Category Archives: Basics

How To Make Mustard Butter


This is without doubt the best flavoured butter I’ve *ever* made.

When it comes to steak, I like a knob of garlic butter to melt and spread like high-tide across the charred surface. But sometimes I don’t want garlic. Like last night. So I found a recipe that David Lebovitz claims as his own. In truth, I recall tasting something very similar on a steak in Paris last year, so I don’t think it’s his invention.

There’s not much to it, really. Soften a couple tablespoons of salted or unsalted butter at room temperature for a while, smoosh it a bit with a fork, and then add 2 teaspoons (or so) of dry mustard powder (like Colman’s English mustard powder) with one teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Mix it up well with your fork, and then scrap the yellow jewel on to cling film/plastic wrap. Gently, roll into a log … and then toss it into the fridge to return to a solid, sliceable consistency.

It’s delicious!


So, for anyone who didn’t want to read the above opinionated blather:


2T butter, softened at room temperature
2 teas mustard powder
1 teas Dijon mustard.

Mix with a fork. Roll into a log. Refrigerate until solid. Slice.


My Favourite Spatula Spoon


Delia was the first person to mention the genius of this spoon. That was many years ago, and I’ve had one in my kitchen ever since. It scrapes the last bits from a pan or bowl, it’s moderately heat-proof, and it won’t deflate whipped egg whites or cream. I bought this one at Lakeland Plastics, which by the way is the only place I’ve found the genuine article. There are lots of knock-offs but this is the original design, and in my opinion, works best!

Do you have a favourite kitchen gadget that you wouldn’t want to be without?

Yorkshire Pudding with Sausage and Bean Casserole

How To Feed Two Hungry Bears


It wasn’t planned, losing a few pounds. We suffered a bit with a tummy bug, and then it took about a week before either of us really felt an urge to eat winterish food. But when it happened, when we finally regained our appetite, we were like two starving bears leaving hibernation for the arrival of spring. And gosh, did we ever dig in.

I made a big Yorkshire Pudding from an adapted recipe of James Martin’s (his mum’s recipe, he says). The original recipe makes enough to stuff the population of a small village. There’s only two of us in this house, so it was time for maths. But for the longest time, the maths didn’t add up, and the recipe wasn’t my favourite. And then I watched him make it on telly one weekend, and discovered something he did that wasn’t in the original recipe. He opened the oven door halfway through the cooking time to release built-up steam. As soon as I did that, the recipe worked perfectly. I’ve since noticed that he’s updated the recipe on the BBC Food website to reflect that nifty trick.

That afternoon, I made a casserole with tinned/drained white beans and browned Cumberland sausage links in a spicy sauce of chopped tomatoes (1 tin), 1 chopped onion, 3 cloves garlic, pinch of salt, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and a ridiculous amount of pepper because we love black pepper. I added a splash of my husband’s beer to the pot while his back was turned, then gave the whole thing a gentle stir, and popped it in the oven at a low temperature to slowly simmer for about 40 minutes. First 20-minutes with the lid on, and then remove the lid for the duration so the sausages brown to a deep crusty golden colour in the oven.

It was just what two hungry bears needed.

Yorkshire Pudding

Ingredients (for 8 servings/for 2 servings)

225g/47g plain flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 large/2 large free-range eggs
600ml/120ml whole or semi-skimmed milk
50g/10g beef dripping or lard

Place the flour into a bowl and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Lightly beat the eggs and add them with the milk to the bowl. Whisk to make a smooth batter, although some lumps might remain. Cover and place in the fridge to chill for at least one hour. Overnight is best.

Place the pudding pan in the oven, and then preheat to 220C. When the oven is at temperature and the pan is hot, add the dripping or lard to your Yorkshire tins, and place the tin in the oven for 10-minutes until very hot.

Remove the tin from the oven, and carefully pour the batter into the tin(s), filling it 2/3 full. Place the tins in the oven and cook for 20-minutes. After 20-minutes, open the oven door to allow steam to escape, and turn the temperature down to 190C. Continue to cook until the puddings are golden-brown and crisp.


Heston’s Perfect Roasted Potatoes

How-To-Make Perfect Roasted Potatoes

My mum loved to burn potatoes. Well, that’s what I assumed. Turns out that she just burned potatoes. No love involved.

It’s like this, you see. My dad loved crispy fried potatoes, and true to form, my mum never quite knew when to stop. That makes sense when you have a few facts, like she didn’t learn to drive until she was 45, and until then she only stopped when she wanted to. Now she had to stop for red lights, stop signs, pedestrians crossing the street, squirrels, cats, dogs … stopping for potatoes was a brake too far.

Mum was cooking potatoes without benefit of Heston’s secret. I now know how to make roast potatoes that my dad would’ve loved. Fluffy inside, crispy, golden and crunchy outside. Heston uses 50:50 beef drippings and olive oil. The beef dripping’s not necessary; I used all olive oil with perfect result. But that’s not the secret.

