Use Your Book Tokens


Want a little advice on how to use your Book tokens after the festive season….Before Christmas I got lots and lots of newly published cookbooks through the post, but I was so crazily busy that I just about managed to flick through them but didn’t manage to test anything from them until now. Today some thoughts on three different publications. The first one comes from Mark Moriarty, who very sweetly sent me a present of his first cookbook ‘Flavour’ with personal dedication, and a thank you for being an inspiration. How sweet is that…I was delighted to read that I was even a teensy bit of an inspiration to this super talented and thoroughly nice young man…and wait till you see the photo of him and his cute little dog on the inside cover.

The book is full of recipes I really want to dash into the kitchen to try – how about Barbecued Chicken Tikka Skewers, or Yuk Sung with a Peanut Slaw. There’s a fancy Beef Wellington in there too and a super clever, Quick Pan Pizza that you and the kids will love. I was also tempted by the Beef Koftas with Tzatziki and Flatbreads and there’s lots, lots more.

Everyone’s favourite cooking Grandma, Mary Berry has published yet another book, can you imagine she has written over 75 cookbooks and pretty much all have been bestsellers. ‘Mary Makes it Easy’, the new ultimate stress-free cookbook has 120 brand new foolproof recipes.

As a home cook. Mary says she understands the pressures and challenges that come with preparing delicious meals day after day especially when you’re juggling a busy schedule in our frantic modern lives. She is determined that cooking and preparing food for friends and family shouldn’t be one of them, so she’s sharing lots of the tips and tricks that she’s learned over the years – what a woman?

I’ve chosen Humble Pie, (don’t you love the name of the recipe) to share with you from the book but I’m also looking forward to trying Friday Night Lamb Curry, Spinach Dahl, Meatball Toad in the Hole with Sage, and a one pot dish called Chicken which provides Tartiflette.

Last but certainly not least comes, ‘These Delicious Things’ by Pavilion Books, a compilation of recipes, published to raise vital funds for the charity Magic Breakfast which provides breakfast for thousands of hungry children every day. Can you imagine a more worthy cause? Over 100 cooks and chefs gladly provided a favourite recipe. The entire team who worked on the book gave their services free and 100% of the publisher’s net profits go to Magic Breakfast to try end children’s morning hunger which is a barrier to education in schools. This book is full of goodies.

Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Proper Porridge is both nourishing and delicious, Simon Hopkinson added a creamy rice pudding, Stanley Tucci shared his secret recipe for potato croquettes but there’s a myriad of super exciting spicy dishes too from the new generation of brilliant young and not so young chefs and cooks.

Last but not least…could be worth the price of the book for Nigel Slater’s Pear and Ginger Cake.

Jamie Oliver’s Proper Porridge

Recipe taken from ‘These delicious things’ published by Pavilion

One of my earliest recollections of comfort food is also one of my earliest memories, full stop.  I was about five years old and I’d been dropped off with my sister, Anna, to stay at my nan and grandad’s.  They lived in a cute little bungalow, stuck to a budget and cooked every single day.  Because me and Anna lived in a pub, there wasn’t really a routine, but over at Nan and Grandad’s, there was a real pattern to the day, starting at 7am sharp with Nan’s ritual of proper porridge-making.  There’d always be steaming cups of tea waiting for us on the table, and we’d climb into our chairs, feet swinging above the floor.

I can still picture the strange turquoise paper that lined the walls, the array of classic family photos on the mantelpiece and the retro drinks cabinet.  The radio – or the wireless as they called it – would always be on Radio 4 and we’d laugh as Grandad berated all the politicians during the news.

Nan’s porridge was like nothing I’d ever tasted before. Having researched it, hers was a classic Scottish method and it was delicious.

It was at about this time that Ready Brek launched a brilliant ad campaign where a kid went to school glowing after tucking into a bowlful.  Certainly, my nan’s porridge gave me a glow – it was on another level.

Serves 2

1 big builder’s mug of coarse rolled large oats, such as Flahavan’s

whole milk or cream, to serve

Proper porridge should take around 18 minutes from start to finish.  Pour the oats into a high-sided pan with 3 mugs of boiling water and a pinch of sea salt.  It’s important to start with water, as milk often scalds or boils over and doesn’t smell or taste great when it does.  Place the pan on a medium heat until it just starts to boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, or until thick and creamy, stirring regularly, and adding a good splash of milk or cream towards the end to make it super-luxurious.

