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There's nothing like a nice bit of Lemon Sole, especially when it's been freshly caught the night before. These two fish was caught by a fisherman named Gary Haggis off the coast of Essex, and very fine fish they were too.

I decided to bake them, and in an ad lib riff off a Jamie recipe, I baked them on a bed of red and yellow peppers, fennel, onions, 2 sprigs of thyme and a vine tomato chopped into quarters, with the juice of half a lemon.

To soften the vegetables I pre-baked them in 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil for 30 mins at 160 C, so the peppers, fennel, onion, thyme sprig with leaves stripped off and sprinkled, juice of half a lemon and 1 vine tomato 

For the fish, I slit the skin on the top about every 3 cm with a really sharp knife, right down to the bone which lets all the flavours flood in. Then I smeared the sole with olive oil, the juice of the other half of my lemon, and finely chopped garlic, sprinkled the curly parsley and  baked at 200C for 15 minutes. When it comes out of the oven, to make sure the fish is done you check that the flesh comes easily from the bone with a knife. If it does, then leave for a few minutes to rest.

Gorgeous lemon sole. The picture is the Before, the After I forgot to take, I was too hungry.


Ingredients for baked lemon sole on Mediterranean vegetables (for two people)

2 lemon sole
1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic
2 decent sized vine tomatoes (cherry ones would work too)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 bulb of fennel roughly chopped
1 red and 1 yellow pepper roughly chopped
virgin olive oil
2 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of curly parsley
salt, pepper

Oven: 160C for the pre-baking, 200C for the fish
Picture of victorian ladies in costume
Yesterday was the first hot, sunny day in England for about 2 years, so I'm inspired to share the ulitmate summer garden party dish: cucumber sandwiches.

This is a recipe from Mrs Beeton, my favourite Victorian. She first published her book of Household Management in 1861, and it's been a smash hit ever since. My copy, from the 1920s has 1680 pages and includes tips on how to choose a gas cooker (recently invented), and how to manage the servants (can't get the staff).

She also has a recipe for cucumber sandwiches, and being the most famous English, Victorian cook ever, she should jolly well know.


1 large, fresh cucumber (the long English sort, of course)
creamed butter
good white, or brown bread
salad oil (I compromise and use virgin olive oil)
vinegar or lemon juice

Mrs Beeton's Cucumber Sandwich Making Instructions

Picture of cucumber slices
"Peel the cucumber, slice it thinly, season liberally with salt, drain on a hair sieve for 1 hour, and dry thoroughly. Now put it into a basin and sprinkle with pepper, salad-oil, lemon juice or vinegar, liberally or otherwise, according to taste.

Have ready some thin slices of bread and butter, and stamp out some rounds of suitable size, place slices of cucumber between 2 rounds of bread, and press the parts well together.

Dish slightly overlapping each other in a circle, on a folded napkin, and serve garnised with parsley."

Party on and don't forget the Pimm's.


If rhubarb be the food of love

Early rhubarb is in the shops again, so it's time to get your crumble on. I was just about to do this, when I came upon an idea from Jamie Oliver, a tasty recipe for rice pudding and rhubarb.

In Jamie's recipe he uses Pimms, but it's freezing outside in London, so I just didn't feel that could work. Instead a added a few dashes of orange cocktail bitters from that excellent company The Bitter Truth. The slightly tangy rhubarb goes particularly well with the sweetness of the rice pudding, and orange notes. This is a dish that's pretty quick to make and will please everyone except rhubarb haters. The recipe is an adaptation of Jamie's, so many thanks to Mr Oliver.

The rice pudding

Picture of rice pudding
  • 100g risotto rice
  • 0.6 litres full milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 tablespoon demerara sugar
Add the rice and the milk to a pan, add the sugar. Split the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds, then add pod and seeds to the pan. Simmer gently for about 30 mins, or until the rice is lovely and soft and rice puddingish. Don't forget to stir often, to stop it sticking. When the puddings is cooking, it time to get your rhubarb on.