Heston’s secret is two-fold: 1. Use fluffy roasting or baking potatoes. Red skin ones are best, and a large size so you cut them into to equal size chunks. Small ones won’t work well because you need three flat sides. If they’re too small, you’ll only have one flat side because you’ve cut each one in half rather than lots of chunks. You’ll understand why later when you try it yourself. And now for number 2. Cook them in gently simmering water until VERY VERY soft and they’re starting to fall apart. Not parboiled like Delia taught us. They should be at the stage where you think “Oh, no! I’ve overlooked them!” If that’s what you’re thinking after 20-25 minutes, then you’ve boiled them perfectly. Hurrah for you.

Slowly, carefully, as if fighting the effects of gravity, drain the cooked potatoes into a sieve or colander, and allow to cool completely. They’ll dry as the steam rolls off them. The edges should be separated, flakey, ready to fall off into mush. If you’re too heavy-handed when draining them into the sieve, the potatoes will collapse into mush, so easy does it. Now, fire up the oven to 200c, and place a roasting pan with about 1/2-inch of (olive) oil in it so it gets very hot. When the oil is shimmeringly hot, add the potatoes using a spoon (gently!), roll them in the oil so they’re covered with a thin slick, and put the potatoes in the oven to brown. Turn over each chunk at 20 minute intervals, and watch them carefully so they don’t burn. Mine were ready in 45-minutes.


Heston’s Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients: (serves 4)

1 kilo large red-skin potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 sprigs each of rosemary and thyme wrapped in cheese cloth
(if you don’t wrap the rosemary in a cloth, the needles come off and make a mess on the potatoes. I had to pick them off by hand.)
6 small garlic cloves bashed with the side of a knife
olive oil, enough for a layer 1/2-inch deep in a roasting pan


Peel and cut the potatoes into equal size chunks. Put them in a pot of cold water with the whole/bashed garlic cloves and the cheese cloth bag of herbs. Bring up to a boil, uncovered, and then reduce the heat so the potatoes cook at a low simmer until very soft and starting to fall apart along the edges. About 20-25 minutes. Carefully drain into a colander or sieve, slowly slowly slowly, so they don’t collapse into a mushy mess. Discard the cloth with herbs, but set aside the garlic cloves, and allow the potatoes to cool. The cooler the better, actually. Cool, cooked  potatoes absorb less oil than hot ones.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F when the potatoes are cool.

Pour 1/2-inch of olive oil or vegetable oil into a roasting pan large enough to hold all the chunks in one layer. Put the pan in the oven so the oil can reach a shimmery high heat.

Now, carefully spoon each chunk of potato into the pan of hot oil. Turn gently so each chunk is coated with a thin slick of oil, toss in the boiled garlic and pop the pan back into the oven before the oil can cool too much.

Roast for 45-60 minutes, turning the potatoes about every 20-minutes so they can brown on all sides.

Don’t throw away any of the little crispy bits that have fallen off the potatoes. They’re delicious. Drain on a layer of paper towelling, and serve hot with a sprinkle of flaked salt.

Note: This recipe is based on Heston Blumenthal’s. I’ve omitted the beef drippings, reduced the time in the oven roasting, and a bit of other faffing about that he’s famous for.


Creamy Green String Bean Casserole with Crispy Onions

My grandmother used to make this for special occasions. She grabbed a can opener, and set about tipping the contents of tins, condensed cream of mushroom soup, Blue Lake tinned beans, and vacuum packed crispy onions, into an oven-proof dish. Then she cranked up the oven and baked it until it bubbled, and a thick skin wrapped across the surface like a tarpaulin. We loved it, although I can’t fathom why.

This version tastes better, has fewer chemicals, a fraction of the salt, and nothing beats freshly cooked green beans. Tinned green beans make me gag. This recipe will not make you gag. I promise.

Creamy Green String Bean Casserole with Crispy Onions


Crispy Onions
2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (32 grams)
(optional) 2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable or other high-heat oil for deep-frying

Mushroom Sauce
3 tablespoons butter (35 grams)
Large pkg closed cap mushrooms, thinly sliced and/or coarsely chopped
Few gratings fresh nutmeg (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 garlic cloves, pressed/minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups chicken broth (340ml)
a splash of double cream or a dollop of crème fraîche

1 to 1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and halved

Onions: Toss the onion slices with flour, optional breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Heat a 1/2-inch of oil in a large skillet until a drop of water flicked into it sputters. Add the onions, just a handful at a time in a single layer, and fry until a light golden brown (they’ll get more colour in the oven; do not overcook). Remove with a large slotted spoon, let oil drip off a little, then spread onions out on paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining onions. Set aside until needed.


