Friday, 27 November 2009

Her Goose was cooked
by Bella

You used to eat goose at Michaelmas, the quarter day on which rent was due. The goose feast afterwards must have been some compensation for the fiscal transfer. Now we seem to have goose only at Christmas, though you could give it a go for Thanksgiving.
The first goose I ever saw cooked was produced by a woman who turned out to be having an affair with my husband and I hadn't felt much like cooking one since. That is, until one turned up recently in the post, sent by the remarkable outfit Donald Russell. They provide meat for the royal palaces and everything that arrives from them, packed in dry ice in smart white polystyrene boxes, is of really excellent quality.
I thought long and hard about cooking this goose, but in the end used a method so simple and so delicious that I have been kicking myself ever since for not cooking one sooner. It made a fantastic feast for 7 people
Here's how we did it

1 goose roughly 4kg
6 oranges, halved or quartered depending on size
a mix of freshly ground salt and pepper
8 or 9 good sized potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks, boiled for five-7mins and gently floured, for roasting

Preheat the oven to 200c. Wipe the goose, making sure it's completely dry and put it in a roasting dish (make sure goose and dish fit in the oven). Put the oranges inside the cavity, rub the salt pepper on the skin and pour a little water round the bird. Put in the oven for an hour. At the end of the hour, drain off any excess fat into a bowl and reserve. Put the goose back into the oven at a lower temperature (say 180c) and continue to cook until the skin is brown and golden and crisp and any juices run clear (stick a fork into the leg, as this is the bit that takes longest to cook).
One hour or so before the end of cooking time, put the reserved fat into a roasting dish, heat in the oven and add the potatoes. Turn once or twice so that they brown evenly. Serve with the goose and a bowl of red cabbage and a dish of apple sauce.

Red Cabbage
A great accompaniment to goose, or you can turn baked red cabbage into a dish in its own right by adding sausages, pushed into the cabbage mix, about 40 minutes before the end of cooking
serves 6-7

1 medium sized red cabbage
450g cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
450g onions, finely chopped
150ml red wine
150ml wine vinegar
4tblsp brown sugar
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
several strips of orange peel
chopped herbs, eg parsley, sage, thyme
1 teasp ground cloves
half a cinnamon stick

Preheat the oven gas mark 4. Find a deep oven proof casserole and put in a layer of cabbage, a layer of onions and garlic and a layer of apples. Season with salt and pepper, add the herbs sprinkle on half the sugar and half the cloves and add the cinnamon stick. Continue the layers until the casserole is full. Pour in the wine and vinegar. Cover and cook in a very slow oven for 3-4 hours

Apple Sauce
I make apple sauce if I can't find a jar of it in the cupboard, consequently it's a bit of a hit and miss affair, using any ingredients that seem vaguely suitable that I happen to have to hand.

3-4 old apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1-2 cloves
half a cinnamon stick
a bit of lemon peel
knob of butter

Put the apple, cloves, cinnamon stick and lemon peel into a saucepan. Add a little water and put over a low heat until the apple is soft and breaking up. Stir in the butter, put in a fancy dish and serve
Boiling an orange
by Bella

We first met Paul on a beach in Andros. He was cooking a fish on a fire in the dark. It was an exciting meal as it was hard to know whether you were going to get a mouthful of sand or a mouthful of fish. There was lots of wine too, which added to the general sense of danger and well-being. Before the fish was demolished, we'd collected quite a crowd, including a small boy with a rubber dinghy who became my son's inseparable companion for the rest of the holiday. No one ever knew his name, my son maintaining that after spending a week in his company, it was now too late to ask.
The holiday ended, as holidays do and the next time I saw Paul was in our kitchen. He had made the intrepid journey from Bow to Dulwich and arrived on the doorstep clutching an orange.
'I must boil this orange' he stated firmly
'Why?' we said
'It's absolutely vital' said Paul, 'In fact, I have to boil it twice. It's to go in the cake.'
In a house not known for its puddings, cake sounded good but, it transpired, this was a cake not destined for this evening's entertainment but for the next day when Paul's 'other friends' would be benefiting from the boiled orange.
It's hard while eating dinner in a kitchen not to notice the presence of a boiling orange, especially the twice boiled kind, and especially if it's an orange that you're not going to eat or benefit from in any way.
The orange boiling took on the character of some pagan ritual, designed to propitiate the gods. It bubbled and hissed in the background and when it was time to catch his train back to Bow, Paul turned off the orange and took it away with him. I wondered whether it had been some kind of timing device, more tactful than setting an alarm clock
Later he sent a recipe for the cake which he had stolen from his friend Dom. We make it all the time, but the mysterious thing is, that Paul and the cake have never been seen together in our house...

Cake recipe
, which I stole from my friend Dom:

Boil orange (you have probably never seen this done before; many haven't). Change water after first minute of it boiling, then let it simmer away in new water for a couple of hours. Remove. When cool, cut off tiny ends, then quarter. If there are any surviving pips, remove them. Otherwise blend the bejesus out of said orange.

Beat three eggs with 250g sugar until pale and thick. (We've all dated such people.)

Fold in 275g ground almonds and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

Add orange pulp. Mix gently.

Cook for an hour at 180 degrees.

Serve with some marscapone mixed with caster sugar, and the juice and zest of one lime to taste.

You can cook cake with poppy seeds if you like.

Take it to someone else's house

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


lost in the annals of time:
This recipe was saved by me, although now I can't remember why or what on the earth the point of it was. It still sounds good, albeit needing an ending...

Cut a small onion into long segments and fry in some butter and olive oil. Add 2 cloves of garlic and 2/3 rashers of bacon cut into small slices. Fry gently until the onions are soft and the bacon is starting to brown. Add in 4/5 chopped chestnut mushrooms and continue to fry until they are soft. Throw in 2 large handfuls of spinach, a generous grating of nutmeg and a bit of white wine, and leave to cook gently with the lid on for about 5 minutes.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

sandwich time

mmm. Sandwich time. The last 20 minutes of This Morning with Philip and Holly and they are making Beouf Bourgignon and hilarious double entendres. I accidentally made an amazing and completely vegetarian sandwich. I had to make another one afterwards in case it was a dream.
Toasted sourdough bread and butter, 2 slices of very soft mozzarella, a handful of spinach leaves, a layer of mashed avocado and a few sprinkles of pizza express orignal dressing. squash it down - all sandwiches taste better squashed - and devour. (I hurt the roof of my mouth) accompanied by a last swig of red orange juice from the carton, 2 cornichons, a small morsel of smoked salmon and a plum. Easily in the top 5 lunches.

