Thursday, 24 July 2014

July 2014 Favourites List

Phew! What a scorcher!

London and most of the UK has been basking in the warmth of a fantastic few weeks. Nobody is in any danger of not being able to get a tan this Summer. Far more likely many of us will have bags under our eyes through failing to get any sleep on the clammier, humid nights!

But we mustn't complain! It may be "very British", but this hot Summer is exactly what we spent all of the Spring speculating over. Don't we all remember wondering aloud whether this Summer would be a good one?

I'm enjoying being able to wear some lighter clothes both in weight and colour. Summer is such a lovely time to be able to celebrate and enjoy brights. 

Of course, food is also a lighter and brighter in the heat. As the produce of the season changes, we have vivid reds from Summer soft fruits and ripe tomatoes. Salads, grills, and barbeques become the order of the day.

The Summer of gigs and festivals continues apace, and so this month's pictures are from my very memorable day at British Summer Time on 12 July where I saw some fabulous live music and the brilliant Franz Ferdinand gig at Somerset House. 

Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand

It was fabulous to be able to see living legend Neil Young play live, after I have admired his records and songwriting for 20 years. A huge influence on several generations of musicians, he played a career spanning 2 hour set which I and the crowd completely lapped up.

I also got to see the incredibly talented young singer-songwriter Lucy Rose, who I managed to have a chat with. She is working on the follow up to Like I Used To, an album well worth investigating.
Lucy Rose
But back to the July 2014 Favourites List....

Blogs Worth Following:


Inspired by Gujerati cooking, Kay's Spicy green beans with toasted sesame seeds looks like a completely fab side dish!

Love movies? Love popcorn? Love chocolate? How about a white chocolate edible popcorn snack bowl!

Snigdha meets Lucy Rose
The Urban Rajah's perfect Basmati rice is a gently spiced pilau:

Saw Cyrus Todiwala on Saturday Kitchen? Did you know he supports Find Your Feet's Curry For Change campaign? Catch his fantastic Bhaji recipe here:

Turkey is low fat and a healthy meat to eat. Here is recipe by Vivek Singh for a spicy marinade to pep up turkey breast, served with a moong dal "kedgeree" (khitchuri).

Neil Young

Grill time! Ottolenghi does veggies, chicken and prawns:

Pissaladiere is a Provencale classic. It's a oozy, oniony, non-cheesy pizza with a little anchovy umami:

The National

Glut of courgettes? Or lots of end-of-bag pasta accumulating? Let Linzi show you how to use it up:

Articles/Know How:

Knife skills demonstrations: Chiffonade (ribbon cut herb leaves - particularly useful for easy to bruise basil and coriander), Slice, Julienne, Dice, Bias cut:

Reading wine bottle labels, how to sort the wheat from the chaff:

Half Moon Run




Joni Mitchell – Blue

Neil Young – Harvest

Neil Young - Zuma

Lucy Rose – Like I Used To

Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action

Tom Odell

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Orecchiette, Butter bean and Cauliflower salad

This Summer has been pretty delightful in the UK. There's been lots of warm temperatures and sunny days. Weather that puts you in mind for barbeques, of course! 

Barbeque food is fun, informal and easy. Marinaded cuts of meat, burgers, sausages, the main element of the food is simple to prepare. Barbeque cooking on the grill does require a certain element of skill, but the prep is a doddle. But what do you have with your bangers and burgers? One answer is a salad.

But barbeque salads have to be more than just leaf. Or it seems like an afterthought. A gesture of "I'm expected to do this, I'm not that fussed, so here you go". 

Being the middle of Summer, how about making something fitting for the season? Something with sunshine and perhaps Meditteranean flavours... To me, nothing says that more than the flavours of Italy. But I don't want to do something textbook, I want to take those typical Italian flavours and ingredients and give them a twist.

So here is a pasta salad with some very able co-stars, butter beans, rich in fibre and protein and cauliflower, a much neglected vitamin source. I decided to dress it with a very thick dressing, a paste to be precise. The paste used as a dressing here is my spin on pesto. 

I would recommend you use the hand-made Orecchiette pasta, because of its thickness. It has a slightly more chewy texture as a result, which contrasts well with the cooked cauliflower and butter beans. However, if you can't find any, then machine made Orecchiette or Conchigle pasta will do. 

Serves 4 as a main course or 6-8 as a side salad for a Barbeque


Juice of half a lemon (you might want to juice the other half and keep it to one side)
3 tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese
3 tbsp pine nuts
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 can (400g size) butter beans, drained and rinsed
Half a cauliflower, washed and cut into small florets
125g Orecchiette pasta (or conchigle)
8 halves of sundried tomato (one third to one half of a 340g jar)
1 small handful (about 3 tbsp) chopped flat leaf parsley
15-20 large basil leaves, roughly chopped
Pinch of salt
Twist of ground black pepper
Olive oil to drizzle (optional)


Put a large saucepan full of water onto the heat and leave to come to the boil.

In a small pan, lightly toast the pine nuts until they are golden. Beware; they burn very quickly and become bitter and unpleasant. Leave to cool down.

Put the butter beans into a large mixing bowl.

Once boiling, put the Orecchiette pasta into the saucepan, and set a timer for 5 minutes.

When the timer goes, add the cauliflower florets. 

Reset the timer for 6-7 minutes, depending on whether you like the cauliflower al dente or just cooked.

Take all the remaining ingredients and blitz in a food processor to make a paste. 

When cooked, drain the Orecchiette pasta and cauliflower, reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking water. Rinse with cold water to arrest the cooking process. 

Put the cooled Orecchiette and cauliflower in the mixing bowl with the butter beans. Scrape out the paste, and fold into the beans, pasta and cauliflower thoroughly.

Taste the salad and check the consistency, and add either more lemon juice for more acidity, or the cooking water to loosen up the salad or seasoning as required.

Serve and enjoy!