A Wall of Slowly Revolving Chickens


There’s little I enjoy more when holidaying in France than visiting a market. Often more frequently even than once a week every tiny town and village has one, and yet despite their ubiquity the quality and variety of produce on display rivals that of the frankly epic Borough Market in London. As pleasurable as these Gallic bazaars are to peruse, the experience is somewhat tainted by the depressing feeling that in the UK we just don’t even come close.

I live in Brighton and some years ago our only market space, the rather depressing ‘Open Market’ (with it’s shabby collection of lack-lustre characters and their unappealing produce), was levelled and rebuilt with the promise that it would emerge as a French-style, Borough-like culinary Eden. We all got excited, but the reality was sadly very different. After the unveiling those same lame stalls returned – the uninspiring fruit and veg seller with their plastic bowls of baggy peppers that look like yesterday’s birthday party balloons, the world-weary butcher who when I asked for onglet steak, or flatiron, just shrugged his shoulders and said he ‘didn’t get it’, the stall that sells bacon and eggs, cheery people at least, but who’s products, I don’t know why, seem just slightly… ‘dodgy’. Maybe I’m doing it a disservice. There’s a very nice falafel stall and a reasonable cafe, but I don’t think it’s what any of us expected and certainly not even close to what we’d hoped for.

Stroll around any French village market on a Saturday and you’ll likely happen upon a stall the sight and smell of which will make your saliva glands start to work double-hard: A trailer atop which stands a wall of bright orange electric elements and majestically revolving in front of them, row upon row of chickens, perhaps a few ham joints, but mostly chickens, golden and glistening and dripping onto a tray of neatly peeled new potatoes, lying below like yellow pebbles bathing in the hot fat. It’s quite something.

I think tinned vegetables are nice. Nothing like their fresh friends, but as long as you don’t think of them as the same thing they have their own charm and distinctive flavours. They remind me of camping, and that’s a good thing. Tinned new potatoes are particularly good for many things, not least speed and efficiency as well as a limited budget. We’ve been having them recently in curries, and they’re great sliced, lightly oiled and grilled with poached eggs. But a few days ago my son pointed out how similar they were in taste and texture to the ones that lie there looking up at the aforementioned spinning fowl. So tonight we tried an experiment and it really worked.

We’ve got a rotisserie in our oven. You probably have too. Check. I think they’re pretty standard in lots of models but people just don’t know, or forget because it’s a bit of a faff. But it’s a faff that’s worth …the faff. If you haven’t then I’ve got an alternative method which I think would work just as well. So here’s my method for French village market style roast chicken and potatoes which I implore you to have a go at.

French-Market Rotisserie Chicken
1 medium-sized chicken
2 tins new potatoes, drained
1 pot chicken stock concentrate (the Knorr ones are what I use)
salt and pepper
paella powder*

*when we holiday’d in Spain some years ago I bought a little tub of ‘paella powder’. It’s got a bit of flavour in it but I think it’s mostly colouring, even so it really does make a paella look good. It also made the tinned potatoes look extremely authentically French-yellow. You could use a little turmeric instead, though not too much as the flavour mightn’t seem right.

Dry the chicken out for an hour of so (if you have an hour or so. We didn’t), before rubbing it all over with a little olive oil and dusting it with salt, pepper and a bit of paprika. Them mount it on the spit.

In a bowl whisk together the stock ‘pot’ with a little oil and a dash of water and then add the potatoes, about a teaspoon of paprika, a dash of the paella powder (or a pinch of turmeric) and a generous grind of black pepper. Give it a stir and pour the contents into an oven tray which will fit under the revolving chicken.

Put the grill on, get the chicken spit revolving and place the tray of potatoes underneath so the chicken juices drip onto the potatoes and wait for about an hour.

That’s it. We had it with a sliced up baguette, some dijon mustard, some mayonnaise out of a tube (both items from previous French holiday supermarket stocking-up shopping trips) and some rough red wine, while listening to Les Négresses Vertes on Spotify.

We then went upstairs and filled the bath with multicoloured plastic ducks before trying to get them out with hooks on sticks. Not really.

If you don’t have a rotisserie in your oven
Spatchcock the chicken (look here) and season it just the same, place it directly on the bars of the oven shelf and grill it over the tray of potatoes turning it three or four times during the cooking process.



Lemon and Lime Posset

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I’ve been preoccupied with my new show. It’s been ages. Sorry.