Preheat the oven to 200c/350F

Green Beans: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook beans for 5 minutes (for standard green beans) until just tender. Don’t overcook. Drain beans, then plunge them into ice water to stop them from cooking. Drain again, and set aside.


Mushroom Sauce: Over medium-high heat, melt butter in an over-proof skillet. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and sauté them until they start releasing their liquid, approx 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté one more minute. Add the flour and stir it until it fully coats the mushrooms. Add the broth, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring the whole time until the flour is mixed into the liquid. Simmer for 1 minute, then add cream and bring back to a simmer, cooking until the sauce thickens a bit, about 5 to 6 minutes. Stirring frequently.

Add the greens beans to sauce and toss lightly until they are coated. Sprinkle crispy onions over the top. Bake for 15 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and onions are a shade darker. Eat at once.

You can also assemble this in an ovenproof dish by placing the beans first, add mushroom sauce, toss to coat completely, sprinkle over with crispy onion, and bake for 15-minutes, or until bubbling hot.


Make It Ahead: Onions can be made long in advance (up to a day) and keep at room temperature, loosely wrapped (not in an airtight container as they’ll go soft). Green beans can be cooked and kept in fridge until needed, approx one day. Green beans can also be combined with mushroom sauce and kept refrigerated for up to a day. Add onions and bake shortly before serving.

This is a tweaked version of a recipe from The Joy of Cooking (1980 edition).

How to Save Money at the Supermarket – Buying Past Sell-By Tomatoes


I managed to pick up a large package of on-the-stem cherry tomatoes the other day. They were past their sell-by date but they looked okay – not fuzzy or rotten. When I opened the package, the tomatoes felt just slightly soft, so I fired up the oven to 200C, sliced the tomatoes in half, drizzled some olive oil on the tomatoes, sprinkled a bit of flaked salt on top with some chopped garlic and fresh oregano, and roasted them for about 4-minutes.

Totally delicious served with some sourdough bread to mop up the juices, and it cost less than £1 for two servings. Buying past the sell-by-date produce is a good way to save a bit of money!

Do you have a favourite way of saving a bit of money at the grocery store?


What To Do With Those Apple Peelings

See all of these apple peels? I have bucket loads of them! Guess what … applepeels_2Oct13

I just saw a recipe (that’s not really a recipe at all) for using up these bits that would normally go straight into the compost pile. Actually, I don’t have a compost pile anymore  – during the garden remodel that corner of the old garden is now filled with a couple of fruit trees. I’m not sure if I’ll resurrect another compost pile or not. Maybe a little one that doesn’t insult the newly planted box bushes or the rock garden with its little alpine cuteness.

Anyway, back to the apple peels. Spray them with a bit of water, sprinkle them lightly with sugar (or Splenda in my case), spread them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake at 120C (low temp) until they are crispy and rolled up like old dead tree bark. Sounds appetising. I plan to try this tomorrow, as it’s “Let’s make more applesauce day!” (groaning heard from Mr Misk)

Has anyone else tried doing this? Was it successful or am I wasting expensive electricity on a half-baked whim?

How to Make Basic Tomato Sauce for Pasta


It’s harvest time, and even if you haven’t grown tomatoes this summer, you can still make this delicious basic tomato sauce that will wow your taste buds. It’s good. Really good.


This is a slightly tweaked version of Marcella Hazan’s Basic Italian Tomato Sauce. I like spicy, so I’ve included black pepper, cayenne pepper, and a bit more butter added at the end to thicken and gloss the sauce. I also didn’t have enough home-grown tomatoes, so I bought some and pumped up the volume with a 400g tin of whole peeled tomatoes.

The amount of butter is a bit sinful, but it’s not worth the effort if you reduce it or substitute it. It adds a gorgeous sheen and richness.

Rich Red Tomato Sauce

2 pounds of fresh tomatoes, seeded and skinned (or 2 large tins chopped toms
8 tablespoons cold butter, cubed (5T to start and 3T stirred in at the end)
1 large onion, peeled and cut in half diagonally
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Flaked sea salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano

If using fresh tomatoes, pop them whole on a baking sheet into the freezer and allow them to freeze hard. Remove and thaw. The skins will slide right off, and you can squeeze out the seeds and excess juice easily into a strainer. Keep the strained juice for soup stock. Chop the tomatoes into chunks (remove core and stem), and place them in a heavy-bottom, oven-safe pan with the salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir well. Add the onion cut into 2 equal halves, and 5 tablespoons of cubed butter. Bring to a slow simmer on the cooker, and then place the pot uncovered in the oven at a low temperature (approximately 150C/300F/G2) that maintains the simmer for 1 hour, stirring once every half hour. If the tomato chunks are still firm, continue cooking another 30-45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. If a smooth sauce is required, use a hand-blender (stick-blender). I usually press any solids against the back of a spoon, keeping some of the chunks intact for use as a pasta sauce. Serve with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.