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  1. Red Beans and Rice

    September 11, 2012 by Lisa

    We haven’t added a new dish to our daily repertoire in ages, but this one is definitely on the list!

    Red Beans and Rice is possibly Louisiana’s most famous dish after gumbo and was traditionally a Monday meal, using the bones from the Sunday ham as its base. My version doesn’t use the ham bone or hock as they’re not that easy to get here so somewhat lacks the smokey taste. I also can’t abide green peppers so use sweet red peppers instead. And finally, an authentic dish also features Andouille sausage but there’s no chance of getting that in England! Nevertheless, it’s full of flavour, easy to make and cheap as chips.


    • 4 pork shoulder steaks
    • 2 cans kidney beans
    • 6 cups water
    • 1 chopped sweet red Romano chili pepper (the large ones)
    • 1 cup finely chopped celery
    • Half a large onion, finely chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic – minced
    • 1 tsp dried oregano
    • 1 tsp dried chili flake
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    Brown the steaks in a little oil in a large pot, add the chopped vegetables, herbs and water and bring to a boil. reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 and a half to 2 hours until the meat is very tender and can be shredded easily.

    Drain the beans and add to the pot and cook another 45 minutes. The liquid should be quite thick rather than brothy, so you may need to keep the lid off or even raise the heat to get the water to reduce.

    Serve over white rice! Corn bread is the perfect accompaniment but we also like to eat it with white corn tortillas because we’re like that.

    And just to prove what an inspiration this dish is, a poem from my friend Louise:

    Victor Hernández Cruz, Red Beans

    Next to white rice
    it looks like coral
    sitting next to snow

    Hills of starch
    The burnt sienna
    of irony
    Azusenas being chased by
    the terra cotta feathers
    of a rooster
    There is a lava flow
    through the smoking
    white mounds

    India red
    spills on ivory

    Ochre cannon balls
    next to blanc pebbles

    Red beans and milk
    make burgundy wine

    Violet pouring
    from the eggshell
    tinge of the plate.


  2. Mushroom butter and red wine sauce

    March 23, 2012 by Lisa

    A very nice steak sauce and a good way to use the butter that a side of mushrooms are cooked in.


    • Sliced or button mushrooms
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 2 tbsp plain flour
    • 1/2 glass red wine
    • 1 beef bullion cube dissolved in 1/2 cup boiling water (or 1/2 cup reduced beef stock)
    • Salt
    • A generous amount of freshly ground pepper

    Sauté the mushrooms in the butter over a low heat until browned. Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Add the red wine and cook for 5 minutes until the alcohol is cooked off. Whisk in the flour one tablespoon at a time until smooth. Slowly add the beef stock.

    Enough for two steaks.

  3. Oatmeal Cookies

    March 21, 2012 by Lisa

    This recipe makes nice chunky cookies that won’t go flat when cooked. The additional flour means they are ever so slightly cakey, but still chewy inside and crisp on the outside. I used both self-raising flour, soda and baking powder, which may seem like over-kill, but it works out in this case. An alternative would be plain flour and then double the quantities of soda and powder, but that’s another experiment for a later date.


    • 4 oz butter (1/2 cup / 113g) – room temperature
    • 1/2 cup (110g) firmly packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup (100g) white sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp (5ml) vanilla
    • 1/2 tsp (2.5ml) baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp (2.5ml) baking powder
    • 1/2 (5ml) tsp salt
    • 1 cup (128g) self-raising flour
    • 1 1/2 (128g) cups rolled oats (porridge oats)
    • 1 cup chopped dates, chocolate chips, nuts, raisins or any combination of the same (optional)

    Cream together the sugars and the butter with an electric mixer. You can use a spoon, but it will take a while – the result should be fluffy and well-mixed. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt and mix into the sugar mixture. Add the oats and then the other ingredients if you’re using them. Refrigerate the mixture for an hour or so.

    Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan/350F). This cookie mix will be very stiff, so you’ll need to roll it into loose walnut-sized balls – about 2 inches in diameter – and place on a non-stick cookie sheet. Cook for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.


  4. Homemade “Rice-a-Roni”

    March 10, 2012 by Lisa

    Rice-A-Roni was one of those favourite packaged foods I grew up with.

    There are a lot of Rice-A-Roni recipes out there – most of them identical, but none has really captured that Rice-A-Roni taste for me.  This one is the closest I’ve managed to get.

    The original uses vermicelli, but that’s hard to find and spaghetti is a poor substitute. The important ingredient here is the orzo – a rice-shaped pasta. This seemed to make all the difference.