Monday, 9 November 2009

fireworks night stew

In a considerable improvement on last year's display, entitled "near-death experience", at least 1/3 of this year's fireworks got into the air and exploded there as planned. To accompany this spectacular event, we needed a cauldron full of hot, spicy, smoky stew.
We also had; hundreds of sausages, onion marmalade, salads, cakes (cherry and almond loaf from Nigella's domestic goddess) and a delicious concoction from Nigel Slater in The Observer magazine, baked potatoes with rillettes (although his assertion that potatoes would need only 1 hour baking was taken well by mum.)
As it turned out, We may as well have been feeding 500 people from a thimble but they were all very polite about it.
feeds about 8-10 people sensible portions.
- 3 thickly sliced chorizo sausages, fried in oil for about 6 minutes, then remove from the pot
- 2 chopped red onions, fried until soft in the oil and chorizo fat.
- add 4/5 small salad potatoes cut into equal sized chunks
- a handful of mini carrots
- 10 cloves of garlic slightly squashed
- 5 tomatoes chopped roughly
- add the chorizo back into the pot
- pour on about a glass of sherry
- an over-enthusiastic heaped teaspoon of smoked paprika, a large pinch of saffron strands, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, and a hesitant sprinkle of chilli powder ground together in a pestle and mortar and stirred in.
- 3 bay leaves, a strand of thyme leaves, and a handful of chopped parsley leaves and stalks.
- 2 tins of chopped tomato and 2 tins of beans (flageolet/haricot)
- 1 litre stock (we had goose but anything would do)
let it simmer away for hours - it was more convenient for us to leave it on very low for most of the day, but you can just simmer away until you like the consistancy and the level of spice.
Served in cups to an army of disappointed pyromaniacs. Thank god there was beer.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

ninja soup

It came from nowhere, no would ever have suspected it...
The kind of evening where everyone's hungry and no one can be bothered to do anything about it. There is very little in the fridge inspiring you, apart from half a bottle of wine. You just have to throw things at a saucepan, and ask everyone not to be picky. In the end this turned out to be quite good, an amalgamation of vaguely Asian ideas put together with odds and ends and hot enough to be comforting and a cure for colds.
- 1 fat clove of garlic, one thumb-sized lump of ginger, 1 small red fiery chilli, a handful of chopped parsley stalks and leaves and about a tbsp frozen chopped lime leaves, blended together with olive oil to make a paste.
- Fry the paste in a deep pan with a bit more oil and a teaspoon of assam paste. (this had been lying around in the fridge, and was included purely because I didn't fully trust the rest of my ingredients to be flavoursome enough. You could instead add a stick of lemongrass and replace the parsley with coriander for a much more authentic and homemade approach.
- After this has fried for a while, add a pint of chicken stock and a can of coconut milk (depending on how much you love coconut you could add more, I LOVE it and always want to break open a second can but I know this to be bad and wrong) and bring to the boil.
- As it's boiling I chuck in some baby new potatoes cut in half and a tablespoon of fish sauce (nam pla) and a squeeze of lime juice.
- After about 5 minutes I also add some quartered tomatoes and some green beans. After a few minutes more I add 2 portions of dried noodles, a packet of bamboo shoots from the "miscellaneous" shelf in the cupboard and 2 handfuls of frozen prawns.
- The timing of this dish is absolute guesswork. but the last few ingredients shouldn't have more than about 4 minutes.
- Serve with an extra squeeze of lime juice.
- The hardest thing about the whole experience is an even distribution of ingredients throughout 4 bowls, and apparently it is not cool to ask someone else to do that for you.

Monday, 2 November 2009

"sorry i couldn't coq it up tonight"

Inspired (sure, we've all been there) by This Morning chef, Phil Vickery, I wanted to make a coq au vin for dinner. He made it look so easy and delicious (whilst being VERY defensive about his method - embarrassed about simplifying things to such an extent that us jobless plebs could understand him...) and having 4 hours to spare of an afternoon, I gave it a go. I used a book called "the french kitchen" for professional guide whilst scrolling through Phil's "quick recap" in my head for comedy value - eg, in most french kitchens they will be able to bring an old coq in....
We only had a whole young chicken so I had to pull my socks up and do some serious butchery like a masterchef: the professionals contestant and joint it into 6 pieces. Worryingly, I found this to be pretty much the most fun you can possibly have in a kitchen, and my brother and the dog lurked around behind me like a 2-headed Monica Galetti pointing out that I had raw chicken in my hair and trying to eat it (respectively).
To accompany the coq au vin i made some parsnip mash with two ludicrously huge parsnips that had been sent to us in the post. Despite being by far the simplest part of the menu it was actually delicious, due to the last minute judgement on seasoning by my sister.

Parsnip mash
-Put 2 parsnips peeled and chopped into evenish chunks, on to boil for about 20 minutes or just until they are tender.
- when they are done and drained, mash them up gradually, adding double cream bit by bit and a pinch of salt and bit of grated nutmeg. When the mash has reached a consistency you like, stir through a knob of butter letting its melt slowly in and serve.

When we'd finished eating I recieved the above title in a text from a friend that I'd invited to dinner. awesome.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

food fight

I am paid a visit by my friend who is struggling to honour her commitment to vegetarianism - to which I am aggressively opposed.
She sighs, " if only everyone on the planet would stop eating cows there would be no drought and no famine.
I say, "if only you would stop eating all the best bits of leftover beef in my fridge."
In an attempt to avoid a fight, (nothing pretty about a hypocritical activist and a carnivorous barbarian scrapping on the floor) we settle on eating a nourishing soup made with a gnarly bit of celeriac - which is just exotic enough in this house to be considered a treat for me on a par with, say, a slice of salami.

celeriac and apple soup:
1 potato
1 apple
1/2 celeriac
2 bay leaves
3 juniper berries
handful of chopped sage
Salt and pepper
splash of sherry
chicken stock cube