The rhubarb

Picture of rhubarb stewing
300 g of rhubarb, cut in chunks
a splash of orange juice/50ml
a few drops of orange cocktail bitters
2 tablespoons of demerara brown sugar
1 slice of orange peel
1 bay leaf

Add all ingredients to a pan, and simmer until the rhubarb is tender. If you like the rhubarb intact, this will be about 5 mins or so. If you prefer it more stewed, then 8 mins or so. When done, remove the orange peel and bay leaf.

Bon App.


Tasty Ingredients

  • 4 medium vine tomotoes, cut in half
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced

Cooking instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 160C/320F.

Pour the olive oil onto a baking tray, add the tomatoes, and roll them around in the oil, salt and pepper, garlic and thyme. Give them a bath in it. Place the tomatoes cut side down, cover each with a bit of the thyme. Pop into the oven, and after 1 hour, have a look, you could eat them now, or pop them back in for longer if you want an even more concentrated flavour.

I had mine with a cheese, potato, leek pie. But I'll bet this would go really well with a roast chicken.

Bon App.

And for Technorati, the code is  TSSZ94BUM3Q9
Picture of tasty potato and leek pie
A pie for all seasons.

This is a very tasty pie, and indeed it's also vegetarian. Well, except for the crust, but that would be easy to adjust.

It's basically a potato and cheese and onion pie, but I added leek and tomatoes to give it a bit of vegetable love, and also make it more juicy.

I served it with roast tomatoes, but if I had not been lazy, I think steamed greens of some sort would have worked.

Recipe for the pastry

  • 300g/11 oz plain flour
  • 45g/1.5 oz butter in small cubes
  • 30g/1 oz beef dripping in crumbs/small shavings, or small cubes if you use lard
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 100g/3.5oz parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 125 ml/4.5 fluid ounces cold water in a jug

Ingredients for the filling

  • 4 medium sized potatoes
  • 2 medium onions, sliced finely
  • 50ml/2oz full milk
  • 50ml/2oz single cream
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 100g/3.5oz chedder cheese, grated
  • 1 small leek, sliced finely
  • one quarter/one half teaspoon of English mustard
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced

Cooking the filling

Add the sliced spuds to a pan of salted,boiling water and cook for 10 minute until tender. Remove, drain and let dry.

Meanwhile saute the onions and leeks for 5 minutes, then add 1 tablespoon of flour, mix in, then add the cream, milk, mustard, and cook at a medium heat, stirring,  for about 5 minutes, you will see the mixture will thicken.

Add the potatoes and cheese, cover the spuds with sauce, the cheese will melt in. Taste, and if you need, season with salt and pepper. Take off the heat.

Tasty Pastry

Add the flour, salt, baking soda, grated dripping/lard to a big bowl, and mix it in with your fingertips. Then add the butter and do the same. Add the cheese, mix it up. Add the egg yolk and mix in with at spatula, then gradually add the water until you can take up all the flour from the edges of the bowl, but you don't want it too sticky. When I mix in the water I like to use a spatula. When ready, form a ball with your hands, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30  minutes, the idea is to get it cold.

When the pastry is ready, take 2 thirds and roll out into a disc, a 5 cm/2 inches bigger than your pie dish. Butter the pie dish, lay out the pastry in it, and blind back at 180C/350 C. For instructions on how to pre-bake a pie base, check out the recipe a few blog posts ago on pastry.

Once the pre-baked pie base is ready, spoon in the filling. Lay the sliced tomatoes on top of the filling and the pastry lid on top of that. Seal the edges of the pie lid with your finger and thumb.

Cut a hole in the middle the size of a 10p piece/25c  and brush the lid with the beaten egg. Pop in the oven for 30 minutes until golden brown.

Don't forget to leave your pie to rest for 5 minutes before you serve it!

Bon App!

Picture of an eaten pie
It is Saturday and it is time for pie. My last post covered a crispy pastry, this one is all about the juicy filling.

The stuffing does take a bit of time. You need a heavy casserole dish, or even better a slow cooker. With a slowcooker, on an auto timer (likc a Crockpot) you can just leave it to cook for hours by itself and even leave the house. It's all ready and waiting for you on return which is a major bonus. I love slowcookers. They are really great for ribs too but that is a whole other story. My recipe below is for a pie dish 22cm wide and is good for 4 or 5 people.


