Sausage and sweet potato pie

Sometimes, when I ask my partner if there’s anything he fancies for dinner, I get the simple, concise, and yet fascinatingly unhelpful response “Pie!”

Sausage & sweet potato pie

Fair play to the man, pie is bloody wonderful. But it does often lead to me just taking whatever’s in the fridge and hiding it under pastry.

This one comes out of something I knocked up quickly after work one evening, and with a couple of tweaks it was a keeper.

The Lincolnshire sausages have a bit of background spice to them, and with a little extra herb and pepper they go wonderfully with the sweet potatoes.

If you don’t make the pastry, you can have this done in about an hour, too, and at least half of that is oven time.

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The Brunswick Centre street food market

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a hard time deciding which you’re more excited by: modernist architecture or duck confit. Squatting in the middle of Bloomsbury like the ziggurat of some concrete-fancying south american snake god – with more Saturday morning street food market, less blood sacrifice – the Brunswick Centre spoils us for both.

Adi's Duck Confit at the Brunswick food market

The Brunswick Centre is a ten minute walk from King’s Cross, or right outside Russell Square tube. It’s a brutal/modern delight. It’s got a decent cinema, a big Waitrose, there’s a dedicated gay bookshop down the road, and a genuinely great burger joint opposite. But it hasn’t historically been so hot for food. It’s chain town: Giraffe, Yo Sushi, Carluccio’s, you get the idea.

This doesn’t matter so much because you’re a short walk from the entirety of central fucking London. But sometimes I’m nearby and feeling lazy, and so the Saturday morning food market is a godsend. Sent, specifically, from Brutalist Quetzalcoatl, I’d imagine.

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Frozen soufflé, fresh fish, and a bit of business chat

I don’t do a lot of PR gigs. Not, you understand, because I have any kind of ethical framework. It’s more that recent offers have tended to be either “bake this and tweet about it” (yawn), or something genuinely interesting I can’t make because my calendar is a car crash.

Then I got an email asking if I’d like to try “the UK’s first cook from frozen soufflé”, as part of Iceland’s new autumn range.

I know, right? A total disaster, obviously. I’ll get a funny story and a free lunch. Sweet.

Except it was actually good.

Lemon souffle (cook frokm frozen)

I think we need to talk about soufflé.

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Duck leg goulash

This dish gives you fall-apart tender duck legs in a rich paprika gravy, but is almost entirely unhelpful in conquering the Danube valley on horseback.

Historical authenticity regardless, it’s damn tasty and with deep flavours and a brightness from the pepper, it’s well suited to the start of autumn.

Duck leg goulash

For a long time, it was easy to eat bad goulash in Britain. Not unlike “spaghetti bolognaise” or (gods help us) “chili con carne”, we took it to our national bosom and crushed it a little with the hug. All there of these often get dished up as sad, gritty orange water, and in each case trying to go back to the dish’s roots turns up something strikingly different to the popular caricature.

The Elisabeth Luard recipe owes more to spiced broth than thick stew, omitting tomatoes and forbidding flour. Her book European Peasant Cookery has a nice exploration of the origins of goulash, and a trio of Paprikas/Porkolt/Bogracsgulyas recipes to show the working. Apparently it had to do with Magyar nomads. Felicity Cloake has been deep into goulash’s origins, and returned with a wonderful, thickened but non-tomato compromise.

Personally though I do like a little tomato in the mix. Not too much, but enough to liven the colour and obviate the need for citrus. Oh, I also bunged in some duck legs and za’atar, because I can’t leave well alone.

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Fava with butternut squash

Fava is a greek dip or appetiser, somewhere between dal and hummus, and two weeks ago I had some at The Olive Grove. I’d forgotten how tasty it was: thick and soft and simple and savoury. So of course I wanted to make some. It’s dead easy, after all – just yellow split peas (not broad beans, ignore the name) boiled with some onion and herbs for flavour. A bit of oil to serve.

Then last week my friend Niall made a rather excellent lentil and squash dip for a party. It was quite rich, a bit sweet, and heavily loaded with smoked paprika.

Butternut fava

What a good idea.

Now, I haven’t just nicked it, despite having morals only fractionally more robust than a carrion crow. But if you can cook and you’ve read the intro, you may not actually need a recipe.

Meh. Here’s a fava recipe anyway.

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Puchero is a soupy Spanish peasant stew. It’s also one of the earliest things I remember eating. My mother used to make it when I was growing up; a bastardised take, worked up from a half-remembered recipe with whatever she could find in 1980s & 90s Darlington.

You can find a lot of recipes for South American puchero, and the Spanish variants are multitudinous. Standard for those rustic dishes named after a stewpot a few hundred years ago. Elisabeth Luard tracks it back to Andalusia, making it as a simple broth of roasted chestnuts and whatever ham’s going spare. That sounds amazing, but it’s not what I remember.
Puchero (ish)

No, what I remember is a vivid broth of tender pork belly and plump chickpeas, flavoured through with scant chunks of chorizo. They were always the best bits – an unusual ingredient in that time and place, a treat to be hunted out in any bowlful. The sausages were a finer-grained Lincoln, sometimes a Cumberland, giving a plainer offset, but with the pepper adding interest.