- Fry finely chopped onion in a walnut sized knob of butter and a small splash of oil.
- when the onion has softened slightly, add in the (peeled and cubed) vegetables and fry them for about 6 minutes making sure they don't get stuck to the pan and burn.
- add the sherry, then throw in the bay, sage, juniper, salt and pepper.
- while this is sizzling away mix up a stock cube in abut a pint of boiling water and pour that in slowly.
- bring to the boil and let it simmer on its own for about 20 minutes or until you're satisfied that everything is cooked through. (or your vegetarian friend is so ravenous she is threatening cannibalism)
- blitz the soup to a consistency you like and serve.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Brand new chicken


We usually roast a chicken about once a week, and while it everyone's favourite meal (Bread Sauce! Bread Sauce!) it becomes very uninspiring to cook it the same way again and again. I found an interesting recipe in the Moro cookbook and decided to try it out despite the fact that only two of us would be eating as everyone else refused to come home.
SamandSam use a Turkish cheese called Labneh but assure us that you can get the same effect by mixing equal measures of natural yoghurt and cream cheese.
So, into the fake labneh (only just scraped together from the darkest depths of the fridge) I stirred; a fat clove of garlic smashed into a paste with a couple of pinches of salt, a handful of chopped up sage leaves and some smokey paprika, as well as a maverick addition of a few ground smoked peppercorns. this mix then gets stuffed under the skin of the chicken, and over the thighs as much as you can fit it in without shuddering - it is one of the most disturbing sensations in the world massaging yoghurt into a naked chicken. You may need to sew the ends together with toothpicks to keep the stuffing in.
This then roasts in the oven for 2 hours on gas mark 7. It is wonderful. We had ours with fried sliced potatoes and a salad, but samandsam recommend spinach and bulghar wheat. Too sensible for us on a weeknight. Or any night.

Reincarnation Dinner


The "lads" are over again and trudging around the house smoking fags and mixing drum tracks for their "album". Occasionally they come into the kitchen with a glazed expression and open and close the cupboards helplessly. I know they are hungry but won't admit it and can't work out the logistical nightmare of cooking for themselves in someone else's kitchen. So I decide to make them a vat of pasta.
When the labour of love is finished and I stand at the bottom of the stairs calling like a dinner lady from a fifties sitcom, it becomes clear that they have gone to McDonalds drive-thru instead. I eat a 1/6 of the pasta.
When Mum gets back that evening she finds my sister struck down by a bout of flu, and reforms my tragic forgotten lunch into a warm and comforting pasta bake, with some fried sausage meat and extra cheese on top.
Next day, my sister's mysterious illness is so life-threateningly serious that she can't go to school and instead spreads herself over all the sofas and watches x-factor, groaning.
As a cure, the pasta bake is evolved into a nourishing life-giving soup, by the addition of some chicken stock.
Next morning, the magic has rubbed off and my sister has been resurrected, once more a healthy, school-worthy person. Miracle.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009



I have come home from tour and ingested so many chicken nugget happy meals that I am practically crying out for some vegetarian options (sorry dad). So after what felt like three days waiting in line at Tesco (god help me, but every little does indeed help) I had a sack full of vegetables and only a vague idea of what to do with them. So this was born.

Melanzana Parmigiana (sorry Italy)

1 Aubergine cut into slices lengthways
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 packet of peas and runner beans
1 bag of spinach
3 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 red pepper cut into strips
a pinch or two each of chilli powder and ground nutmeg
dried oregano (not too much as it can be quite over-powering)
as much parmesan as possible (apparently this kind of culinary instruction leads to obsession)
olive oil
Jamie Oliver also recommends mozzarella and breadcrumbs fried in oil with oregano for a topping

- Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil and fry them in a griddle pan until they are charred with black stripes on both sides. This doesn't take long at all and gives a nice smoky flavour. When they are done (its easier to do this in batches) leave them aside on a piece of kitchen towel.
- throw the red pepper onto the griddle pan and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and let it blister and soften for a couple of minutes on a high heat.
- Make a tomato sauce by frying onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent then sprinkle over some chilli powder (real chillies chopped finely if you have any), nutmeg and dried oregano. Add the tinned tomatoes and a half a tin each of water to sluice out any remaining sauce clinging to the sides of the can.
- let this sauce reduce a bit and then add the green veg and leave it to cook for about 10 minutes throwing the spinach in at the end so that it wilts but doesn't get too soggy. When the sauce is ready take it off the heat.
- spread a thinnish layer of sauce in the bottom of a ceramic, oven-ready dish. Cover that with a layer of aubergine slices, a layer of torn basil leaves and a layer of grated parmesan. Cover this with another layer of sauce and repeat until the aubergines are used up, at which point I finished with a top layer of peppers, basil and lots more cheese. This is where Jamie Oliver's additions would be a nice touch but budget dictates this kitchen and I left it at that.
- bake in the oven for 25/30 minutes at 180c.
-Any leftovers are great on toast the next day, by which time I had regained normal appetite and carbs were necessary one more.

supper for one for two


No spaghetti, no parmesan, and no eggs so sadly no opportunity to make newfound and now beloved recipe for carbonara sauce. I have only just learnt how to make one of my most favourite meals/hangover cures and you cannot imagine my disappointment with the fridge for not providing the necessary ingredients to practise it.
This didn't really make up for it but was enjoyable despite two thirds of it being inhaled by the one who said he didn't want any...

-Put some pasta on according to the instructions on the packet - this is not an exercise in perfect timing skills.
-Fry some chopped bacon and when done, throw in an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic to fry in the fat plus a little extra butter.
-When the onions are soft add 1 chopped leek and fry for a while until it turns translucent. -Throw in a handful of leftover roast chicken, some chopped parsley, salt and pepper and about half a cup of frozen peas.
-Pour in some chicken stock - as much as you want depending on how soupy you'd like it to be (at this point my head was pretty soupy too) and simmer for about 10/12 minutes or until things have thickened a bit.
- pour in a bit of cream and add the pasta to the soup/sauce. scatter some more parsley on top.
parmesan would be nice. Carbonara sauce would also be nice.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

snow event curry


For some reason, blizzard conditions (or 'snow event' as the media has it) do not incline you towards the idea of curry. The wrong kind of heat, perhaps. Stew, soup and dumplings are what you want when the snow falls; toasted teacakes and crumpets and large mugs of hot chcolate with cream and marshmallows (especially if you happen to be 13).