It was my dad’s 82nd birthday this week and so I travelled to London with a cold box and various tupperware tubs containing the components to build (I dare say) an epic curry dinner. We had Chicken and Potato Balti (I say ‘Balti’ though I’ve no idea how authentically Balti it was – nice none-the-less), an aubergine and tomato dish using those tiny egg-sized aubergines cooked whole (in this I was trying to recreate a dish from the film ‘The Lunchbox’), Channa Dahl, and rice cooked with cinnamon. But the dessert excited me the most. It’s sharp citrus offset the hot and spicy main course perfectly, both feeling decadent whilst simultaneously cutting through the fattiness of the curry. It’s so easy, keeps in the fridge for ages and tastes just fantastic. I made a fancy topping for it too and it looked great. The recipe below makes enough for 6 pots.

Lemon and Lime Posset with Rose Sugar and Pistachio Praline
For the possets
600ml double cream
150g sugar (caster or granulated, and white or golden ideally)
1 lemon
1 lime
a big pinch of powdered ginger
a small pinch of powdered nutmeg

For the topping
a handful of shelled unsalted pistachios
about 60g white sugar (must be white)

For the rose sugar
some dried rose petals
granulated white sugar

Make the possets first by combining the cream, sugar, ginger, nutmeg and the zest of both the lemon and the lime in a pan over the stove. Bring it to the most gentle simmer (be so careful it doesn’t boil up and over) and then let it simmer away for about two minutes.

Juice the lemon and lime. Remove the cream from the heat and whisk in the juice before pouring through a sieve into six little pots or glasses or teacups or whatever you fancy serving them in.

Put them in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to set.

Make the two toppings, first the praline. Toast the nuts in a dry pan until lightly toasted, then set aside. Now make a caramel by pouring sugar and a little water into a pan with a silver or white interior so you can see when the caramel starts to form. Set over a medium heat tilting the pan hear and there to get the sugar to melt and start to boil. DON’T STIR IT OR IT WILL CRYSTALLISE. AND DON’T STICK YOUR FINGER IN IT OR YOU’LL NEVER FORGET IT! The sugar will boil clear for a while before starting to turn pale golden brown and starting to smell like caramel. Don’t let it go to far or it’ll taste bitter and burned. As soon as it’s caramel brown and smells good take the pan off the heat, pour in the nuts, tilt the pan around and pour the contents onto some baking parchment resting on a heatproof board and leave it to set. It should look like amber with nuts set in it.

Now make the rose sugar by simply grinding sugar and rose petals together in a pestle and mortar until you have a light pink powder that smells like Turkish Delight.

When the caramel is rock hard chop it up with a knife until you have a fine crumb. You could also do this in a food processor.

To assemble, sprinkle a pinch of rose sugar on top of the possets, then a layer of praline crumb, then a pinch more rose sugar and finally, if you have any, an edible flower.

As I said at the beginning I’ve been rather preoccupied developing, practicing and performing my new anarchic cooking show. It’s coming together. Presently it’s called George Egg: Anarchist Cook Part Two ‘Second Helpings’, but when it gets to the Edinburgh Fringe in August it’ll be called George Egg: DIY Chef. On the surface it’s about cooking with tools. If you want to get deeper it’s about resourcefulness, rebellion, independence and eccentricity in a painful and disturbing world of change, uncertainty and chaos. Something like that anyway.

Click HERE for dates.


Anarchist Cook TWO

I’ve been having fun. I’m developing a new show which is sort-of going to be a sequel to the current show but which won’t be a ‘part two’ that one won’t be able to enjoy without having seen the first. It’s called Anarchist Cook again, but with the addition of ‘Second Helpings’. At least that’s the working title at the moment. I’ve other titles in my arsenal (‘Extra Portions’, ‘Nicely Seasoned’, ‘Well seasoned’, ‘Urban Forager’…).

Needless to say the show is going to be another cooking show and cooking once again using unconventional methods and non-culinary appliances and equipment. So I’ve been playing around with tools, office equipment, and ingredients.

This is a single scallop, which I cooked in its shell. I placed a tiny knob of butter on it and blasted it for about a minute each side with a DeWalt DW340 paint stripping gun. Once beautifully caramelised I sprinkled it with a little smoked sea salt, a pinch of dill, some pepper and a squeeze of lemon. It was honestly one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten in my life.