Nan would never be rushed when she made porridge, and all those torturous minutes later it would be poured into wide soup bowls and given to Grandad, Anna and me.  We’d go to tuck in straight away, but Grandad always stopped us, so I’m going to stop you now.  It’s important to wait another 3 minutes for the residual chill of the bowl to slightly cool down the porridge from the outside in, so it remains soft, silky and oozy in the middle, but goes almost firm and jellified round the edges.

Grandad would always sprinkle his porridge with granulated brown sugar and insist you wait a minute and a half for it to pull out the moisture from the porridge and turn it into a bizarrely impressive caramelly glaze.

I loved this but couldn’t help opting for a spoonful of golden syrup instead.  What I found extraordinary was the way that over a couple of minutes, with a little jiggling of the bowl, the syrup always managed to creep down around and underneath the porridge, elevating it as if it were some sort of floating island.

We’d then marvel as Grandad got out a knife and cut the porridge into a chequerboard.  He’d then pick up a jug of cold whole milk and gently pour it to one side of the bowl, so it filled up every crack of the chequerboard like some crazy paddy-field drainage system.  Then, and only then, were we given the signal to attack.  And I have to say, that porridge was as good a breakfast as I’ve ever had. 

Melissa Thompson’s Barbecued Pork Ribs

Recipe taken from ‘These delicious things’ published by Pavilion

Our barbecues were always different from other people’s.  Dad was in the Navy and would bring back food ideas from wherever he had been.  He was the first person I knew who used ketchup as an ingredient rather than a stand-alone sauce.  He loved feeding people and whenever the barbecue was lit, it felt like a celebration.  I remember the anticipation as the food was cooking, the excitement of having to wait.  I’ve always gravitated towards that.

Where my friends’ barbecues had burgers, bangers and chicken that was burnt on the outside and raw in the middle, we had my dad’s belly pork ribs.  To me, then uninitiated in cooking, they seemed so intriguing and complex.  For a start, they needed more cooking than everything else.  And they offered so much more texturally and flavour-wise than anything else cooked over coal.

First, there was the caramelised sticky exterior.  Then, the slight resistance on the first bite before the meat yielded, giving way to layers of fat that, rendered over the coals, almost collapsed into liquid in the mouth.  And, of course, the flavour: sweet, tangy, smoky and savoury all at the same time.  Those ribs taught me a lot about food – the importance of time, of layering flavour – and as I got into barbecuing, it was these I most wanted to perfect.

When finally, I cracked it, my family came to mine for a barbecue.  My brother took a bite, then turned to Dad and announced that my ribs had taken his top spot.  Mum nodded in agreement, while Dad took it graciously, even perhaps with a hint of pride.

My secret ingredient is crispy onions, melted into the base before it’s painted onto the ribs.  It has a deep sweetness that sings and gives the ribs a brilliant stickiness.  They are best on a barbecue, shared with loved ones, but they are also really good in an oven – I’ve given both methods here.

Serves 4

8 skinless belly pork ribs, about 3cm thick

For the baste

4 tbsp tomato ketchup

2 tbsp crispy onions

1 tbsp cider vinegar (white wine and rice vinegar also work)

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 garlic clove, grated

For the rub

1 tbsp paprika (ideally sweet, but any will do)

1 tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder (optional)

1 tsp cumin, ground

1 tsp black pepper, ground

1 tsp salt 

Put all the baste ingredients in a saucepan and cook over a low-medium heat for 8 minutes.  If it thickens too much, add a dash of water.  Remove from the heat and blend using a stick blender or in a food processor until smooth.

Mix all the rub ingredients together, place the ribs on a tray and sprinkle the rub over them.  Ensure they are totally covered, then leave to rest while you prepare the barbecue (for how to cook in an oven, see method).

Light your barbecue for indirect cooking.  Pile between 10 and 15 medium-sized charcoal pieces to the side of the bottom grate.  Once they’re ready – white and glowing – spread them out, but still just on one side of the grate.

Place the cooking grate over the coals and sear the ribs directly over the heat for a few minutes on each side until sealed.  Then lay them on the opposite side of the grate to the heat.  Close the lid and leave for 30 minutes.  Aim for the barbecue to be about 140°C – if your barbecue doesn’t have a temperature gauge, you should be able to comfortably hold your hand 15cm about the coats for about 6-8 seconds.  Adjust the temperature using the bottom vents – to increase the temperature, open them more to allow more air in.  To reduce the heat, limit the airflow by partially closing the vents. 

With a brush, baste the ribs with the sauce.  Close the lid again and leave for 30 seconds.  Repeat at least three times, always checking the coals are still putting out enough heat.  If not, top them up, a couple of extra pieces at a time.