However, curry, or rather kedgeree, was the only idea I could think of that would dispose of the smoked haddock fillet sitting accusingly in the fridge. Never mind the shrieks of the resident man, 'what on earth are you thinking of, kedgeree in a snowstorm? You must be mad,' or the fabulous flakes drifting down outside while mini avalanches slid off the magnolia tree, I got out the haddock and put it into some boiling water. It instantly became the only hot thing in the house and another reason for not cooking kedgeree in arctic weather immediately occurred to me - the necessity of opening a window to let out the pong of cooking fish.

this is my own version which does not conform to any known recipe, but is absolutely delicious
feeds 4-5

350g smoked haddock, or any other smoked fish, or indeed any fish at all
olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
8oz rice
all or any of the following: the seeds of 6 cardamom pods, turmeric, cumin seeds, curry leaves, curry powder, in quantities you feel happy with
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
handful of frozen prawns (opt)
handful of parsley, chopped
2 hard boiled eggs (opt), sliced

Heat a pan of water (roughly a pint and half) to boiling point and add the fish. Cook for 7-10mins and drain, reserving the cooking water.
In a large pan, heat the oil and add the chopped onion and fry for a few minutes til translucent. Add the garlic cloves and fry for a further couple of minutes. Add the rice and stir round until it is coated in oil. Add the spices and stir. Add the tomato and then pour in about two ladlefuls of the cooking water and stir round while it bubbles. Keep on adding the water at intervals until the mixture becomes thicker and creamier looking, and the rice is cooked. Add the flaked cooked fish, the prawns and half the parsley and cook for a further 5-10minutes or until all the liquid has all been absorbed. Pile the kedgeree on a large flat dish, decorate with the boiled egg slices and the rest of the parsley and serve.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

meat party


In times of financial stress, one turns to sausages and mince to feed the brains and bodies of those who remain members of the working classes. If there were any butchers left in this country, you could also turn to cheap cuts of beef - bavette, onglet, popes nose etc but that's just fanciful if you live near a large supermarket that's sucked the life blood out of your high street... (try Hardiesmill for traditionally butchered cheap cuts of happy Aberdeen Angus; life sustaining nosh will arrive in the post for minimum financial outlay).
But back in supermarketland, two for one packets of mince means you can cook one and stick one in the freezer for when you're even broker (or if especially organised, cook two dishes and freeze one of them for when you're even broker and too depressed to cook as well).
Stuck for something to do one day (or rather, waiting for the novel to reassert itself as a going proposition, rather than an ill-chosen collection of words badly arranged), I tried this recipe for minced pork (you can use lamb mince too). The finished result looks pretty unprepossessing, but it tastes fantastic and has the additional advantage of using up old bits of veg left lying around in the fridge.

stir-fried pork
serves 2-3

300g minced pork
broccoli, spring greens or finely chopped cabbage, as much as you fancy (or can find lying around)3-4 spring onions
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finley chopped
2 hot red chillis (deseeded and finely chopped)
olive oil
one lime
1 tbs Thai fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
large handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Blanch the greens for one minute in boiling water. Drain and set aside. Heat the oil in a shallow pan until really hot and cook the onions and chilli until soft but not coloured. Add the minced pork and cook til its brown and beginning to go crispy. Add the greens and stir around. In a bowl, mix the juice of the lime with the fish sauce and the sugar. Pour into the hot pan of mince so that it sizzles and deglazes the pan. Season and stir in the coriander and serve in small bowls

shepherds pie

If you have a packet of mince, a few spuds, a carrot or two and a bottle of Lea & Perrins sauce, you have a Shepherds pie, one of the cheapest, best and most comforting meals it's possible to produce. It's a dish that turns up in novels (one of Jilly Cooper's heroines cooks vats of the stuff for a coming-of-age party, looses her beau in the process but gains the love of her life) plays a background role in political intrigue (cf Jeffrey Archer) and is the subject of an ongoing often heated debate over the inclusion of carrots or tomatoes...

This version uses carrots

Shepherds pie
feeds 4-5

4-5 potatoes, chopped into chunks (I don't bother to peel them as the skin goes deliciously crispy in the oven), boiled and mashed and set aside for the topping
500g mince (lamb or beef)
olive oil
1 large onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
3-4 largeish carrots, sliced into rounds
lea and perrins sauce
red wine (opt)
water or stock
handful chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 180c. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the mince til it's begining to brown. Add the onions and fry until turning soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add the carrots stir around and cook for a few more minutes. Sprinkle in a little flour and stir til amalgamated. Shake in as much or as little lea and perrins sauce as you like, stirring, and then add a dash of red wine (if using) and enough water to make a rich thick sauce, not too runny. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped parsley.
Decant the meat mixture into an oven-proof casserole dish, spread on the mashed potato and put in the oven and cook for 40 minutes or so, or until the top is brown and bubbling. Serve with peas.

Sausage and cider casserole

The best sausages in the world were called Vigor sausages, after the butcher who produced them. We had them as children and I have never come across a better sausage since, though the chipolatas you get at Robinsons, the butchers in Stockbridge in Hampshire, run them a very close second. Sausages have now become depressingly gourmet, full of fancy foreign items when all you really want is plain pork. This casserole was made from Debbie and Andrews pork, sage and apple sausages because I had a left over tin of cider to use up and I thought it'd go well with the otherwise rather off-putting apple taste of the sausages.

Sausage and cider casserole
serves 2-3

1 pack of 6 sage and apple sausages
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
handful of fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
1 tin of cider 440ml

Preheat the oven to 180c. Heat some oil in an oven-proof pan and brown the sausages over a low heat. Add the chopped onion and fry til soft and translucent. Add the garlic and fry for a further couple of minutes. Add the sage leaves and cook for a minute or so. Add the cider and stir while it bubbles and foams. When things have quietened down a bit and the sauce has turned a rich smooth brown (add water if it's too thick), stir in the cream (a couple of tablespoons is probably enough) and put the casserole in the oven. Cook for 30-40mins until brown and bubbling. Serve with mash potato

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

in your dreams, sister...