0.5kg or so of braising steak (or actually I prefer venison)
300 ml organic beef or chicken stock
200 ml Guinness or Newcastle brown ale (or any other dark beer)
2 sprigs of thyme
3 juniper berries
2 medium bayleafs
1 clove (optional)
quarter teaspoon of worcesteshire sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon tomato pureee
2 medium fresh tomato
seasalt and black ground pepper
tablespoon of plain flour
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 or 2 carrots, in 2 cm chunks
2 medium potatoes  (the ones that hold together like desiree), cut in 2 - 3 cm chunks
instead of a spud, a couple of turnips if you prefer - it adds a nip
olive oil and butter

Stuffing your pie

Picture of seared meat
Sear the meet in cubs 3 or 4 cm big, it needs a heavy pan, hot. Do it bit by bit, not all at once, so the pan stays hot. Sear them until they go a nice dark chocolate brown.

Take them out of the pan. Then in the same pan, fry the onions, roughly chopped for about 10 mins on a lower heat, so they go brownish and the house smells gorgeous.
Add the meat and onions to the heavy casserole dish now, or slow cooker.

Drop them in the casserole with the meat, add all the herbs and spices, and the stock and beer, and bring slowly to boil, then turn down to a low simmer. Give it about 2 or 3 hours in a casserole, and 4 in a slow cooker. The point is for the meat to be super tender and soft. Keep the lid on when you cook, or maybe just a crack open.

As the meat is cooking, fry the potato and carrots in the same frying pan used to sear the meat. Cook on a low to medium heat for 10 mins. Add the vegetables to the casserole or slowcooker, about half way through the cooking process. I like to add the vegetables half way through, and not at the beginning, because that way they retain more integrity.

For the last hour of cooking,  if there is too much liquid, you can cook without the lid, for evaporation. But remember, juice in a pie can be pretty damn tasty. Or, you could use the extra for gravy on mashed potatoes, mmmmm.

For adding the filling to you pie, please check out my post on short crust pastry.

This shredded lamb sandwich was so huge it almost defeated with me. Luckily, I was in a combatative mood and managed to overcome. The drizzle of mint sauce certainly helped. It was absolutely delicious. Moist, tender, almost pulled-porkish, and with the occasional crunch which I love.

This particular sandwich arrived in my hand from the stall run by Layer Marney Farm farm near Colchester, Suffolk. All the animals are free range, fed on grass like they should be. They also sell free range chicken and a range of game that come from the surrounding countryside. Actually I can believe the game part, because when my brother used to live in the wonderful heart of leafiest Suffolk, it was pretty common to hear the boom boom of people bagging game in yonder field. Mixed feelings about the whole boom boom thing really. I'm not a fan of hunting, but I am of eating game. Split personality I guess.

You can have your lamb sandwich with various spicy sauces but I went old-fashioned, mint sauce, and it worked for me.

Bon app.

Oh Pie, how doth I love thee

Picture of pie base
On Sunday I had some fab friends over to share a lazy Sunday lunch. We had venison pie, with a crispy short crust pastry. Here's the recipe for the pastry part.

Short crust pie pastry needs to be made somewhat cold, so used iced water and just use your fingertips. If you have a big stone bowl or board, that's good, but not essential.

The main key here for a really crispy pastry, is to use beef dripping, not lard. It has a slightly higher melting point than the soft lard, or butter, and it makes the pastry crispier. You can buy it at most British supermarkets, like Waitrose or even Tesco.
It may contain a couple of calories, but hey, go for a stroll to walk it off after lunch.


  • 300g plain flour
  • 75g butter, cold, in small cubes
  • 75g Britannia beef dripping, broken into small crumb size
  • a generous pinch of salt
  • 120 ml water with ice cubes in a jug
  • 1 free range egg yoke - lightly whisked in a bowl

Pastry preparation

Picture of flour bowl
Add the flour to the bowl, add the salt, mix it around. Lift up the flour with your fingertips to get some air in.

Break the hard beef dripping into small crumbs, I used a sharp knife, and add to the flour. Or better, you could whizz it up in blender with the flour until there are no lumps.

