Wednesday, 20 December 2017

December 2017 Favourites List

Dear Readers,
Somehow the end of the year is upon us again, and I feel rather underprepared! Cards, presents, Christmas messages…. So much to do and so little time! All my intentions of planning ahead went awry, and I find myself disorganised and rushing.

The end of term is always a busy time up in the ivory towers of academia. Everything has to be done before the students scurry away for the vacation. They do deserve it, as they have had a gruelling 14 week term, full of classes and hour upon hour of preparatory work in between.

Hopefully your festive preparations are going well and you are looking forward to the big day. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. I wish you a healthy, happy and success filled 2018.

My selections this month are generally festive, with Christmas dinner recipes and present ideas for you. I’ve not had as much time for films, TV and other cultural things, so I have compiled my list of albums of the year. I wish I’d had the time to investigate many other of the music of the year, as it appears to have been a great year for different and original sounds. Cigarettes After Sex, Sampha, War on Drugs and LCD Soundsystem are all on my list to investigate in the New Year.

Here is my final Favourites List of 2017, see you in the New Year!


Posh sausage roll by Glynn Purnell for serving up with Christmas dinner:

For Christmas dinner - roast potatoes by Big Spud Gary. He suggests you could pre-cook them and freeze, to save time on the big day.

Showstopping centrepiece dish for vegetarians or vegans for Christmas day. It's not all about the Turkey!

Don't like Christmas cake? Here are some alternative Festive bakes from Bake Off winner Sophie:

Slow Cooker Chocolate Caramel Puddings served with Chocolate Caramel Cream; an alternative to Christmas pudding, by Janice at Farmer’s Girl Kitchen:

For the chilli fiends out there. I personally wouldn't carry my own chilli sauce stash. Mind you, those New Orleans chicken wings seem irresistible!

Macaroni cheese can be done down-home style or de luxe. Here is a posh version with lobster:

In Guadalahara, they don't make chili con carne. They make carne con chili. This is from Rick Stein's food and travel exploration of Mexico:

In need of a Winter warmer? How about Adam Handlings' Hot Toddy. That'll chase the cold away!


Perfect gifts for food and drink lovers, as selected by Kavita at Kavey Eats blog:

Which fish are OK to eat, which should we avoid? Handy and beautiful graphic here:

Christmas wine picks from Sean Jones QC and Professor Dominic Regan:

My recent blog posts – these are for my students:

My latest blog post for students - how to approach resit assessments, step by step:

Brian Mondoh on Smashing the BPTC - in other words, how to pass with a Very Competent first time round!

My albums of the year:

Alt-J – Relaxer

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice

The xx – I See You

Lorde – Melodrama

Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun

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.

Monday, 27 November 2017

November 2017 Favourites List

In my September Favourites list this year, I told you all about how I received the wonderful surprise of seeing some new street art in my local neighbourhood magically appear. (For the story, visit here: Well, the good people of Catford haven't stopped there! Local artists are busy working, some are volunteering their skills, designs and time for free to make our locality feel loved and look beautiful. Co-ordinated by Caroline Hughes of 6arts, it's a mission to increase civil pride and create thought provoking urban art.

In the last couple of months, the street art invasion of Catford has intensified. We now have the other side of Catford Bridge (the road bridge over the railway lines) decorated with running greyhounds. 

This is a tribute to the old Catford Greyhound Stadium, which was near by, but also a poignant symbol. It is a sad fact that whilst many people love the spectacle of greyhound racing, once their careers are over, the dogs find themselves surplus to the requirements of their owners and trainers. The artist, Andrew Ioakim, has rescued some of these greyhounds, so for him, the dogs are not running in a race; they're making their bid for freedom and a life of love and affection with a "forever owner".

Another amazing project is the Nature Tunnel, designed by artist Zoe Hendersen. Assisted by scenic artist Charlotte Gainey, Tamara Froud, Caroline Hughes and a group of dedicated volunteers. They have transformed the unloved tunnel leading from Halfords to the train station, a sad, stinky little place... (No prizes for guessing why it smelt so bad!) It is now a tranquil "Tunnel of Trees", a gorgeous celebration of nature.

Finally, we have Lionel Stanhope's retro railway "Catford" signs at the railway
bridge. Their neon colours resplendent, they're a bold and beautiful welcome to da 'hood! Catford is now proud to welcome you in, confident and colourful.

So I hope you will enjoy this month's pictures from Catford's amazing artists, designers and volunteers, brightening up the neighbourhood bit by bit. I hope you will also like my choices of the usual mix of recipes, food writing, and my own efforts since the last Favourites List. 

