Saturday, 23 June 2018

June 2018 Favourites List

Hello lovely readers!

It's Favourites list time again!

The month has flown by in a hectic daze at what is one of the busiest time of the year for academics. Time to get a bit of headspace...

It is for this very reason that this month's pictures are from the Beth Chatto Garden, near Colchester in Essex. Sadly, Beth died last month. Her garden, designed and tended by her for six decades, remains and will continue as a place for appreciating the beauty of plants and flowers. 

Beth wrote many books about gardening, and her key philosophy was about pairing plants to the correct environment. Beth managed to establish 5 distinct garden spaces; Gravel garden, Reservoir garden, Scree Garden, Water garden and Woodland garden. 

It's a beautiful place to feast your eyes and your mind. Taking in the peace and tranquility, I found my cares and worries ebb away. 

If you take the time to stop and look, there's a world of beauty in something as simple as a flower. 

I hope you will enjoy the pictures, food writings, recipes and cultural knick-knacks.

Food articles and food writing: 

As passionate about food and cooking as he was opinionated, Anthony Bourdain lifted the saucepan lid on what goes on in professional kitchens with his groundbreaking "Kitchen Confidential" book. If you haven't read it, treat yourself; still relevant and amusing 18 years on. His food and travel writing and TV journalism was inspirational. I've personally chased down places he recommended, all of whom proudly and happily displayed pictures of the man himself dining there. Despite his reputation as a "Foodie Bad Boy" and the observations of how aggressively male professional kitchens can be, his support of the #MeToo movement online shows there was more to him than laddishness. Reports suggest he took his own life - at only 61. Simply tragic news. Rest in peace, Chef Bourdain!

Anthony Bourdain's classic 1999 piece "Don't Eat Before Reading This" - the precursor to his Kitchen Confidential book:

Diana Henry talks about her new book which focusses on menu planning and organising your timing in the kitchen. Planning the steps to be taken and keeping track of it is such an important element of cooking skill!

Food funnies (cooking and food fails and other LOLz):


Barbeque A to Z... for fine weather days:

Some more BBQ recipes here - the carrots with spiced nuts looks like a great side dish for sunny days:

Helen at Fuss Free Flavours' Meat Free Veggie chick pea, feta and squash pie:

It's unashamedly retro, but who doesn't love potato salad? Here is Diana Henry's ultimate recipe:

A Japanese snack or lunchtime dish which is quick and yummy - Sesame chicken:  

Aperol Spritz has become one of the most popular Summertime cocktails these days. Somehow, it always tastes better in the sunshine. It always seems a little more bitter when there are clouds around, or is that just me?

I found this Beef Rendang recipe. I loved this dish in Malaysia (it originated in Indonesia, and hopped across).

Chick pea Chaat - I'd add some sev, amchur and a sprinkling of freshly ground cumin. A little tamarind chutney would be good, too.

Will need some overnight soaking of the beans and quite a long cooking time, but this is a meal-in-one - Lamb rump with flageolet beans:

Summery courgette and mango in this fresh wholewheat giant couscous salad:

Super easy and quick carrot and quinoa salad for weekday lunchboxes. I'd add some cooked edamame beans, maybe some sweetcorn (if I had leftovers): 

Watching Rick Stein on TV I want to give this Kozani chicken (with saffron and prunes, served with pilaf rice) a try:
What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:

Greek style pilaf rice:   


A Very British Scandal

BBC Music Big Weekend - Father John Misty

BBC Music Big Weekend - Courtney Barnett

BBC Music Big Weekend - Beck


99 Homes



Johnny Marr - Call The Comet

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, 16 June 2018

Greek style pilaf with saffron, pine nuts and sultanas

I recently made a recipe for a Saffron infused Greek chicken stew from Rick Stein’s Long Weekend’s series and book. The stew is very tasty as it is, with the warming richness of saffron and paprika combining with on the bone chicken and pitted prunes to make a satisfying braised casserole. 

However, I personally found the pilaf recipe to be a bit too basic. The proportions of the ingredients to rice did not seem right to me, and if I wanted something plain, I would have served up plain rice. I also thought the onions needed proper cooking before cooking the rice. I like my onions soft before adding other ingredients.

So this is my tweak on Rick’s rice recipe. I am posting it here after receiving a request for the recipe on social media. I hope it meets with your approval. 

You can serve it with any Greek, Turkish or Cypriot stew, casserole or guvec. I am having a lot of fun experimenting with guvec recipes; with chunks of meat or with handmade kofte. 

The food of the eastern Mediterranean is underrated. Some people think it is “just kebabs”, as if even a carefully marinaded and perfectly barbequed skewer of meat is just a simple thing to throw together with no skill or technique. This is a food culture which deserves so much more recognition and respect. 

Greek style pilaf with saffron, pine nuts and sultanas

Serves 2


15g unsalted butter (if you choose to use salted, please be careful about using stock, it could end up tasting very salty)
150g basmati rice
20g pine nuts
Half a small organic onion, very finely diced
20g sultanas (Rick says you can also use currants, but I prefer sultanas or raisins. The juicier the better!)
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried, whichever is available
A couple of strands of saffron (5 or so maximum)
300ml hot water or stock (chicken or vegetable, as you see fit)
Salt to taste


1.       Decide if you are using hot water and stock. Whichever you decide, infuse the saffron whilst you prepare the other ingredients.  

2.       Lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan on a low heat. Be careful, these burn unbelievably quickly!

3.       Melt your butter in a small saucepan on a low heat. Don’t let it burn. (Please use a saucepan with a lid, see below.)

4.       Then add the diced onion, stir, raise the heat to medium-low and fry for at least 10 minutes, until softened.

5.       Add the rice, coating thoroughly with the buttery onions. Keep stirring over the heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the bay leaf. 

6.       Add your hot water or stock with the infused saffron strands, mixing thoroughly. Turn the heat up to medium-high.

7.       When you can see the liquid is boiling, turn the heat back down to low or medium-low. Put the lid on. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. If you need to check at 10, 12 and 15 minutes.

8.       When the rice is beginning to approach tasting of a cooked texture, add your toasted pine nuts and sultanas. Stir thoroughly. Cook for another 5 minutes. 

9.       Taste for the salt level, adding salt if needed.

10.   Serve with your favourite stew, guvec or casserole.