Friday, 19 December 2014

December 2014 Favourites List

December 2014 Favourites List

Today is the last day of term. At the law school where I work we have had a long term. We started in September with a whole new cohort of students. We have all got to know each other, got settled in to the year's course, and worked hard over the last 4 months. I am so proud of my students who have gone from being purely academic lawyers to an awareness of the practicalities of being a "real life" lawyer. We have more ground to cover and a long way to go, but they have come so far, so fast. I hope they take some time to reflect on how many practical skills they have learned, and how much procedural knowledge they have amassed which make them far better lawyers than they were when they arrived with us. All the credit goes to them; they have put in the work, time, dedication and engagement. 

Since the start of term, I have been so busy my feet have barely touched the ground. I have not had the same time for home cooking and blogging as I have in previous years. It's a shame, but without making promises I can't keep, I hope I will be more prolific in 2015 than I have been recently. 

And so we come into the heart of the festive season. Slowly my neighbours are putting lights in their windows and trees in their bay windows. High Streets are lit up for Christmas. I have donned my Santa hat and flashing festive earrings for my last classes of the year. I'm not entirely sure if my students appreciated the sense of fun in doing so, or merely thought I was a little bit mad, but it something had to be done! After all, otherwise life would be like Narnia in the days of the White Witch where it was "always Winter and never Christmas"!

Christmas is a wonderful time of year for colour, fun, love and celebration. I hope you have a very happy Christmas!

So here is my last Favourites List for 2014. All the best for a happy new year and a brilliant 2015!

This month's pictures are the heavenly Christmas themed cake offerings at Konditor & Cook. 


Cheap, warming and will keep you feeling full... Chicken wings in mushroom and barley broth by Nigel Slater:

Gymkhana's potato chaat recipe, with some bonus Mark Hix recipes:

 "Strata" are a like an eggy muffin bake. Here's a lovely Autumnal recipe I found with sausage and fennel.

I usually braise in wine, so this is a lamb shank recipe with a different twist; beer!

Speculaas (Dutch moulded gingerbread) is iconic. Here is a website with recipes run by the Vandotsch Speculaas spice company. Their moulds are so cute and their spice warming and high quality.

30 minute tagine? Yes please. I don't always have the luxury of time on a schoolnight!

Zuppa Toscana, Magri Style with Italian sausage, potato, kale and cream:

Festive Flocks - an Indian/Bangladeshi food menu for Wintry days, featuring Pani Puri, Jeera chicken, lamb shank fillet curry, veg haleem, pilau rice and kulfi:

Healthy, easy with the added attraction of being finger food. Beef and shiitake mushroom lettuce wraps:

Baking fans - here is a Stollen Biscotti recipe for Christmas by the lovely Angela (AKA cherubpaddock on twitter)

Christmas dinner inspiration, spiced glazed ham recipe for Christmas for 8 people:

Walnut, Stilton and Mushroom Risotto Cakes - a wintry dish which can use leftover risotto if available:

Winter salads: Brussels sprouts, water chestnuts, pork and pak choi and Red cabbage with fennel and carrot:

Articles/Know How:

Cromars in St. Andrews, Fife
Papa’s Barn in Ditton, Kent
Burton Road Chippy in Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Kent and Simpsons Fish & Chips in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Fylde Fish Bar in Southport, Merseyside

Jay Rayner sends up food fads and fashions.… Caution: may contain a trendy foam... Or are they passe now?

Feeling cold in the Big Smoke? Warm yourself with one of London's best hot chocolates... 

Looking for cook book gift ideas? Let Sarah at Maison Cupcake help!


Lillyhammer Season 2

Play It Loud; The Story of the Marshall Amp

Black Music Legends of the 1980s: Prince - A Purple Reign


First Aid Kit - Stay Gold

Girls - Album

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.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

John Torode’s Pumpkin and Nutmeg Tarts

I love food and cooking, but have confessed that I am not good at baking. I wish I were! I feel that I have a key cooking skill missing. When I do try baking I like simple recipes which have very little which can go wrong, and don’t involve the intuition and skill of an experienced pastry cook or cake aficionado. I know lots of people completely passionate about baking, and I am endlessly impressed by their patience, accuracy and attention to detail.  

John Torode is a chef who doesn’t need much introduction. He’s obviously famous from his appearances on Masterchef. Torode made his reputation working at Quaglino’s and Mezzo before opening his own Smiths of Smithfield, Cafeteria, and The Luxe. The author of numerous cookbooks, John Torode is an all-round cooking expert. 

So I am delighted to bring you a perfect Autumn/Winter recipe of his that is simple, achievable and packs a big flavour punch. It has lovely texture contrasts and is full of the tastes that you crave at this time of year.

I hope you enjoy cooking and eating this tasty treat!

Pumpkin and Nutmeg Tarts by John Torode

Pumpkin and nutmeg tarts are a small, sweet version of the classic tart, a combination that is a particular favourite of John’s. Ideally, they are better served after a cooling period rather than just cooked, as they can be brittle when hot.  Enjoy John’s Pumpkin and Nutmeg tarts as a treat, served best with a cup of tea. John Torode suggests Tassimo English Breakfast Tea.

Makes approximately 8-10 individual tarts.

You will need a medium saucepan and 8-10 small pie tins.


1kg of short-crust pastry

500g pumpkin (or butternut squash) unpeeled

100g brown sugar

1 tbsp corn flour

1 egg

1 tsp nutmeg

Milk (for glazing)

1 tbsp caster sugar


1.       Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/gas mark 6.

2.       Chop the pumpkin into good size chunks, then place them into the oven to bake for 30 minutes, or until soft.

3.       Whist the chunks are baking, roll out the pastry until about 1cm thick, and cut into circles slightly larger than the base of the tins.

4.       Line the 8-10 small pie tins with the circle cut pastry, leaving enough for a lid, afterward place in the fridge for 20 minutes.

5.       Whilst the pumpkin is still hot, scoop the flesh from the skin. Discard the skin.

6.       In a bowl, whisk the pumpkin until smooth.

7.       Beat the sugar, egg and nutmeg together, then add to the pumpkin and whisk some more.

8.       Let the filling cool, and then spoon the mix into the chilled tart cases.

9.       With the remaining pastry, cut shapes for the top of the tarts and place on top of the filling. Brush the tops with milk and scatter with caster sugar.

10.    Place pie dishes on larger baking tray (in case any liquid leaks out) and bake for 25 minutes.

11.   Allow to cool before turning out.

Thank you to John Torode and the people at Tassimo for allowing me to share this recipe with my readers.

I have not received any payment or gift for this blog post.