I played with the DeWalt heat gun again with this piece of sirloin. Rubbed with a little olive oil and then blasted, the meat sitting in on the blade of a shovel. I made a chimichurri of sorts with olive oil, lemon, garlic, chilli and dried oregano and shaved in some raw fennel using a Stanley wood-workers plane. And then sliced tomato (sliced with a junior hacksaw).


A plumbers blow torch cooked this fillet of rainbow trout, crisping up the skin. It was simply dressed with a smear of wasabi and a splash of soy sauce.


This linguine was made using an Elpine desktop paper shredder. Perfect 3mm ribbons. Boiled in a kettle, dressed with uht cream pots, parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper. And a pinch of chopped parsley.


The other fillet of trout (1st fillet blasted with heat – see above) was poached simply in a Morphy Richards Voyager 800 travel kettle. Poached trout skin isn’t as appetising as poached bass or bream skin so that was removed before the fish was dressed with a smear of english mustard (from a sachet), soy sauce, mint, chilli and cracked black pepper.


And finally, another steak again cooked in the shovel blade with the DeWalt gun. This was a Bavette steak. Once cooked it was topped with a few slices of gorgonzola and some toasted walnuts (toasted alongside the steak) before being sprinkled with some fresh red chilli and parsley.


I promise you all, ‘Anarchist Cook Two’ is going to taste really really good!

Oh, and a final note. Of course ‘Anarchist Cook’ (show one) is very good too, in fact it’s brilliant and has won awards and garnered rave reviews and stars-galore and toured the world and all that, and is still touring, so do have a look at the website HERE to see where it’s playing. There’s lots of dates still pending all over the country, as well as a rather nice mini-tour of the Scottish Highlands. The last and ONLY remaining chance to see it in London will be on March 15 and 16 at the Soho Theatre, in the main theatre space, at 8:30pm. It’s a big theatre and it’d be a pity not to fill it, so please do come if you can, and bring some/all of your friends/associates/family/work-mates… Here’s a link to tickets for those dates.


Fry some Spätzle


This isn’t a blog post. Not a proper one with a recipe and thought-provoking copy. It’s little more than an enhanced photograph. I made some Käsespätzle yesterday (there’s a recipe for it from an old blog right here), and this morning the leftovers had set into a solid block, so for breakfast I cut a neat slice and gently fried each side in some olive oil. With a fried egg and a sprinkling of hot chilli powder is was rather ace. So do it.


Spaghetti IS the best pasta


Comedian Kerry Godliman did a routine on Live at The Apollo recently that had me in stitches. In it she talks about being an exasperated mother, shopping at the supermarket with difficult children who claim that they prefer one pasta shape to another. It’s such an accurate observation and so brilliantly and hilariously acted out (especially when she looks up to challenge the shopper who must be observing the confrontation from afar). It’s HERE (this link expires tomorrow at 10:30pm, so watch it NOW – scroll to 16:40 for the bit I’m talking about).

But while I empathise with her plight (my ‘kids’ are 16, 19 and 20 but still claim to prefer bows to shells), I’ve got to admit that I stand with them when it comes to there being an overall victor, because I do prefer one pasta shapes to others, and I’m proud to say that spaghetti really is the best and that’s that.

I could eat a plate of perfectly cooked spaghetti with a little butter or olive oil and some seasoning and nothing else. I could eat it every day, twice a day. But it does have to be cooked properly and that means the ‘are you sure this doesn’t need a little bit longer?’-side of al dente.

If that’s a bit too simple for your palette and doesn’t feel quite ‘dinner’ enough then do this recipe. It’s a standard go-to meal that takes minutes and has very few ingredients. So few that it’s the sort of thing you can throw together when you’re away from home in an Air BnB in Edinburgh (as I was when I made, photographed and enjoyed the plate pictured above) that doesn’t have anything in it’s cupboards apart from salt and pepper and oil, and you want to cook without the hassle of having a load of half-finished ingredients leftover. You’ll need to buy 5 items and they’re all the sorts of things you could easily get in a small shop.

Spaghetti With Garlic, Chilli, Parsley and Raw Tomato
1/2 a packet of dried spaghetti
lots of extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
1 punnet cherry tomatoes (halved or quartered)
1 bunch parsley (flat leafed or curly – I prefer curly, it’s stronger)
salt and pepper

Bring a big pan of well-salted water to the boil, and I mean well-salted. I remember watching Delia once grind a few twists from a salt mill into a pan containing what must have been about 4 litres of water. Utterly pointless. It wouldn’t have made any discernible difference. There’s a saying that the water you boil pasta in should be as salty as the Mediterranean, so for a large pan you’ll want two or three dessertspoons of salt. At least. Maybe more.

