!!

And shopping in Rye Lane makes it so easy for me to make the sort of food I love – handfuls of coriander, mint and dill for 70p a bunch; three bunches of spinach for a pound; two aubergines for a pound; four packs of pitta for a pound …a bit of a theme emerging there.  And all the lamb and goat I have bought from the butchers is excellent, and you always get service with a smile.  For me, walking down Rye Lane is life affirming… I love the way people greet each other; the little kids that are so well behaved; the African ladies dressed in their batik cloth dresses and headwraps and men in slinky trouser/tunic combos.  And teenage girls, full of attitude, talking about A levels and going to University.
So come on down and visit us…FoodStories, Hollowlegs , Tehbus and ginandcrumpets can give you the lowdown on our many restaurants….and Franks Campari Bar is open for the summer ….  SE15 ROOLS…