End of Jan, rain tips down, trees drip and icy blasts fret at the gap between fashionable low cut jeans and skimpy vest... sometimes, all you want in the world is a real fire (made by man of house... 'stand aside woman, this man's work'. In your dreams, sister...) and a bowl of chilli. That's what I thought, anyway, as I staggered off the bus unladen by bags (can no longer afford shopping contained inside bags) but clutching a sad use-me-again hessian sack of mince beef and a tin of tomatoes. Man of house absent, doubtless in the Groucho club creating sparks of another kind, so use-me-again woman (just one more old bag in the recycle of life) made the fire herself, opened up a bottle of red wine and set to with the beef and tomatoes.
Now, Nigel Slater has a really good tip about mince... leave it to cook for ages in the pan until bits of it are going brown and crispy. He's right it's delicious and it also means that you can get on with other things while it's cooking - like stoking up fire, retrieving sitting room from grasp of messy teenage daughter and speaking on telephone to recently divorced friend ('No kidding.. what a bastard he turned out to be...'). Soon the mince is spitting away and the smell is divine. All that's left to do is find an onion, search around for the chilli (M&S do a really good very hot chilli), open up a tin of tomatoes and put on the rice.

feeds 6

500g mince beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed and chopped
1 red chilli pepper, deseeded and chopped (opt)
hot chilli powder
dash of red wine (opt)
1 tin tomatoes
tomato paste
about 500ml water or stock
handful chopped parsley

Heat some oil in a large deep pan and fry the mince til beginning to crisp and brown. Add the onions, stir round a bit and cook for five minutes or so. Add the garlic and chopped chilli, cook a bit longer (about 2 mins) until the onion is beginning to soften and turn golden. Add the chilli powder, as much or as little as you like, stir in the wine if using and let the meat mix hiss and bubble. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and as much stock or water as you think necessary. You want a thick bubbling sauce to emerge, glowing red in colour and emanating that exciting hot and musty chilli smell. Cover and leave to cook for half an hour or so (adding stock if necessary) and then put on the rice. Stir in a handful of parsley into the chilli just before end of cooking and season with salt and plenty of pepper. To serve: heap rice into bowls and spoon over the chilli, garnish with the rest of the parsley and add a dollop of sour cream on the side, if you like. Sit by fire and eat.

Solitary lunch

It's 2.30pm and in the white hot fire of creation, you've forgotten to have lunch. But now that you've thought about it, stabbing pangs of hunger start to attack. Lunch... it's got to be quick, it's got to make a nod to the five-a-day and it's got to be something you can eat while marvelling at Angela Lansbury's popping eyes on Murder She Wrote. Here's what I had.

fennel and mushrooms on toast
feeds one

half a bulb of fennel, finely chopped
7 or 8 mushrooms, chopped
olive oil
parsley or tarragon, finely chopped
parmesan cheese (opt)
tblsp cream
1 piece of bread

Heat the butter and oil in a small pan and fry the fennel til it begins to soften . Add the mushrooms and continue to cook. Put the toast in the toaster. Add the parsley or tarragon to the mushrooms, grate in some parmesan if using and stir in the cream. Season with salt and plenty of pepper and cook for a couple of minutes til bubbling. Slice the toast in half, put on a plate and spoon over the mushroom mix.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

monday night


This supper was quickly decided in sainsburys in Brixton while waiting for the bus home. Well aware that masterchef was on, any minute.

These measurements are just guesses as I can't remember how much i used, just put as much as you think looks right.
- 825g chicken (an odd weight - just one box of six pieces from tesco) - I had 3 thighs and 3 legs (sadly no 'how do you find clothes that fit' gags)
- 2 smallish onions
- 3 cloves garlic squashed with the blade of a knife
- 4/5 shriveling apples from the bottom of the fruit bowl, cored and chopped
- approx 200g celeriac, peeled and chopped into chunks
slug of calvados
3 cardamon pods (squashed to release flavour)
a pinch of fennel seeds, squashed
- half a can of cider
- 500ml vegetable stock, 1 cube

- In a heavy, deep frying pan, or casserole dish, brown the chicken pieces in some olive oil over a high heat. The time this takes completely depends on how much patience you have, I usually hang around until I can see satisfactory colour on the skin, then get bored and move on.
- When you have removed the chicken, turn the heat down and fry the chopped onions for a while until they are soft then throw in the garlic cloves.
- after a minute or so, add the apple and celeriac chunks and let them sizzle for about 5/6 minutes.
- return the chicken to the pot and pour in a generous slug of calvados, the crushed cardamom and fennel, chopped parsley and some salt and pepper.
- let everything simmer away until nearly all the calvados has evapourated, then add half the stock and half the cider, turn the heat down and leave it alone for a while, cooking slowly, checking every now and then that its not getting too dry, if so, add more stock and cider.
- as the chicken was cooking, I put some potatoes on to boil for mash and made a sort of beans and peas stew thing, just frozen peas, a leek and a couple of handfuls of runner beans cut into stripes, in a saucepan with butter oil and white wine.

Monday, 26 January 2009

'apocalypse wow!' cuisine


You are desperately rooting around at the back of the fridge, as if you are trying to pass through the back of it, hoping for some sort of narnia-esque cornucopia. Tragically trying to convince yourself that these cheese rinds and bottle of"burger sauce" stolen from the kebab shop can be conjoured into a fabulous meal. You are at the very end of the fridge supplies, and it may as well be the end of the world. This is the moment when the tins of stuff that have lasted beyond all other groceries, for god knows how many years, the tins that you bought almost as a joke, come into play. Pushed to the outermost realms of culinary possibility, you actually cook (in the microwave - it has come to this - you no longer have a care in the world) the steak and kidney pudding in a can. You bake some frozen chips and a lone potato waffle, languishing in the bottom drawer of the freezer, seperated from its packaging. There is a bag of 'country vegetables-cubed' suspiciously uniform in size and shape (pease, carrots and cauliflwer should never appear to be the same shape). The finishing touch come in the form of bisto gravy granules in "original best" flavour. You present this ravishing plateful of food to your audience. It is the end of the world. It is delicious!

Monday, 19 January 2009

"ill-culinary behaviour"


'Cooking for the band' proved not to be the disgusting failure that I had darkly imagined, as they invited me back to do the ceremonial closing night. An extra bottle of wine, a cake and a collective passing-out at the table due to extreme exhaustion (not food poisoning).
After a lengthy argument with an engineer about who truly is the god of all cook books, (I said Nigel Slater, he insisted Delia, "I don't want anything fancy, no pheasant or shit like that...") and whether I was displaying what he described as, 'ill-culinary behaviour' I got down to the serious task of deciding what to cook, and extracting money from the studio to pay for the ingredients.