Fish pie (fish in a creamy sauce, baked with mashed potato on top) is a British classic. Here are 10 tips to make your fish pie even better. I totally agree with not double cooking your fish - overcooked fish is ruined fish!

Tom Kerridge with his wintry recipes for beef brisket lasagne, classic fish pie and spicy sausage casserole with black cabbage pesto:

A side dish with a difference for this weekend's Sunday lunch? Parmesan baked cauliflower:

In local grocery shops I've admired Autumnal pale green Kohl Rabi. Other than knowing vaguely they're a Brassica (same family as super healthy broccoli), I know nothing about them. Or how to cook them. Here's a salad recipe from Nigel Slater:

Janice Pattie writes the Farmersgirl Kitchen blog. Here's her recipe to make you own "mincemeat" for festive mince pies. (Non-UK readers - there's no meat in mincemeat. It is made of dried fruits, which is baked into little pies for Christmas).

Janice's video of how to make the recipe can be found here:

You can use leftover pumpkin to make this dish. Substituting pumpkin for butternut squash is no big deal.

This Japanese poached chicken can be served with veggies or with rice, as you prefer. A simple dish for Monday's supper, as we look to the week ahead:

With the warming flavours of cumin, ginger and coriander, this cauliflower and carrot soup can be served chunky and hearty or smooth and well blended. Vegan, and vegetarian from Jac at Tinned Tomatoes blog:
Food writing and resources:

Food critic Marina O'Loughlin asked Twitter for their "Cheap Eats" recommendations. The brilliant Anya (@anyabike on Twitter) a noted employment lawyer, has put them all together in a google map:

Recent studies show conventional dietary wisdom is wrong - eating fats will not necessarily result in weight gain, and your body needs certain oils and fats for good health:

I plan my meals. We do a weekly plan with one big shop and a couple of top-up shops a week. It definitely saves us money and prevents that "what's for dinner?" panic at 7:30pm. Here are 20 reasons why you might want to meal plan:

Goodbye to Antonio Carluccio, the great champion of Italian food in the UK. Rest in peace, Antonio!

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen: 

New blog post - creamy chicken with cider and mushrooms. A new recipe post:

My other writing:

Not food, but legal skills. I am proud and delighted to host Dan Hoadley's Pro tips on Cross examination on my law student blog:

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.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Creamy chicken with mushrooms and cider

Ooh, November, you are naughty! The sudden drop in the temperature has left me a little lost for words. The autumnal jackets and macs I thought I could wear a little longer will have to be put away, in favour of my heavy, warm wintry coats. The gloves are being dug out for another season's service; thank goodness for my fleecy leather gloves! Anyone who knows me knows I always have cold, cold hands. I have fingers like ice cubes!

The household vacillations over whether to put the heating on or not have stopped. The heating is most definitely on. My new electric blanket is currently my favourite appliance; taking the chill out of my bed before I turn in at night.

Inspired by the weather, I have been thinking about internal central heating. By which I mean warming, comforting food for shivery days. Elizabeth David's Spicy Lentil Stew has been a lifesaver recently, a number of variations described by her in the recipe ringing the changes. Soups, curries, stews and slow braises are the things I crave when it's brisk and nippy.

So, on a cold Sunday, I thought of hearty pasta with a creamy and indulgent sauce. Tender chicken and just-cooked mushrooms with a touch of booze. Stews made with beer and ale favour darker meats. Chicken thighs (the brown meat of the chicken) cooked in vintage cider

This creamy chicken dish could be served up with rice, mash or baked potatoes. But I love pasta, so I used some Spatzle, a chewy egg pasta typically used in German, Swiss, Austrian and Hungarian cooking.

Creamy chicken with mushrooms and cider (with Spatzle pasta)

Serves 2-3 people (2 greedy portions or 3 normal portions)
2 large echalion shallots (peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced finely)
4 chicken thigh fillets, sliced
160g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
3 anchovy fillets (preserved in olive oil or salt)
1 teaspoon paprika
60ml double cream
200ml vintage cider
3 tablespoons olive oil (2tbsp + 1tbsp)
25g (1oz) unsalted butter
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
Juice of half a lemon (optional)
250g egg spatzle pasta 
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Freshly ground sea salt (to taste)

Time required:
10 minutes preparation
40 minutes cooking time

Two saucepans
Frying pan

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a saucepan, add the shallots and soften under a gentle heat for around 10 minutes. Do not allow to colour. 

2. Remove the shallots, keeping to one side, trying your best to leave as much of the oil in the pan. Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat up. 