    • 1 cup long grain rice
    • 1/2 cup orzo
    • 1/4 cup of butter
    • 1/2 a small onion
    • 1-2 cloves garlic
    • 2 1/2 cups water
    • 3 chicken stock cubes
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    Disolve the stock cubes in 2 1/2 cups of boiling water. Saute the onion in the butter in a skillet and when softened, add the rice and pasta and cook until the rice is semi-transparent (ish). Crush the garlic into the mixture and add the stock. Cover and simmer over a low heat until the rice is tender (15-20 minutes).


    Disappointingly, I can’t find an original ad as the jingle is inexorably linked with this side dish for me, but here’s the jingle with someone’s vacation photos:


  5. Pear Crumble

    March 7, 2012 by Lisa

    Crumble topping:

    • 100g plain flour
    • Half a block of butter
    • 40g porridge oats
    • 100g brown sugar
    • 1/4 tsp salt

    Pear filling:

    • 4 pears, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 tsp caster sugar
    • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 2 tsp cornflour

    Preheat oven to 180°C. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, combine the butter, salt, brown sugar and flour until crumbly. Mix the pears, vanilla, cinnamon, caster sugar and cornflour in a separate bowl. Place a thin layer of crumble on the bottom of a medium baking dish then pour in the pear mixture and cover with the remaining crumble mixture. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden and crunchy.

  6. Mexican Chorizo

    March 2, 2012 by Lisa

    I get confused looks in the UK when I wax lyrical about Mexican Chorizo and its uniquely greasy properties. Unlike Spanish Chorizo, the Mexican sort is a fresh sausage that’s rarely eaten in sauasage form (at least I’ve never eaten that way, though a friend mentioned barbequing them). Of course there’s nothing like it available here, so I have to make it myself.

    Previous versions have had neither the colour, flavour nor requisite greasiness for me and this one isn’t quite right either so check back for improvements. This version uses dried Guajillo chilis, but you can just as easily use Anchos. Try the Cool Chili Company for mail order or you can pop into Taqueria, their little restaurant in Notting Hill.

    You could use pre-ground pork, but I like the way the ingredients grind together when done this way. You also have more control of the quality of the meat and the amount of fat you use. By all means, use less fat, but it won’t be as good!


    • 750g fresh pork, heavy on the fat – about 20%
    • 4 dried Guajillo Chilis
    • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 1/2 small onion, chopped finely
    • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped or pressed
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1 tablespoon chili flakes
    • 1 tablespoon Habanero Tabasco
    • 2 teaspoons salt

    Make sure all your ingredients, bowls and blades are cold before starting – this will help prevent your grinder from clogging up. Chop the pork into 1 inch cubes and lay on a tray and freeze until very cold, but not rock hard or it’ll never go through the grinder.

    Soak the dried chilis in hot water until soft and remove the seeds and stems. Place them, the vinegar and the other spices in a blender or food processor and combine until they form a thick red paste. Chill the mixture as well.

    Spread the spice mixture on the pork and grind together. Refrigerate for an hour or longer (the longer you leave it, the more intense the flavours.

    Fry with egg and serve wrapped in a flour tortilla. Traditionally accompanied by skillet fried potatoes, but I also like it with Mexican rice.

  7. Lime and Coriander Fishcakes

    January 31, 2012 by Lisa

    These fishcakes use cod, but could just as easily be made with any sort of fish. My daughter wasn’t keen on my last batch of salmon fishcakes, so will probably stick with white fish from now on.

    Serve with horseradish mayonnaise and Chili Jeli. Makes about 10 fishcakes.


    • 2 cod fillets
    • 2 cups mashed potato
    • 1 large carrot, cubed
    • 2 shallots, chopped
    • vegetable oil for frying
    • 1 cup chopped fresh coriander
    • 1 lime and its zest
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup white wine
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 4 slices bread, crumbed (or 2 cups oatmeal for a crunchy, gluten-free alternative)
    • salt and pepper to taste

    Horseradish mayonnaise

    • 1 large heaped tsp horseradish
    • 6 large heaped tsp mayonnaise
    • 1/4 cup chopped coriander
    • 1 tablespoon lime juice
    • Freshly ground pepper to taste

    If you’re not using leftover mash, make the mash and cool. Crumb the bread in a blender until finely ground.

    In a skillet, fry the shallot until soft and transparent. Add the cod fillets, carrot, milk and white wine and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Cover and simmer until the fish flakes easily with a fork. The carrots won’t be cooked, so remove the fish to a plate, flake and let cool and continue to simmer until the carrots are tender. Drain off the liquid.

    Using a fork, gently combine the fish, mash, coriander, carrots, shallots, lime juice and zest and add salt and pepper to taste. Chill for 45 minutes to an hour.