After the success of the Alistair Hendy meal last week, I have developed a near obsession with his recipes and have been carrying his book 'Home Cook' around in my handbag, should an occasion arise in which I have to appear informed on caesar salad dressing or make a chicken pot pie.

In a new search through the pages I found a recipe for Thai green jungle curry, swiftly becoming my absolute favourite dish of all time and decided to recreate it. I ended up deviating heavily from Alistair's plan, purely out of greed - I want as many ingredients as possible at all times - and the ever-increasing number of guests ( boyfriends, father of the artist, co-producers, stray marimba players) who kept sitting down to dine. It was delicious but by no means perfect due to my tinkering, so a perfect excuse to practice by remaking it constantly.

makes enough for 8 people (or a serious party-in-my-mouth for 1)

- Fry 2 cloves of garlic and 1 blade of lemongrass (chopped) in some oil until the garlic is beginning to golden, then add 2 sachets of thai green curry paste (cheating I know but this kitchen doesn't even have non-plastic spoons let alone a pestle and mortar) and let it sizzle for a bit.
- After it has cooked for a minute or two pour in 2 cans of coconut milk, one cubes worth of chicken stock, 2 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tbsp fish sauce (pour the fish sauce in slowly and taste as you go to make sure it's not getting too salty).
- When the soup is bubbling, chuck in some raw chicken breasts (I used 3) sliced into thin discs to poach in the liquid as well as some peeled mini new potatoes and a red pepper chopped as small as you like.
- the vegetable section is really up to you, Alistair says use all greens, boiled separately and added at the end, but I added mine to stew along with the soup according to how long I thought they needed. As far as I'm concerned you must have mini potatoes, baby aubergines (if possible although unlikely) green beans and mange tout. Weirdly, cherry tomatoes can also work.
- You can cook this as long as you need or just as long as the chicken and veg takes to cook.
- At the end scatter with basil leaves and serve with coconut or sticky rice (imperative except I don't know how to do it, a lifelong goal is to make coconut rice that is even nearly as delicious and addictive as the one from Yelo the thai restaurant in Hoxton Square)
- Release dinner and album to rapturous applause (hopefully no critics present)

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Heather Mills Memorial Sideboard


A rather astonishing thing happened this morning. Looking around for further storage space, forgotten empty cupboards etc, in which to store the increasing flotsam, I came across a sideboard lugged home from a skip by several children. It lurks in a corner of what is laughingly known as a 'dining room' but which is in fact a bicycle nursery and coat store, and exudes a faded 1920s charm; art deco in intent, but not in execution, mirrored, lacking one leg and as it turned out, housing the 2007 batch of homemade marmalade.
Coincidentally, I had just run out of marmalade, but I now remembered why the 2007 had been confined to the cupboard in the first place. A slight trouble translating kgs back into lbs, not enough sugar as a result and a serious lack of application by the youngest child charged with chopping the orange peel, had meant that it hadn't set and each jar contained runny jelly at the bottom and a layer of gigantic chunks of peel at the top. It was too depressing to eat.
Needs must where the devil drives, however. It was breakfast time and here was a stack of cheap marmalade not requiring a trip to the local Tesco. We tried it and it was strangely delicious - matured into a rich and burnished brown, though still runny, jelly, the pavement-slab sized chunks softened enough to chew and exuding the kind of taste that you look for in vain in commercial marmalade. Bliss.
Further rummaging produced the recipe from which it had been made (it takes two days, so do it over a weekend)

Seville orange marmalade
a recipe invented by a matriarchal orange grower whose orange groves lie just outside Seville
Makes about six 240g/half pound pots

750g/1.5lbs bitter seville oranges
4 pints of water
juice of one lemon
granulated or preserving sugar
6 (or more) pots with lids, sterilised

Wash the fruit and cut in half and squeeze the juice into a large bowl. Reserve all the pips from the oranges and tie them up in a muslim bag. Cut the peel into thin shreds and add to the bowl of juice with the water, the bag of pips and the lemon juice. Soak the whole lot for 24-48 hours to tenderise.
Once soaked, put it all (including the bag of pips) into a large pan and bring up to boiling point. Cook for 1-1.5 hours until the peel is soft. remove the bag of pips, squeezing it gently.
Take the pan off the heat and measure out the contents into a large bowl using a measuring jug. For every pint of liquid add 480g/1lb sugar. Stir until dissolved. Pour the mixture back into the pan and bring back to the boil. Boil rapidly until setting point is reached (setting point is when a little marmalade, spooned onto a cold plate and left to cool, wrinkles when you tip the plate). Pour the marmalade into the jars, seal and leave to cool


Garbage soup, or hangover soup

olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 potatoes, chopped into chunks
3/4 carrots, chopped into chunks
whatever other veg you have lying around, peeled and chopped as necessary
herbs, whichever you have to hand
a dash of sherry if you are feeling rich
stock (or water if you are feeling especially poor)

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onions and fry til translucent. Add the garlic, fry for another 5 mins or so and then add the potatoes, carrots and any other veg (setting aside any green veg, eg cabbage or courgettes, that take less time to cook). Fry for a while in the oil, turning the veg occasionally. When the mixture is begining to stick and turn brown, add the sherry (if using). Cook furiously for a couple of minutes, then pour in the stock or water (add about a pint to start with and top up as needed). Once the potatoes and carrots are soft, add the rest of the veg. Cover and cook for as long as you want. Season to taste and serve to any hungover people getting in the way in your kitchen.


Fish Pie

At half past two on a Saturday afternoon, fish pie seemed like an inspired idea for supper, epecially as the resident man of the house had evinced a desire to cook it. 'What about the white sauce?' I say. 'What about it? he replies. 'Fishpie doesn't have white sauce.' 'Have we got enough eggs?' I persevere. 'Eggs' he shrieks. 'I'm not making bloody breakfast. I am making a pie with fish in it.' 'Prawns?' I suggest. 'Not that kind of fish' he says snootily.
As I say, it seemed like a good idea.
Evening arrived and the resident man had disappeared on some ploy of his own, all thoughts of fish evaporated, replaced by an urgent desire to find out where the poet Rimbaud had lived in South London ('Yes, he bloody did, in Tulse Hill as it happens and I need to know for my book...')