When the pan is boiling hard drop the pasta in, get it under the water and give it a few good stirs every now and then for the first few minutes to make sure it’s not sticking and not clumping together at all.

Right, now you’ve got about 8 minutes to do the rest so get a move on.

In a cold large shallow pan pour a lot of oil (so put in as much as you think, and then put some more in), then add the garlic and the chilli and then put it over a medium heat. You can’t burn the garlic or everything will be horrible (not just this meal, but everything everywhere). As the heat comes up underneath, the chilli and garlic will start to sizzle and as soon as they do drop the heat really low.

Chop the tomatoes and the parsley and mix them together.

Keep an eye on the garlic and as soon as it starts to go pale gold throw in the raw tomato and parsley. It’ll cool everything down so you can afford to bring the heat up higher but only for a minute or so, and keep it all moving by shaking the pan or stirring. The water in the tomato will emulsify with the oil making a silky garlicky sauce. Then turn off the heat.

The pasta should now be nearly done. Test it. It really does want to be very al dente, because it’ll continue to cook when it’s out of the water and in the sauce.

Drain it really quickly and immediately pour it into the pan with the tomatoes so that you retain a fair amount of the pasta water as it clings to the spaghetti. Shake and stir, plop it onto plates, add more parsley and black pepper and eat straight away.

IMPORTANT: This sauce will NOT work with pasta shells, pasta bows, tubes, twists, dinosaur shapes, barbie shapes or any other shape. Despite what Kerry says. Except Tagliatelle, or linguine. But spaghetti is best.


Leftover Beef Stroganoff


I had some roast beef left (see beginning of last post). Not surprisingly, the joint I’d cooked was a two and a half kilo piece of prime rib which I’d come away with after a butchery class at The Ginger Pig in Marylebone. The leftovers were a bit of a mishmash, there was a fair bit of nice pink medium rare ‘middle’ (a decent portion of which I sliced thinly and enjoyed cold in a wholemeal flat bread with fresh ripe tomato, rocket, red onion, parsley, and a horseradish mayonnaise), but then a lot of well-done end, and some scrappy bits which looked less appetising once the fat had cooled and returned to it’s opaque white nightlight-like state. I also had a lot of cream left (for dessert after the roast beef meal I’d made a brioche and chocolate bread and butter pudding – recipe for that to follow, it’s easy and it’s outstanding) so I made a stroganoff which, along with Beef and Noodles is a great way to use up leftover roast.

Leftover Beef Stroganoff
1 onion – thinly sliced
1 garlic – thinly sliced
lots of mushrooms – thinly sliced
leftover roast beef – sliced into medium thickness mouthfuls
paprika – about a teaspoon
some white wine or cider (if you have it, no biggy if you haven’t)
leftover gravy – some
cream – lots
black pepper
cooked white rice to serve it with

Fry the onion and garlic in E.V. rapeseed oil (if you have it, any oil will do though) over a medium to low heat until they’ve softened. Take them out of the pan. Now fry the mushrooms on a slightly higher heat and get them nicely caramelised. Take them out. Turn the heat up, add a bit more oil and flash fry the beef so as to crisp up the outside but not over-do it – if the heat is high enough it’ll take a minute, if that. As soon as it looks good, drop the heat and put the mushrooms and onions back in.

Add the paprika and stir around for a minute or so and then pour in some wine or cider, if you have it – about a glass full. Let it reduce down until it’s almost disappeared and then add the gravy and the cream. Bring it to the boil, have a taste and add salt or a splash of soy sauce if it needs it, a squeeze of lemon if it’s tasting too sweet and a pinch of sugar if too sour. Grind in lots of black pepper.

Cook white rice (in a pressure cooker which you MUST have it will take no more than 3 minutes), and serve the stroganoff on top with more black pepper, lots of parsley and a scattering of chopped cornichons.

Put on a big fur hat and tuck in while singing the Russian National Anthem in your head.