    Form the chilled mixture into patties, dip in egg and then coat with bread crumbs or oatmeal and fry in a centimeter or two of medium hot oil until golden brown (3-4 minutes each side). Serve on a bed of rocket or baby leaf lettuces with the Chili Jeli and Horseradish Mayonnaise.



  8. Chili Jeli

    January 24, 2012 by Lisa

    This is a delicious and spicy (obviously) jam that makes a great gift. Amazing with a bit of brie or camembert on toast or a biscuit or in a sandwich with cold meats. Use hotter chilis or increase the proportion of hot chilis to make a spicier jam.

    The chilis are so low in pectin, that a little help in the form of liquid pectin helps it set. It you are a jam expert and think you don’t need the pectin, leave it out, although I found that I had to re-boil the jam to get it to set before I started adding it as a matter of course.


    • 150 g long fresh red romano peppers, deseeded and cut into pieces.
    • 150 g hot chili peppers, deseeded and cut into pieces
    • 1 kg jam sugar
    • 600 ml apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon pectin
    • 10 x 130ml sealable jars


    Sterilize the jars and leave to cool. I put them in a pan of water, filling each jar 3/4 with water and placing the lids on top, then bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes.

    Place the cut-up chilies in a blender and pulse until they’re finely chopped.

    Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar in a large pan over a low heat. Use a pan larger than you think you’ll need as it easily boil over and you need it to boil vigourously if you have any hopes of the jam setting.

    Scrape the chili-pepper mixture out of the blender and add it to the pan of dissolved sugar. Bring the pan to the boil, then leave it to boil. A jam thermometer is highly recommended as it needs to reach 105C (221F) and then boil additionally for 10 minutes. You can check to see if it’s set using the frozen saucer method: place 4 or 5 saucers in the freezer at the beginning of your jam making session; check for a set by dropping a bit of jam onto the frozen saucer and push it around with your finger. If it gels, it’s probably going to set properly.

    Take the pan off the heat and allow it cool for 45 minutes or so. Skim off any foam, pour into your jars and seal tightly. It may take several hours or overnight for the jam to set.

  9. Panfried Salmon with Samphire and Beurre Blanc

    January 22, 2012 by Lisa

    Samphire grows abundantly around the salt marshes of the eastern English coast. In the late summer, it’s not uncommon to see householders offering bunches of samphire for free or on the honour system on the roadsides. It looks much like what we called “iceplant” in California, though much smaller, is quite salty and tastes like the seaside. Samphire can be eaten fresh, boiled or steamed.

    This is a very sophisticated meal that is perfectly set off by the samphire, but your heart will not thank you for it!


    • 2 salmon fillets without skins
    • 2 handfuls of fresh samphire
    • Boiled baby new potatoes, lightly crushed

    For the Beurre Blanc:

    • 1 cup (235ml) dry white wine
    • 1/2 cup (120ml) white wine vinegar
    • 1 shallot chopped finely
    • 1/2 cube (that’s a UK cube or 125 grams/4.5 oz) of unsalted butter, cold and cubed
    • White peppercorns
    • Salt and fresh ground pepper

    The method for making the beurre blanc is via Jamie Oliver and is dead clever. It means that the sauce can be made slightly in advance.

    Add the wine, wine vinegar, peppercorns and chopped shallots to a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced to about 3 tablespoons.

    Fill a thermos flask with boiling water to warm it, pour it out, and then sieve the wine mixture into the flask. Add the cold butter cubes, close the flask and shake it vigorously until your can’t hear sloshing anymore. If, when time to serve it’s too thick, add a scant amount of boiling water and shake to loosen it up.

    Pan fry the salmon fillets and place on top of crushed baby new potatoes.

    Wash the samphire thoroughly in cold water and remove any dried stems. Steam for a couple of minutes then place it on top of the salmon fillets. Pour the beurre blanc over the lot of it.

    After dinner, go for a run to loosen up those arteries.

  10. American Pancakes

    January 16, 2012 by Lisa

    Being American, I’ve been making pancakes in the American style since I was allowed near a stove, but using English flour and baking powder to make them here in the UK has always been a slight disappointment. Here’s a very good version that makes enough for 3 people, or two fairly hungry people. About 12 pancakes.


    • 140g self-raising flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 2 tbsp caster sugar
    • 150ml milk
    • 1 egg
    • 2 tbsp melted butter or vegetable oil

    Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar in a large bowl. Mix the milk, egg and melted butter or oil in a seperate bowl.

    Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and beat until you have a smoothish batter.

    Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a knob of butter or oil. Pour in a ladle full of batter. When the top of the pancake begins to bubble, flip it over and cook until both sides are golden brown.