christmas mincemeat: and a secret ingredient . . .

Christmas mincemeat 2014
I am curious about how this year's batch of mincemeat will turn out as I've added a "secret" ingredient. Every time you throw a load of mincemeat ingredients into a large bowl, you are stirring up a load of history. It is traditional to have made your Christmas mincemeat on the last Sunday in November, "Stir-Up Sunday" - which gives it a good two weeks to mature before using. While I may be late in posting, I am actually feeling quite smug, as I managed to make mine in early November. That really is a first for me. But this new addition, which is actually a very "old" ingredient has me intrigued . . .

middle eastern arayes (meat stuffed pitta sandwich)

 middle eastern arayes (meat stuffed pitta sandwich)
A cooked pitta bread sandwich popular around the Middle East, these arayes are very easy to make, stuffed with aromatic, spiced minced lamb or kid goat meat. I was recently lucky enough to work with the guys from Gourmet Goat, who gave me some minced kid goat to play with. Not only did I have a lot of fun experimenting . . . dear god, it was utterly delicious!

I served mine with some Turkish pickled chillies (you know the sort you get in a kebab shop), and some coriander chutney. Admittedly that isn't traditional, but it's what I had in the fridge and it worked really well. Hummus would be perfect too.

Serves 5-6
Skill level: Easy

500g minced lamb or kid goat
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
3 tsp Lebanese 7-spice mix (or 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground allspice and half tsp ground black pepper)
half tsp salt
a small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
10-12 baby plum tomatoes, finely chopped
cayenne pepper
sumac or fresh lemon juice
5-6 pitta breads
olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. 
  2. Finely chop the onion and combine with minced lamb, together with the ground spices, salt and chopped parsley. Make sure the mix is well-combined.
  3. Cut each pitta, either in half or along the long side. Using a very sharp knife, carefully slice the bread part of the way through to "open" it up. This is easier if the pitta bread has been warmed in the oven first as it will puff up a little.
  4. Spread each piece of pitta with about 2 tablespoons of mixture. Sprinkle with a little cayenne pepper and sumac (or lemon juice) and top with a little chopped tomato. Fold back the top part of the pitta and lightly press down.
  5. Lightly brush both sides of the pitta bread with olive oil.
  6. Place the stuffed pitta (arayes) on a prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, before turning over and cooking for a further 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. I like to serve mine with pickled green chillies and olives, but some herbed plain yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon juice is pretty good too.

wood blewits: the most beautiful mushroom of all

wood blewits (clitocybe nuda/lepista nuda)
Is there anything more fairy tale than a wood blewit mushroom? I don't think so. With their lilac-blue stems and pinkish violet-coloured flattish caps they are the stuff of fantasy. Also charmingly known as pied bleu in French (blue feet), they grow in leaf litter under deciduous trees in Britain's woodland. I'd love to tell you that I foraged for them myself. But the more prosaic answer is that I bought them in Borough Market, from one of several fabulous stalls that sell wild mushrooms.

poffertjes: Dutch buckwheat pancakes

poffertjes (Dutch buckwheat pancakes
These pillowy buckwheat pancakes are light, delicious and really rather indulgent. Even their name is descriptive; "poffertjes" in Dutch sounds a bit like "poffer-juss," which to my mind sounds like pretty fluffy pancakes.

stuffed delicata squash

delicata squash stuffed with tomato and mince sauce
A few weeks ago I posted about one of my favourite new discoveries, the delicata squash. You'll be forgiven for thinking that I didn't do much with it except stand back and admire it! Gosh, there is really nothing so appealing as a vegetable with a bit of va-va-voom and go-faster stripes.

chocolate covered cinder toffee (honeycomb)

chocolate covered cinder toffee
Chocolate covered cinder toffee (known in some parts as honeycomb, puff candy, hokey-pokey, yellowman or seafoam,  but not to be confused with bonfire toffee) brings out my inner child. I love this stuff and could eat it all year around, not just on Bonfire Night. Making it is part cookery and part science project; (I get particularly excited when you add the bicarb to the sugar syrup and it all froths up . . . see what I mean about pleasing my inner child?) Anyway there is much fun to be had by all, and (my favourite type of science, kitchen science) you can eat the results! A really good explanation for the science and magic bit can be found on The Guardian website.

what's in season: november

Boskoop Rouge apples from Chegworth Valley at Borough Market
The Crossed Apple
1've come to give you fruit from out my orchard, Of wide report.
I have trees there that bear me many apples. Of every sort:

Clear, streaked; red and russet; green and golden: Sour and sweet.
This apple's from a tree yet unbeholden, Where two kinds meet,
So that this side is red without a dapple,
And this side's hue is clear and snowy.
It's a lovely apple. It is for you.

a witches brew soup

a witches brew soup
Of all the food I cooked at Borough Market's demonstration kitchen suitable for a children's Halloween party, the one that got the most visceral reaction was my Witches Brew soup. Unfortunately that reaction was a unanimous "ugh". Where, oh where did it all go wrong? I suspect I was a victim of my own making.

blood dipping sauce (or roasted pepper and tomato sauce)

blood dipping sauce (or roasted pepper and tomato sauce) 
My so-called blood dipping sauce made to go with my Halloween vampire bat wings is merely a variation on my Spanish romesco sauce, but without the nuts and chilli peppers. Because it was aimed at children, I didn't want anything too spicy, but I did want something slightly sweet and tangy. It went down a treat with the vampire bat wings, as well as with the monster bones (roasted parsnips) that I cooked for the Borough Market Halloween cooking demo.

vampire bat wings (with blood dipping sauce)

vampire bat wings with blood dipping sauce
I am sooooo behind with my blogging and have stacks of recipes to post, so forgive me if a load all come at once.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to help her cater her small son's birthday party, around the theme of "monsters." I did and the kids seemed to enjoy some truly monstrous creations. By coincidence, Borough Market asked me to fill in for one of the demo chefs who had been forced to pull out of a Halloween-themed cooking demonstration aimed at children. Now I have to admit that I don't have a huge amount of experience of cooking for children. But what I hope I do have is bags of enthusiasm and a tiny bit of creativity.

my favourite slow-cooked tomato sauce

slow-cooked tomato sauce
There is a distinct chill in the air and the path to my front door is slippery with fallen leaves. It is definitely the weather for slow-cooked soups and stews.