Chilli Sin Carne (100% vegan)


I took enormous pleasure in cutting up a big piece of cow earlier this week. Sorry vegans, I know you’re out there in your hoards, but it’s true. I took part in a beef butchery class at The Ginger Pig in Marylebone and while I think the class itself could have been more comprehensive I still felt I learnt how to deal properly with a two and a half kilo piece of aged prime rib. I carefully cut away the chine bone, I tore back the cap and removed the paddywhack, French-trimmed the bones and tied it all back together. Back home I roasted it with nothing but salt and pepper and served it with roast potatoes, creamy courgettes and a salad of beetroot, sugar snap peas, rocket and balsamic and the most outstanding gravy made from the roasted bones and resting juices. It was absolutely epic.

Vegans, you don’t know what you’re missing, but then conversely all you adamant anti-vegans out there, you don’t know what you’re missing either. Because here’s something that you’d shun if offered I’m sure, though you’d be fools to do so. I think I’ve perfected my vegan Chilli Con Carne (a contradiction in terms I realise so hereafter called more accurately Chilli Sin Carne). It’s  rich and oily and very spicy and it’s also bloody quick. I threw it together last night in less than twenty minutes (plus simmering time though it doesn’t need long like a beef one would).

(By the way, I’ve been informed that one of the ingredients on the list isn’t actually vegan, but see below for a slight alteration to the recipe that sorts this little problem out.)

Chilli Sin Carne
Olive oil and plenty of it
6 or 7 mushrooms (finely chopped)
2 onions (try finely chopped)
1 carrot (very finely diced)
1 celery stick (very finely diced)
2 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 heaped teaspoon hot chilli powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tbsp normal paprika
2 red chillis (1 sliced, 1 left whole)
a scant handful of raisins or sultanas (chopped)
1 bag of frozen Quorn* mince
1 packet of TVP (soya mince) rehydrated
1/2 cup of cold black coffee
1 bottle of pasatta (about 700g I think)
2 tins red kidney beans, drained
a scant handful of picked jalapeño slices, roughly chopped
some sugar, honey, date syrup, molasses – anything sweet, even jam will do
about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of gravy browning**

*it’s been brought to my attention that frozen Quorn mince isn’t actually vegan as it contains some egg derivatives and I think some milk too. SO, if this is a problem (rolls eyes and shakes head a little bit) then simply use two packets of rehydrated soya mince instead. You may need to up the gravy browning (see below) too to get the required appetising appearance.

**yes, gravy browning is just brown food colouring but, ladies and gentlemen, we eat with our eyes and if your chilli looks deep and rich it’ll taste deep and rich too. Trust me.

Get a nice big casserole on your hob and bring the heat up underneath. Pour in a really generous amount of olive oil and then your mushrooms. Don’t move them around at all for quite a while because you want them to catch and to caramelise. When they’ve got a nice bit of colour on them throw in the onion, carrot and celery and give the whole lot a good fifteen minutes over a nice gentle heat. Again it’s colour and flavour you want to encourage. You can pop the cinnamon stick in now too, and the whole red chilli. the chilli will impart some flavour, but it’ll also look the business and if anyone’s feeling particularly brave at dinnertime they can eat the whole thing, which is a fun challenge after a few tequilas.

Once everything is nicely coloured add the cumin seeds, the raisins or sultanas (they add a lovely sweetness that’ll balance the heat beautifully), the other chilli chopped up small, the garlic, the Quorn mince, the rehydrated TVP*** and the chilli powder and paprikas and give it all a good stir and a fry. The spices might catch a bit and if they do add a splash of water.

Next pour in the coffee. It’s going to add a bitter note that’s not dissimilar to the flavour of charred bones you get from a good beef stock. Let it reduce down a bit before adding your pasatta and giving it all a really good mix together, season with lots of black pepper and about half a teaspoon of salt. But taste to check the balance.

Now, at this stage it won’t look especially appetising. In fact it’ll look a bit insipid, maybe even a little bit like sick, so here’s where you deploy your secret weapon – the gravy browning. This stuff is a VERY POWERFUL colourant, and as Raymond Blanc says, you can add but you can’t take away. Put a little bit in, stir, if it still looks too pale then add a little more. Bear in mind that the sauce will darken as it cooks and you can add more later if you want, so don’t overdo it. Get it looking a bit richer, bring it to a simmer and let it cook for about thirty minutes.

By now it should be rich, reduced, dark and oily and really meaty-looking, and tasting. If it needs a further boost you can add a bit of Marmite, or just some more salt and pepper. If it’s too acidic then put in a bit of brown sugar, molasses or honey. Add the beans and the chopped jalapeños. And if it’s too thick add a splash of water. Bring it back to a simmer and give it another ten minutes or so. When it’s done trickle on some more olive oil on top.