3. Add the chicken in small batches. You want to seal the outside of the chicken slices so that they are no longer pink, buy you don't want to cook them completely. 

4. When you have cooked the last batch, put all the chicken to one side.  Hopefully, your pan still has residual olive oil in it. If not, you will need to add half a tablespoon. On a gentle heat, add the anchovies and paprika, and stir until the anchovies have disintegrated into the oil. 


5. Now put the shallots and chicken back, turn up the heat and stir until the chicken is coated with the oily mixture.

6. You will want to put a pan of water on for the Spatzle pasta. Mine took 11 minutes to cook, so you will need to ensure the pasta is cooking during the following two steps of the recipe, or you won't be able to bring the dish together.  

7. Add the cider to the chicken and "burn off" the alcohol smell on a medium-high heat. The cider will come to the boil and bubble. You aren't actually burning off the alcohol, but you will notice the smell becomes less boozy. When this happens (5-7 minutes), reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to simmer for another 7 to 10 minutes. 


8. In the meantime, in a frying pan melt the butter, then add the mushrooms. You want to cook these on a gentle heat for about 7 minutes until just tender. Do not overcook or they will become too soft and slimy to add to the chicken.


9. Add the cream to the cidery chicken and fold in the mushrooms. Let everything sit on the heat for a few minutes to get heated through. Add the parsley. Taste and season accordingly (if you used anchovies preserved in salt, you may find you don't need to add much salt). Add the lemon juice to your preference. 

10. Drain your pasta, and begin assembling the dish in bowls ready for serving. Put some pasta at the bottom of a bowl. Add the chicken with some of its sauce on top. Serve immediately. It would look prettier if you garnish with a little double cream and parsley, but I was too hungry and wanted to eat straight away!

Happy eating!

Friday, 27 October 2017

October 2017 Favourites List

This month’s pictures are from the Italian city of Lecce, from my trip earlier this year. In the southern region of Puglia, Lecce is a historic and beautiful place, perfect for wandering around, gawking with your camera at the ready, followed up by fabulous food and drink. 

There is a fabulous, half buried sunken amphitheatre in the town centre, dating back from the 2nd Century AD. Other buildings were constructed on top of it, which is why you can’t see the full circle of the theatre which would have accommodated 25,000 people. 

Around the rest of the town, Baroque architecture picks up those classical influences, as the limestone columns, arches and decorative figures fill the town with style and grace. The imposing city gates would once have been guarded, keeping the people of Lecce safe, and keeping undesirables out. 

The wines of the region aren’t the most famous of Italian wines, but you will struggle to find bad wine. The seafood is spectacular (I particularly recommend Blu Notte, just by the Porta San Bagio). It’s a wonderful place to spend a few days, and unwind among the abundant culture.

Porta San Bagio

Food articles and know-how:

Foodie storytelling par excellence from Aaron. The life and times of a shipping container:

Chengdu, Sichuan, where "spice is life". Food meets travel:

After the revelations that jars of supermarket pesto contain as much salt as a Big Mac, are there any other storecupboard products which appear to be healthy but might not be?


Chilli, tomatoes, pasta. Arrabbiata sauce is a spicy Italian classic (although I have received the tip that perhaps the vinegar could be left out, for which I thank Linda Paulnott, a previous guest blog author):

Autumnal borlotti beans with lamb and a tangy salsa:

I keep whole mung/moong beans at home for sprouting. But here's a dahl recipe which uses them, from Mamta's Kitchen:

Cookwitch Lisa is exploring Autumn's produce with this Rye bread:

New recipe from Food Urchin, Dan - Pearl Barley "risotto" with chard, mushroom and bacon:

Panch phoran is a Bengali spice mixed from 5 different whole spice seeds. Want to know how to use it? Here's a recipe from Romy Gill, which uses squash, which is in season right now.

Having been asked for uses for stale bread, I thought I would share this for you - some interesting links to other recipes at the bottom, such as a dessert, Exeter pudding:

Venetian sweet and sour prawns and Venetian sweet and sour sardines; if you want to make the prawn dish, substitute prawns for sardines and follow the sardine recipe.


Searcy's smoked salmon fishcakes with tartar salad:

I love dumplings of virtually every description. Pierogis are just one scrummy example!

My other writing:

Blog post for law students - Evidence in chief tips from former BPTC students:


Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun

The Duke Spirit – KIN

Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness


The Vietnam War
BBC Introducing: 10 Years of Finding The Next Big Thing
BBC 6 Music Live: Mogwai

BBC 6 Music Live: Robert Plant