Patio Pizza?

Our patio is smaller than the average primark changing room but I have grandiose ideas to install our very own pizza oven.  So, by way of persuasion (myself as well as the Dr.) I spent a lovely afternoon trialing pizza idea's. 

Three balls of dough, a fridge full of potential toppings and a hungry household arriving for dinner meant I worked quickly. We had fig, black olives, chili, beetroot (thus stained fingers) and fennel all hidden with grated manchego and molten ricotta. Twelve minutes they took to cook, and that was even a minute to many. 

I mean, really. I couldn't even finish my cup of tea in time. 


Red Tomato Cobbler

I've just written this blog post for the Great British Chef's site. Do you know, for the first time in four years, I might be able to make a weeny bit of money for all my posting. Hurrah!! 


For many consecutive summers I tended to Mr Pask's tomatoes in return for pocket money; the beginning of my little tomato love affair. He had a tiny greenhouse, two doors down, that became stiflingly sweaty in the Summer sun and was packed with tomato plants dripping with fruit. Years later I only think a tomato is really good if its smells like that greenhouse; dusty with scent and deep red in colour. 

Tomatoes have a lengthy, full season that runs right from June to October so some might say that right now they are at their peak. The temptation is often to add them to a salad, chop them up for a bolognese or pair with cheese for the classic sandwich but I wanted to make the tomato a star of this recipe. 

Think parmesan dumplings and you've just about got what this cobbler will be like. I've very gently fried the onions until they buckle from the heat and turn soft and caramel in colour, and mixed them plenty of fresh tomatoes, thyme, garlic and brown sugar.   The tomatoes do the talking. The cobbler is baked until sweet tomato juices break free and the cobbled crust is golden. Ideal for an August evening when the sun hasn't shone quite as much as the weather forecast promised. 


Do Ahead Dinners - James Ramsden

Dr Nick made me laugh yesterday. He has started a new job which means the work/life/wife ratio doesn't look particularly healthy. He told me he had started reading my blog to keep up with me. So, in the interests of my marriage, this is my bedtime reading Nicko.

How exciting to have Mr Ramsden's new book arrive, very promptly, by the nice man from Amazon. It's a beauty. The whole premise of the book is that hosts shouldn't be cooking when their guests arrive; mascara, filled flutes and relaxed giggles is the name of the do-ahead dinners game. 

James runs a supper club, the secret larder, and it has become one of the most popular in London - once being described as 'harder to get into than the Ivy'. His recipes are picked from the larder's best successes, food that has made his guests happy, allowed him to feed a crowd and be the ultimate host. 

Too many I like the sound of but today I think spice-roasted carrots with paneer and sesame is on order. 


Black Rice, Soy & Mango Salad

This weekend saw my car boot debut. Of course I've been to them before, I think, but never with a serious shopping list, lots of one pound coins and irritating enthusiasm. We were all set. I'd found the website and looked where the car could be parked. 

Alas, our plans changed slightly and we ended up the wrong side of Sussex on the morning of the sale. Two traffic jams (bad ones) and enough temporary traffic lights to drive you crazy meant we limped into the sale at 2pm. Anyone else would have abandoned plan but I had visions of this chest of drawers, vintage curtains and old flour dredger waiting for me at the entrance. 

Sadly we were greeted by two cars with their boots open. One had old golf caddies and the other had dirty, sad looking plastic baby toys. I whined like Jasper would. The only compensation was that there was a fruit stall who was almost giving away his wares, so late were we to arrive. 

Five enormous mango's for £1. Five. Nick said I should be pleased. 

We've been eating mango's non stop and today they were the catalyst to this beautiful salad. I mixed fresh cubes with black rice, spring onions, mint, lime zest and ginger. Then I tossed the whole lot in a gorgeous mirin, ginger and soy dressing. 

It tastes delicious and looks good but still doesn't quite make up for the traffic jams. 


Vagabond, N7

I know there are stacks of coffee places, we are spoilt when it comes to our daily pick-me-up but I really liked this new place in Highbury. The walls have taken 'shabby chic' to a new level and remind me of war photographs; the concrete walls look almost bullet ridden. In a good way. And there is lots of exposed brickwork and lovely dusty light. There is even a little cage for you to keep your dog, or teething toddler in, should you need.   

An unlikely garden, with more space than you'd expect, is a real perk and a little kitchen serving home made omelette's sits at the back. Double shot coffee made with Union beans is the Vagabond king and the guys behind the counter take serious pride is making sure yours is served just right.

All this is excellent but I'm particularly excited about this place because it is hosting my dear friend James Ramsden's supper club, the Secret Larder. 

Have a look at his website for a few more details and sign up for a spot - be patient, it might take a few months. 


Vagabond N7 - 105 Holloway Road, N7 8LT.


One Pot - Available in China

Look what arrived through my door today - my book has been translated into Chinese! The 'super simple' recipes look far from  super simple. 


Lucky Beach, Brighton

I've stopped putting sun cream on. It was all novel at first, having to fish around in my bag for my mini factor 30 but I think my skin has toughened now, such is the sunny day count down south. I keep going to the beach though thinking it might be our last 2013 chance and being surprised by blue skies the following morning. 

It's not just the sea I seek out.  A new joint has opened up just under the arches called Lucky Beach: a super cool beach cafe that is the brainchild of a very talented Mike Palmer. What he doesn't know about restaurant trends isn't worth knowing, it is his job to know what is hot in the restaurant world. Lucky Beach is his own, very brave venture and you can see he has pooled all his experience into this lovely little beach arch. 

The food is simple. Mostly burgers (done beautifully with their own handmade brioche bun and 35 day dry aged burgers), a few lovely sounding sandwiches and a salad or two for the girls. The atmosphere is fun and quirky and down right cool. It's the sort of place you are proud to know about and I think this summer, while the rays keep coming, Lucky Beach is going to keep on shining.