Serve it with rice, with baked potatoes, or just with a big hunk of bread. Trickle over a little cream, or a dollop of sour cream (unless you’re still a vegan in which case you can substitute the cream for water or ice – just kidding – maybe use some soya yoghurt). Sprinkle with fresh coriander, a big squeeze of lime and some fresh raw chilli and flakey salt. Oh and if you’re feeding it to a meat-eater, don’t tell them, they won’t realise.

***TVP is something I talked about in an earlier blog. It’s what we used at school Home Economics lessons instead of too-expensive meat. It’s a real throwback to the days of early vegetarianism but it really does the job.


Christmas Dinner

I went all a bit silly with the Christmas dinner this year. I wanted lots of different things and a simplicity to the menu. It seemed the only way to satisfy all those desires was to make lots of courses of small plates. So here’s what I made.

Course 1: Scotch Egg.
I’d planned quail’s egg scotch eggs, but the recipe I followed to ensure runny yolks was wrong and the tester egg I peeled was too overdone, so we just ate those and I went for normal big hen’s scotch eggs and we had half of one each.

4 eggs
6 decent sausages (skins removed)
a few slices of black pudding
lots of thyme and rosemary
another egg
some flour
2 litres of sunflower oil

First soft boil the eggs. There’s various methods for doing this (starting with cold water, starting with boiling water etc.) and of course it always varies depending on the size of the egg, but for a medium egg I’d bring the water to the boil, lower the egg into the boiling water, time 1 minute, turn the heat off and time a further 6 minutes and then run the pan under a cold tap until the egg is completely cold (about 4 minutes). Then peel them. Carefully. And remember that older eggs will peel so much better than fresh ones.

Mash the sausage meat, black pudding, thyme, rosemary and lots of black pepper together until well blended. Then take a ball of the sausage slightly larger the a golf ball and flatten it out. Place the egg in the middle and start to form the sausage around the egg. Add more clumps of sausage, smoothing and shaping until you have an evenly covered egg surrounded by about 1cm of sausage meat. Do this with all four eggs and chill them for 30 mins so they firm up.

Get three bowls, one of seasoned flour, one of beaten egg and one of breadcrumbs. Roll the egg in the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs and finally deep fry in a saucepan of sunflower oil at 150 degrees celsius for 4 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper for a couple of minutes and serve.


Course 2: Squash Ravioli, Sage Butter.
Very simple. One large ravioli in the middle of the plate, brown butter infused with sage and crispy sage on top. The pasta was made with a ratio of 100g flour to 1 egg with a pinch of salt. I added a little ‘paella powder’ that I picked up in Spain a few years ago. It’s mostly yellow colouring I think with a little saffron and paprika in it too. Made the pasta look pretty rich! The filling was butternut squash, halved, seasoned and roasted for an hour and then the flesh processed with parmesan, thyme and brown butter and then hung in a muslin bag overnight to dry out. The brown butter and crispy sage – butter heated until foaming, sage added, cooked until butter went nut brown, sage removed and shredded and the butter and sage dressed over the ravioli.


Course 3: Gravadlax, Rye Bread, Fennel, Horseradish.
This was a disk of pumpernickel-like rye bread, toasted and cooled. On top of that a mixture of horseradish, cream and lime juice, then some grilled and cooled fennel, and finally slices of home-cured gravadlax and chopped dill. Here’s how the salmon is done – a side of Salmon sprinkled with a mixture of salt and sugar, grated beetroot, dill, gin, pepper and lemon zest. This was covered in clingfilm and weighed down in the fridge for about 48 hours, lightly rinsed and thinly sliced. Looks amazing dyed by the beets.


Course 4: Nut Roast, Purple Sprouts, St Agur Sauce.
I think, I’m not sure, but I think this was my favourite. The nuts in the nut roast complimented the nutty taste of the sprouts and all that was set off by the salty cheese sauce. Oh, it was good.

I generally do nut roast loosely based on the old Cranks recipe from the 80s, though I add more vegetables, and I add raisins for sweetness. And for this one I also added eggs, which I don’t normally do, but I wanted it to hold it’s shape really well so I could slice it and fry it.