Once the ribs are dark and sticky – the total cooking time will be around 2 hours – remove from the heat and leave to rest for 10 minutes.  Serve with a sharp fennel salad.

If cooking in an oven, preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan)/Gas Mark 6 and place the ribs in the oven on a tray.  Cook for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 150°C (130°C fan)/Gas Mark 2 and cook for 30 minutes.  Baste all over with the sauce and return to the oven for 30 minutes.  Repeat at least three times.  Once the ribs are dark and sticky, remove from the oven, rest and serve.

Mark Moriarty’s Yuk Sung with Peanut Slaw

Recipe taken from Flavour by Mark Moriarty published by Gill Books

Yuk Sung is a great midweek recipe for keeping people happy and fed, without slaving for too long. The pan, store cupboard and grater will do the heavy lifting for you. Depending on how hungry the crowd are, you can serve with lettuce cups and/or rice.

Serves 4

400g pork mince

4 tbsp vegetable oil

3 garlic cloves, grated

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger root, peeled and grated

1 tbsp dried chilli flakes, plus extra to garnish

1 ½ tbsp dark soy sauce

2 tbsp oyster sauce

3 spring onions, sliced

zest of ½ lime

8 iceberg lettuce cups

For the slaw

1 carrot

1 green apple

4 white cabbage leaves

1 tbsp peanut butter

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

100ml olive oil

4 tbsp roasted peanuts

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a non-stick pan over a high heat, add the pork mince and break it up using a wooden spoon so that it browns all over.  It’s very important to let the mince sit and caramelise, so don’t keep moving it.

Make a well in the middle of your pan and add the vegetable oil, garlic, ginger and chilli flakes.  Cook for a few minutes until the garlic turns golden, then stir it into the mince.

Reduce the heat slightly, then add the soy sauce and oyster sauce.  Mix to coat the pork and cook for a further minute until it becomes sticky.

Turn off the heat completely and garnish with the spring onions, some more chilli flakes and the lime zest.

To make the slaw, begin by grating the carrot and apple into a bowl, using a box grater, or else slice thinly with a knife.

Next, slice the cabbage as thinly as possible and add this into the bowl.

For the dressing, whisk together the peanut butter, mustard, vinegar and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour this into the slow mix and dress.  Top with the toasted peanuts before serving up with the mince and the lettuce cups.

Mary Berry’s Humble Pie

Recipe taken from Mary Makes It Easy published by Penguin Random House UK

Hearty, warming and a real treat!

This pie can be made, left unglazed and kept covered in the fridge for up to 24 hours ahead.  Not suitable for freezing.

Serves 6

1 large cauliflower

2 leeks, trimmed and cut into 2cm slices

115g frozen petits pois

1 x 375g packet ready-rolled puff pastry

knob of butter

200g button mushrooms, halved

1 egg, beaten

Cheese Sauce

55g butter

55g plain flour

450ml hot milk

2 tsp Dijon mustard

115g mature Cheddar, coarsely grated

55g Parmesan, coarsely grated

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/Gas Mark 6.

You will need a fairly deep 28cm diameter dish or a 3-pint dish.

Break the cauliflower into fairly small, even-sized florets.  Some of the smaller leaves can be chopped into pieces.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Add the leeks and boil for 4 minutes.  Add the cauliflower florets and leaves and bring back to a boil for 3 minutes until just tender.  Drina and run under cold water to stop the cooking.  Drain well and set aside.

To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 1 minute.  Gradually add the hot milk, whisking until thickened.  Stir in the mustard, Cheddar and Parmesan, and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Heat the butter over a high heat, pan fry the mushrooms for 3 minutes until golden and season with salt and pepper, set aside to cool.  Add all the cold vegetables and frozen peas to the cheese sauce, stir and check the seasoning.  Spoon into the pie dish.

Unroll the pastry and remove a 7cm strip from the short side and chill in the fridge.  Roll out the remaining pastry to slightly bigger than the top of your pie dish.  Brush beaten egg around the edge of the dish, then place the pastry on top and press down on the edges to seal.  Trim any excess pastry with a sharp knife and make a small slit in the centre for the steam to escape.  Brush the top with beaten egg.

Roll out the reserved strip of pastry to be a bit thinner, then roll it up tightly. Using a sharp knife, slice to make long thin strips.  Unravel and dip them into the egg wash, then arrange on top of the pie, in a random pattern.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the sauce is bubbling around the edges.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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