I’ll wager we ate it with a good deal less meat per head than I’ve allocated here, and likely more carrots and chickpeas. I’ve amped up the indulgence, but you can dial it back down and go in hard on the veg. A little fatty pork goes a long way after all.

Anyway, here’s my best guess. I think my mum’s old recipe notebook is still floating around somewhere. It’d be fascinating to compare.

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Seared lamb neck fillet with adobo marinade

Lamb neck doesn’t exactly sound tasty. It’s that terminal ‘k’ sound, I think. It’s hard to sustain an appetite in the face of a harsh wet plosive. Indeed, lamb neck isn’t something I started cooking with until quite recently, having written it off as a slow-cooking cut less interesting than shank or shoulder.

A mistake, but an understandable one.

Adobo lamb neck fillet

On the bone, lamb neck slow cooks nicely – there’s plenty of fat and flavour. But the filleted neck behaves a bit differently. Raw, it looks like a well-larded pork tenderloin, and you can almost treat it in the same way. It’ll flash fry, barbecue, or grill. It loves a bit of char, and a deep marinade to carry some flavour through that harsh cooking.

This one’s pretty simple, and the marinade is inspired by Rick Bayless’ adobo in Authentic Mexican*, which is my go-to for good times with chillies.

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Milk-braised pork tortelloni with a lemon zest finish

Elizabeth David is probably best known for bringing French cuisine to British tables. But her 1954 book Italian Food made a reasonable stab at introducing rural Italy’s fresh, simple flavours to a United Kingdom only just relaxing from the grip of rationing.

One of the fun things in Italian Food is a scrappy, half-explained braise of pork in milk with marjoram. Plated up as a main it would have all the appeal of stringy cement. But conceptually it’s a nice way to keep slow-cooked pork moist and flavoursome.

So how about wrapping it up in pasta, a rich carby cloak to hide its shame?

Milk-braised pork tortelloni

Tortelloni are great (even if I did fold mine wrong), and keeping them large cuts down the hassle. What’s fun here though is the addition of a little lemon zest, just before cooking. It steams in the filling so that when you slice into the pasta, you get this flash of zingy aroma, but the flavour doesn’t overpower.

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Drinking around the Niagara peninsula

Canadian wine. It’s not really a phrase to set the world on fire, is it?

IMG_4861The thing is, when you’re on the same basic latitude as most of Burgundy – with a lake shore microclimate that keeps the air warm and fresh – you’ve got a shot at belting out some serious grapes. Pinot Noir, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, a bit of Chardonnay – it’s all going on around the Niagara Escarpment. There’s Syrah and Gamay in the mix, too; not to mention the funky hybrids and the icewine. No, Ontario’s got a lot going for it as wine growing country, and the actual oenology is getting serious.

In 2011 we visited wineries around Lake Erie, and were not wowed. In 2015, we spent three days tasting around the Niagara Peninsula. Four years had passed, and the grapes we saw on the vine in 2011 were now on sale in bottles. We hit a different region, one or two more up-scale wineries, and had a knowledgeable local guide. That is to say: I don’t honestly know if the wine has got better, or if we were just drinking better wine, but it was pretty great.

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Tinga Poblana (pork, chorizo, and chipotle stew)

When I was a teenager, my dad taught me to cook. I mean, he tried. I was a truculent little fucker even then, and I doubt I really listened. Still he taught at a catering college, and somehow some basics of technique and flavour sank in. I don’t think I really learned to cook though until a bit later, living in a grotty shared house, having rage-quit the family home, post graduation.

As tantrums go, “I’m moving to Cambridge” was a bit dumb, and more than a little expensive. But not wanting to let the cooking shtick wither entirely, my dad packed me off with a few books. Some core catering texts, a well-thumbed Delia, and a couple of quirky extras that have since become two of my favourites. They were Elisabeth Luard’s European Peasant Cookery, and Rick Bayless’ Authentic Mexican, and they massively influenced my early cooking forays. The latter introduced me to Tinga Poblana, one of the first things I learned to cook then really ran with.

Tinga Poblana


It’s bound up in a whole bunch of memories – if I cook for you at all in person, the odds are you’ll have eaten some version of it. Hell, I’ve been titting about with Tinga Poblana for about ten years, and this won’t be the final version I settle on by any means.

It’s smoky and deep, with a sweetness I’ve brought to the front using sweet potato and extra onion. The chorizo and chipotle give some and darkness, so you don’t need much extra by way of spice. But I do like to add some allspice just to round it all out. Continue reading Tinga Poblana (pork, chorizo, and chipotle stew)