2 onions (finely chopped)
1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
1 parsnip (very finely diced)
4-5 chestnut mushrooms (very finely diced)
about a tablespoon of raisins (chopped)
200g nuts (any nuts, toasted and food processed until quite fine)
100g wholemeal breadcrumbs
50-75ml vegetable stock with a teaspoon of marmite stirred in
2 eggs

Fry the onion, garlic, parsnip and mushroom for a long time until nicely caramelised. Then add the other ingredients and mix well. Finally mix in the two eggs (or not if you’re going to serve it out of a bowl). Put the mixture into a well greased loaf tin and bake under foil for about 30 minutes at 200 degrees celsius. If you’re going to slice it, let it cool completely and slice it with a sharp breadknife and reheat by frying.

Make a bechemal (here’s how) but toast the roux for ages until it’s nicely brown as this will add a nice nutty flavour to the finished sauce. season with chilli, nutmeg, salt and pepper and finally add St Agur only after the sauce has come off the heat.

They seem to stock interesting sprouts in the shops at Christmas and these purple ones cook down to a lovely deep green with a tinge of blue that compliments the blue cheese in the sauce. I boiled them, plunged them into iced water and then reheated them with butter and a little water.


Course 4: Chicken, Potatoes, Beetroot, Raw Mushroom, pig-in-blanket and devil-on-horseback, Gravy
The chicken was brined for 24 hours which is something I’ve never done before and I don’t know if I could really tell any difference. The potatoes were just par boiled, left to steam dry, plunged into scaldingly hot olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. The beetroot was boiled, peeled and roasted. The skewer was just some decent sausage and prunes wrapped in bacon and roasted. The gravy was epic – a sauce made from 4 chicken thighs that I roasted the night before with some veg, deglazed with cider and pressure cooked with water for two hours before straining and reducing. This was added to the juices that came off the chicken with a little cream, tarragon and very thinly sliced raw mushrooms added at the end.


Course 5: Galette De Rois, Waitrose Ice Cream
Galette De Rois is dead easy. Get some all butter puff pastry (Waitrose sell it frozen in sheets and you don’t even need to roll it out). Beat together 100g butter, 100g ground almonds, 100g sugar and a little vanilla. Then fold in 60ml double cream. Spread the mixture on the bottom sheet of pastry leaving a border of about 1cm. Egg wash the border, place the other sheet on top, crimp the edges, brush with egg white, score a pattern and bake for about 30 mins at 170 degrees. Leave it for 5-10 minutes to cool before serving. And this was had with pistachio gelato and white chocolate ice cream, which as pretty good.


Course 6: Cornish Yarg and Crab Apple Membrillo
Keep that cheese simple! I got a couple of others too but the mixture of creamy Cornish Yarg and sharp astringent foraged crab apple membrillo (recipe here) is just perfect.


So there you go. Overdid it, but it was worth it.

Oh and a footnote, there was sprouts, fennel and potatoes left so Boxing Day morning I made bubble and squeak out of that, with toast and a poached egg, of course.



Date Syrup is nice on ANYTHING


Have you ever bought any date syrup? My goodness it’s nice.

You can get it from health food shops, like Infinity Foods in Brighton, or Harvest in Bath. I do like those sorts of places and while an avid, perhaps even an evangelical meat eater, there’s something about the smell of a health food shop that really comforts. It makes you feel good, and sensible and… Actually no. In the first instance I feel good but then that feeling of goodness mutates pretty quickly into a desire to be mischievous. Because while I love the odours and the interesting products, at the risk of tarring everyone with the same brush I don’t half feel like the people who work in such establishments could do with, erm, lightening up a bit. The same goes for the clientele. You know what, once I was reprimanded by a fellow customer for using the vegan tongs to pick up a pizza which had cheese on it. “Oh Eff Off love” I imagined saying, as I apologised. There seems to be an overwhelming sense of worthiness and piousness that hangs in the air. A mouse-like irritating softness to the majority of the shoppers and an over-considered and unrealistic sincerity to the staff.  In fact staff is the wrong word since they’re more often than not run as  a cooperative and staff would imply a boss/non-boss hierarchy. And there’ll be none of that I imagine. At least not officially, but I bet there’s a load of older lags who look down on the younger members with an inflated feeling of superior excellence.

Is that unfair? Probably. But you know what I mean don’t you.