There are many ways of making fish pie but this is the one I used on this occasion because it happens in stages and I foolishly imagined the cook might return in time to put together the finished project. If you don't have a helpful nearby fishmonger, Sainsburys do a fish pie mix on their fresh fish counter

serves 6

1lb (or more) fish pie mix, or a mix of any white fish, smoked fish, salmon, monk fish etc
a few prawns
3 eggs, hardboiled and sliced
4 or 5 large potatoes, boiled and mashed

For the sauce
to make 600ml, or expand as necessary
45g butter
45g plain flour
600ml milk
bay leaf
salt and pepper

To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour to form a roux and add the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth and silky (don't stop stirring whatever you do, as it will go into intractable lumps and never recover), adding milk as you want. When the sauce starts to bubble, it's done. Take it off the heat and leave to cool, when it will thicken up slightly.
Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the fish into another pan, add milk to cover and heat over a medium heat. When the fish is beginning to be cooked, flake the larger pieces and remove from pan and stir (and as much of the cooking milk as you want) into the sauce. Add the sliced boiled eggs and some chopped parsley and stir slightly (don't break up the fish too much). Season totate. Put the mixture into an oven proof casserole and spread on the mashed potato. Cook in the oven until the sauce is bubbling up underneath and the potato is turning a crispy brown. Peas go very well with this.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

come dine with me


Desperate to host having watched about 600 hours of the afore-mentioned greatest television programme ever made, and wanting to cook something more exciting and challenging than casual slop for myself, I decided to create a dinner party menu and just hope that people would turn up. (Actually a pretty safe bet in our house)
After putting in some research - ie spreading out all the cookery books on the floor and reading them all very slowly ( lot of spare time on my hands) - I decided to follow a recipe of Alistair Hendy's, whose book, Home Cook I have come to worship and adore but whose author photo makes me want to kick him in the shins. My usual culinary impulse is to put as many ingredients as possible in, not unlike my sentence-writing, but in this case I decided to trust the book, only deviating slightly quantity-wise to suit the imagined 2 guests I would be receiving. As it turned out, about 12 people turned up to eat this tiny supper so next time I will be following to the letter...

Hendy's Hungarian Goulash

1kg braising steak -cubed
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp olive oil
2 red peppers sliced
2 onions sliced
2 fat cloves garlic chopped
2 big tbsp paprika
2 cans chopped tomatoes
bunch of parsley, bay and thyme
750ml Beef stock
soured cream and flat leaf parsley for end

"Toss the meat with some seasoned flour, brown all over in hot fat in a casserole until it looks dark, then lift it out. Do this in batches so as not to sweat the meat, and hang on to the remaining flour.
Next lightly blister the peppers by flash frying them in the leftover fat, then remove and keep to one side.
Add the onion and garlic to the remaining fat in the pan and fry until well softened and touched with brown, then sprinkle over the paprika.
Add the saved flour, stir through and cook for a few minutes more, stirring occasionally to stop it catching.
Add the tomatoes, stir and let it bubble, then tip in the meat, the herbs and enough stock so that the meat is covered and bring to a bubble again.
Put into a 150c or gas mark 2 oven and gently braise for 2 hours, stirring in the peppers halfway through cooking time.
When you take it out, stir in some soured cream and scatter with parsley. Serve with loads of rice. (I also sprinkled a bit of saffron into the rice before serving - mostly out of panic that i had so many people to feed - but it was a nice addition.)

for pudding I made my favourite pudding to cook and to eat, which is exactly how it's introduced in the book that I learnt it from. It's a great one to do as it seems terribly impressive to any guests assembled, who, on this occasion, included; a representative from the gay patisserie, an ad exec once mistaken for the ghost of Andy Warhol, a cosmology student and two drunken lotharios home from the pub. In fact it is relatively easy and cheap to make, although the one moment of pure fear during caramelisation is heart-stopping enough to convince you that what you have produced is a HUGE achievement.

Rowley Leigh's Tarte Tatin
2 lemons
2 kg cox's apples
125g butter
125g Caster sugar
200g puff pastry
A proper pan - v heavy with straight or almost straight sides, about 24cm diameter, that fits in your oven, finding this pan is about two thirds of the trouble of making this...

- Peel and quarter the apples, remove their cores and roll them in the juice of the lemons in a bowl to stop them browning.
- Smear the softened butter v generously all over the base and sides of a pan and pour the sugar on top, shaking the pan to make sure that it is evenly distributed.
- drain the apples of juice and arrange them in the pan in concentric circles on their sides as tightly as possible, embedding them in the butter/sugar mix.
- Put the pan on the fiercest heat you have.
- While keeping a beady eye on the pan on the heat, roll out the puff pastry into a disc about 2cm wider than the rim of the pan and leave to rest on a sheet of greaseproof paper in the fridge.
- watch the sides of the pan very closely. You are looking for a good, rich caramel colour. Move the pan around on the heat so that it caramelises evenly. (this is the terror part. when the phone will never stop ringing but you can't answer it because of the shrieking panic in your head and the caramel doom feeling.) This whole process will take between 10-20 minutes depending on your pan and heat. When it is done take off the heat.
- when the pan has cooled down a bit, drop the pastry disc onto the apples, letting the edges hang over the sides of the pan.
- Bake in the oven (220c gas mark 7) for 15 minutes (I always forget)
- when it's done take it out of the oven and let it rest. Then perform the great plate trick.
place an inverted plate bigger than the pan, over the top. grip v firmly, deep breath and flip over, thus, one hopes, moving tart to plate in one quick, pain-free motion. so unlikely.but delicious.

food bribery

maudie -

In an attempt to persuade my brother to stay at home with me a little bit longer, (watching endless re-runs of friends will make you feel a bit lonely) I offered to cook him lunch before he headed off to work at the "We saw you coming" shop.
It takes the inclusion of a selection of certain favourite ingredients before he is really on board with the situation, namely: coco pops, mushrooms, bacon, watermelon and macaroni. Having run out of the latter and point-blank refusing to include the former I settled on the following meal, which successfully enticed him to stay through the whole of 'the one where chandler and monica get married"...