Mix the cubes of butter lightly in to the flour with your fingertips. Do this until the mix is crumbly, like flakes. Don’t mix it in for too long, and don’t overwork it, it should look rough.

Slowly add the iced water and combine with a spatula or spoon (so your hot hands don't touch), and when it's firm and the flour is all picked up, quickly make into a ball with your hands. If it’s too dry, add a touch more water, or if too sticky, a touch more flour. Wrap it in cling-fling, and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, and until you are ready to use.

When your ready to rock and roll, roll out the pastry into 2 discs, both of them a few cm bigger than the pie tin, so that the pastry can hang over the edge. Roll on a floured board, and flour your hands and the rolling pin too. The discs should be the thickness of a coin or a bit wider – don’t go too thin, because a thick crust is tasty!

Cooking instructions

Pre-heat oven to 190 C, and have a baking sheet in there, the point is to make sure the pie base gets nice and hot.

First: blind bake the pastry base. This is to stop your pie base going soggy when you add your juicy filling.

Butter your pie tin, 22 or 24 cm across. Arrange one pastry disc in the pie tin, with the edges hang over. Prick all over with a fork. Pop in the oven for 15 min. After 15 min, remove, and brush the pastry with egg yolk. Replace in the oven for another 5 mins until the crust begins to turn a nice golden colour, but don’t burn it!

Remove your tin of artwork, pour in the filling on top of your pasty bottom. Because you baked the pie base first, you can make the filling nice and juicy, and the base should stand up to it.

Arrange the pie lid on top. Press around the edges to seal. If you have any pastry left over, you can use it to make fun patterns on the lid. Make a slash in the centre, about the size of a 10p, or 25c.  That’s your pie hole, and helps it let off steam.  Never listen to people who say "shut your pie hole."

Pop back in the oven. If this is a venison, or steak and ale pie, it will take around 40 minutes. At 35 mins take it out, paint the top with the rest of the egg yolk for that wonderful golden brown effect.

Voila, one crispy crust pie. Sorry no picture, we ate it all :)
Picture of two turnips
This is a tasty recipe I invented when I had almost nothing in the house, and I was starving. I used farfelle pasta, because that's what there was in the cupboard.

Ingredients for two people

  • 3 medium sized young turnips, peeled and dized
  • 2 tablespoons of lardons
  • 250g driedFarfalle pasta
  • 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • salt and fresh black pepper
  • parmesan cheese, grate 3 tablespoons or so

Cooking Instructions

Peel and dice the turnips into small cubes. Steam until tender, careful not to overcook them, they need to retain integrity and taste.  Try checking after 6 mins to see they are. They may need a minute or too more. Meanwhile in a frying pan, heat the olive oil and cook the lardons for a few minutes on a medium heat, until browning, then then add the turnips and stir in the crushed garlic. Cook gently for 5 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, boil a large pan of salted water and cook the pasta. Dried farfalle takes about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and let it steam off for a few minutes. Then add it to the pan of lardons and turnip, add 1 tablespoon of parmesan, and you may want to add a few turns of pepper. Leave the whole thing with a lid on for 3 minutes for the cheese to melt and coat, and the tastes to mingle. Stir again, and serve, with the rest of the parmesan on the side. A nice glass of white wine really sets it off.

A note on turnips: choose smaller, younger ones because they are more tender. They should be firm, not soft or squashy. Don't go for the big ones, the taste is not so delicate.

Finally, sorry there's no picture, my photographic prowess
I took this Hog Videoon my phone at the Bloomsbury  farmers' market right in the middle of London, just by University College London. It'sthe Giggling Pig stall. What would Virginia Woolf have said, and more imporantly, which snack would she have bought, and would Mrs Dalloway have gone for the thyme sausage in a bun with onions, or the Thai noodles.

The market is mostly food stalls, and is popular with the local residents/office workers/students of the area. They also sell free range eggs, some veg, organically reared lamb, venison sausages with red wine, and I spotted a brace of pheasant for £6, what a bargain. One stall was selling lamb stock bones for a couple of quid. The hog roast bun at the Giggling Pig is excellent. I also spotted an Italian stall selling venison ragu pasta so that's on the list too.