The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I'm that person who doesn't let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.
I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I've returned to Norfolk after eight years away, but little bits of my heart still belong to London, where I lived for almost fives years, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.
It’s been a little while since I was last here: toward the end of last year I launched NorEats, a directory of the best independent food and drink in Norwich, and so have been busy eating and writing about all the region has to offer. Truly, a hard task.
I’ve not been resting on my laurels, though, having been told in no uncertain terms that I had to bring a birthday cake to my friends’ celebrations. Cue the troublesome jar of dulce de leche.
A jar of dulce de leche in the cupboard that you need to get rid of is a good problem to have, even if the necessity is there because you can’t help dipping a spoon into it with alarming frequency. So instead of going directly jar to mouth, I’ve taken it on a slight detour via two tweaked recipes: one for white chocolate & salted caramel cake and one for After Eight chocolate mint cake. Read More
I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a while, since my enthusiasm for festive food got the best of me far before it was acceptable, but the tightness of my jeans indicates it is time.
These little darlings are based on traditional Croatian Christmas biscuits – the inclusion of black pepper sounds a little odd but it gives a subtle warmth to the biscuits, which are similar to gingerbread and have a comforting softness to them.
As I inherited a slight walnut allergy from my mother, along with sturdy thighs and a love of food, I switched out the traditional walnuts in favour of pecans. I also used a tiny squirrel cutter instead of the wooden moulds they’d be made with in Croatia, because the tiny squirrel was too cute to resist.
There are many things about Britain that are completely mad – morris dancing, Crufts, teachers’ work loads – but one of the weirdest has to be the fact that 400 years on, we still celebrate the failure of a plot to blow up Parliament.
The celebration of Bonfire Night was brought about by the Observance of 5th November Act 1605, which called for annual public thanksgiving. Although the act was repealed in the late 1850s, we still love a big ol’ fire and watching explosions timed to a playlist that seems to always include something by Queen (sadly, it’s rarely Fat Bottomed Girls).
It’s one of my favourite nights of the year. Read More
They’re the brightest food market indictor of autumn, as well as being a versatile and storable staple ingredient: oh my gourd, squash season is upon us.
I love a butternut squash soup as much as any cosy-seeker, but when it comes to branching out to the myriad other varieties, I’ve been nervous. Will the skin of an acorn squash destroy a peeler? Can you cook anything beyond pie with a pumpkin? It’s time to find out. Read More
Aren’t they the three best words to see together? I mean, of course there’s “I love you” and “Dinner is ready!” but…cheddar beer bread.
It’s been a bit of a month for bread around here, as I spend my weekends scouting out local bakeries and other produce and, well, it’d be rude not to take some home for the week, right?
But I’ll leave the complicated styles to the pros. This bread – the type that doesn’t require rising time or kneading – takes about an hour from start to finish, so it’s a great easy accompaniment to a hearty autumn stew or chilli. (The ease is a relief when you’ve spent the first half of your evening chopping, stirring, and lifting absurdly heavy pans in an effort to batch-cook something excellent.)
I feel like the base recipe also has plenty of scope for adaptions – herbs? Heavier beers and cocoa? More cheeses?
But we’ll start with this. Cheddar beer bread, I love you (dinner is ready!).
I didn’t get nervous about the Swiss meringue until I saw the polyester sleeve of my mother’s dressing gown dangling perilously close to the flame flying out of the blowtorch.
Let me start at the beginning. When we decided to make cakes for my mother’s birthday, I went with my usual method of imagining something and deciding to leap in without being fully sure of my method. It sounds like a reckless process when I write it down like that, but “Eh, I’ll learn by trying” has served me pretty well so far.
What I didn’t realise when I pictured a cake topped with fluffy meringue, piped tips torched golden, is that Swiss meringue is notoriously finicky. Thanks to reactions between proteins that I don’t completely understand and definitely can’t pronounce, Swiss meringue can be both unstable and less fluffy than you’d hope. It can weep. It can collapse. If I’d known this, I might have been nervous earlier than when I had visions of my hand flying off to the left and setting the kitchen on fire.
Thankfully, using this method, the meringue – and I – did not weep or collapse. Instead, it came out glossier than a show horse, and once I’d moved that pesky sleeve out of the way, turned the most glorious golden colour after being kissed by a blowtorch.
It’s a blessing and a curse, being with someone who loves food as much as you do. A curse because of the inevitable weight gain that results from eating a lot of cheese; a blessing…for so many reasons. You know — brie, camembert, weird Wensleydale varieties.
Our story is a long path studded with pubs and restaurants, coffee shops and stores filled with local produce and good beer. It took a while, with months of not talking, then hours-long phonecalls, both of us too idiotic to know the other’s feelings. It featured a lot of chai teas, and these days a lot of scones. We got there in the end.
I’m not sure why I expected making chai scones with our story in mind to be a smoother process.
Two recipes, both alike in dignity, in fine Norwich, where we lay our scene… Read More
Man, I’m late with this one. Hedgerows have been thick with blackberries for weeks, thanks to a meterological anomaly of a year that’s brought a heatwave and with it early sightings of autumnal fruits. Same as every year, I’ve been opening drawers to stare longingly at wooly tights, so this turn of events is all too welcome. In mid-August I rolled up my jeans, went off for a walk in search of these gems – with the Myths & Legends podcast in my ears– and was rewarded with a lot of nettle stings but, more importantly, a big bag of blackberries.
During my outings, I’ve also picked a berry with a fat spider on it and stood on a bird corpse. Swings and roundabouts.
To be pernickety, blackberries aren’t really berries at all – they’re made up of drupelets, the individual bobbles you get on raspberries and blackberries – and have also been known as brambleberries, brumblekites and lawers. No matter what you call them, they’re also great in terms of fibre and vitamin C. For me, blackberries = crumble time, but I guess it’s time to branch out… Read More
Ah the make-ahead lunch, how I love thee. I’ve not stayed in the same place for more than 3 weeks at a time since March, which plays havoc with food shopping, so lunches you can prep in bulk and in advance have been instrumental in keeping me away from bacon and cheese paninis. It’s mostly worked. And when it hasn’t, well, I can comfort myself with the fact I’ve learnt to do pretty decent eyeliner flicks on a moving train and now know platform 4 of Lancaster station like the back of my hand.
The second important thing? Those lunches being made up of things that you can keep in a cupboard until you need them and won’t spoil.
Enter Moroccan-inspired cous cous. I actually tried this for the first time when I spotted a reduced portion in M&S and decided to recreate it at home. Slim risk of the ingredients spoiling, easy to make in bulk, and interesting enough in flavour that you won’t get bored after the first day. Job’s a good’un.
I can map this city in layers. The food eaten; the shops and cafes I’ve loitered in; the people I’ve loved; the otherwise mundane benches and phone boxes that have been the scenes of important conversations and epiphanies. I could tell you about bickering with a now-absent friend over whitebait in a family-run Italian before I even moved here. I could sit you down in the pub where my heart burst with love for my mother. I could give you a run-down of what the bridges have meant to me, and recant tales from the very different new years eves I’ve celebrated. The Soho tattoo parlour where I got books inked into me. The train stations that have led me to new adventures. I could show you the city that shaped my life as I grew from a fresh-out-of-uni innocent moving to the big city to hopefully a more fully-formed woman, with a pair of santoku knives I refer to as “my babies” and more than a handful of stories to tell. Read More