grilled portobello mushrooms:
- in a pestle and mortar crush together a largeish clove of garlic, a handful of flat leaf parsley leaves and stalks, a good pinch of sea salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, and as much butter as you think, enough to combine the ingredients together, and create a paste.
- spread this mixture over the tops of the mushrooms. I go around the stalk but you can cut it off altogether, ( even chop it up and stir it into the mix) if you prefer.
- stick under a preheated grill for about 6 or 7 minutes or until it gives in when you poke it.

fried potatoes and bacon:
- fry one smallish onion, finely chopped in butter and a bit of olive oil, with a clove of garlic. when the onion is beginning to turn translucent and soft, add some chopped smoked bacon
- slice new potatoes into disc roughly as thick as a pound coin and add them to the pan.
- fry on a medium heat until everything is cooked, try not to let anything stick to the bottom of the pan, you could deglaze the pan with a little sherry and throw in a handful of chopped parsley at the end.
- serve with a bit of salad if you have any as a desultory nod to healthy living.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

cooking for the band


Being reminded several times throughout any supermarket shop, that we are on the tightest of budgets, is no fun at the best of times but, cooking dinner for the band? Standing in the frozen veg aisle, considering frost-covered bags of spinach is not what I've come to expect from pop stardom.
We had been summonsed to create a delicious meal for eight at the recording studio as a reward for all their hard work on an album that so far has the working title, "no guitars! instruments are for gays!"
Having met the 'artist's' requests for "fish" and "bar snacks", and filled in the gaps in the shopping list at the wine counter, we trudged home and proceeded to cook in a very stressful manner in a kitchen with only 2 saucepans; crushed, buttery new potatoes, roast garlic and cherry tomatoes, broccoli, beans, peas, salmon fillets for 7 and some chicken drumsticks for the anti-pescatarian (seriously?). It was a sumptuous feast fit for serious minded, budget conscious music producers... who promptly sent a lackey out for more wine.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

bubble and squeak


Apparently Gordon Brown is a fan of rumblethumps, the Scottish version of bubble and squeak. And just as well he's reminded us of its existence; this famously noisy mix of left over cabbage and mashed potato, sauteed in a pan, will soon be the only thing any of us can afford to cook. This is a slightly fancier, new labour? version of the original

Fancy Bubble and Squeak
serves 2-3

as many potatoes as you want, boiled til tender, or any left over mash
1 small savoy cabbage, cut into quarters and boiled til tender, or leftover cabbage, chopped into strips
a handful of leftover cooked sprouts, or boiled til tender with the spuds
1 small onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
olive oil
2oz butter
5-6 rashers of bacon

Heat the oven to 180c. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion until translucent. Add the crushed garlic. Drain the potatoes and sprouts (if boiling them) and crush with the butter. Add the crushed potato and sprouts and the cabbage to the onion and garlic and fry briefly in the pan. Season with salt and pepper. When the mixture is well amalgamated and beginning to sizzle transfer it to an oven-proof dish, cover with the rashers of bacon and cook in the oven for 30-40mins, or until the bacon is crispy and the potato is browning and golden.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

chicken in a pot

chicken in a pot

The small chicken destined to feed three for Sunday lunch eventually had to feed nine for sunday night supper (no one had got up in time for lunch). This is the Spanish Inquisition style of cooking - stretching one small ingredient to satisfy the hunger of many. On this particular occasion, those optimistically assembling in the kitchen included left over members from band practice, a furious divorcee and a hungry man (not related). The chicken grew smaller by the minute, until I thought of putting it into a pot with the remains of the 2008 vegetable rack. The resulting broth plus hacked up chicken and various veg fed all of us, including a bass guitarist whose father had forgotten to pick him up.
Here's how it went

serves up to 9 people

1 chicken
3 bay leaves
a handful of peppercorns, black or green
a few sprigs of thyme or parsley, or both
3 potatoes
as much left over veg as you can muster in any combination, but must include potatoes and, preferably, carrots. Other veg possibles are chicory, parsnips, celeriac, sprouts, leeks, fennel
fennel seeds (opt)
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
grated rind and juice of one lemon
sea salt
ground pepper

Put the water into a pan large enough to take the chicken and all the veg (water should cover chicken). Bring to the boil and add the three potatoes, peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves. When it returns to the boil add the chicken, cover and simmer for 25-30mins. Add the rest of the veg plus the grated lemon rind and juice and the garlic and continue to simmer for another 30-40mins, until the chicken is cooked and the veg is thoroughly tender. Remove the chicken to chop into pieces, crush a few of the potatoes into the broth and check seasoning. To serve: ladle the broth with generous quantities of veg into bowls and lay the chopped up pieces of chicken on top. Hunks of wholemeal bread are useful to mop up the broth.

unemployed soup ('murder she wrote' on in the background)


Having no job really makes me want to cook more. Anything to provide me with a project, no matter how short term, that will drown out the sound of my own brain flat-lining. Even today, as 4 casseroles were delivered to the door - ready made! - I refused to acknowledge them and made a lovely nourishing soup for as long as I could possibly drag the process out. It's cheap too.

1\2 butternut squash (peeled and diced)
3 small parsnips (sightly past their best, not that that's a requirement, just a sad fact in our kitchen) (peeled and diced)
1 leek (chopped)
1 onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic (squashed with knife)
4 v. small salad potatoes ( peeled and diced)
some leftover chicken stock about 3/4 pint
nutmeg, sage, vermouth, salt and pepper, pinch of sugar

Fry onions leeks and garlic on a medium heat with a large knob of butter and some oil until soft and translucent.
Add the squash, parsnip and potato cubes, turn the heat up a little and let them sizzle together for a few minutes, making sure they don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
stare blankly out of the window.
when you feel you might be losing control over the situation, slosh in some vermouth and add some chopped sage leaves, and a pinch each of salt, pepper, nutmeg and sugar.
ladle in the chicken stock and bring slowly to the boil.
Let it bubble away for a bit then turn the heat down, put the lid on and leave it alone for about 15/20 minutes or until everything's tender.
whether you have it smooth or chunky is up to you, but if you wish to avoid the intense brain-taxing question of 'fork or spoon?' that arises with a chunky soup, get the blender out. We had ours with some toast and pate and crab apple jelly.
There was enough for 4 serious bowls.