Mind you, they certainly are a good place to visit to find some interesting products and ingredients that you won’t get in your average supermarket and one of those is Date Syrup. We buy it a lot. It’s cheaper than maple syrup and it’s a product of the UK which feels better if we’re thinking about air miles. It’s fantastic in savoury things as well as sweet ones, or if you want to blur the line between a desert and a savoury snack then try this.

Cut some cubes of feta and wrap them in a square of buttered filo pastry. Press the outside of the pastry into a mixture of black and white sesame seeds, bake for about 15-18 minutes in a medium to hot oven, trickle with date syrup, a little olive oil and some salt crystals and enjoy. Oh my gosh they’re good.


Cheese Sauce

Matt and I started this blog for a number of reasons. We needed something that would force us to write on a regular basis, we wanted to push ourselves to come up with new dishes and ideas and we wanted a space to vent the occasional frustration or celebrate a new discovery or nostalgic comfort. But the main reason for blogging was as a record of the food we cooked as a catalogue, a reference, a virtual cookbook for our children.

Many years ago we mooted the idea of writing cookbooks for our kids as a leaving present for them when they finally flew the nest- cookbooks packed with all the family classics that they’d grown up on which they could dip into to when they needed a taste of home. We talked about the idea and because both our families have spent an awful lot of time together a lot of Matt’s family favourites have become ours too and vice versa, so a combined record seemed like an even nicer idea. And a blog of course, so much less committing and final than actually putting something to print where the likely danger of thinking “oh no, I should have put the lasagne in there too!” just as it comes off the press is too strong, seemed like a better option.

Often the copy has strayed away from recipes, it’s served too as a bit of publicity for my performing work of course (fair enough though since my current solo-show ‘George Egg: Anarchist Cook’ is all about food anyway)*, it’s drifted into opinion pieces, but it’s tried to remain food-centric and in almost every entry there’s been a recipe. But like I said, the main reason it’s up here on the web is so that when our kids have left home and want a recreation of something familiar and tasty they’ll find the instructions here.

So with that in mind, here’s my recipe for cheese sauce, because a cheese sauce (or a Mornay Sauce) features in probably too many dishes I like and cook – macaroni cheese, croque monsieur, enchiladas, moussaka and most kinds of lasagne. It’s great on other things too. A slice of cheese on toast where a thin spreading of cold cheese sauce has been smeared on the toasted bread before the slices of cheese go on top gives it a milky unctuousness that’s so comforting. Equally a blob in a cheese toastie (especially one made with something from my collection – see here) is sublime. It’ll be dreamy on any lightly cooked veg which then in turn is topped with a bit more grated cheese and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs, baked in the oven until crispy and bubbling, and then the topping fought over (try sprouts, stir-fried cabbage, sliced new potatoes, jerusalem artichokes).

Last night I made a sort-of macaroni cheese, but the pasta was a different shape, and the addition of slow cooked onions rendered the dish more like Käsespätzle (recipe for that here, and well worth doing). I didn’t really get to eat any of it though. I’d put it together and baked it before we had to leave for a thing at my daughter’s school, had a small bowl to taste before we left and planned to have a proper portion when we got back, but on our return it had all gone. Siblings. This meant my appetite for such a dish wasn’t sated AND I’d skipped breakfast this morning, so at lunchtime it was just what I fancied. Fortunately there was some of the cheese sauce left and not having time to build something as elegant as the dinner from the night before I simply warmed the sauce, cooked some Orzo (the rice-shaped pasta), stirred the two together and put it in a bowl topped with a trickle of E.V rapeseed oil for nuttiness, a pinch of chilli powder, some parmesan and lots of black pepper. It was outstanding and the epitome of the somewhat tired expression ‘a hug on a plate’.

Well, with that, and all those other possibilities waiting to be realised I think I’d better give you my recipe for a cheese sauce. Oh and incidentally, a béchamel sauce is just a mornay sauce before the cheese is added, so you’ve learned that too :

Cheese Sauce (Mornay Sauce)
75g butter
2 heaped tbsp plain flour
1 litre milk (full fat preferably but semi-skimmed is fine)
1 bayleaf
about ¼ whole nutmeg, grated
pinch of chilli powder or cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
100g any cheese (parmesan, cheddar of course, stilton, brie – but not feta or cottage, though who knows, it might work, I’ve just not tried it with those)

First melt the butter in a pan and add the flour. Whisk them together and keep them moving over a medium heat and keep cooking until it’s a light biscuity-brown. Add a splash of milk and beat in with the whisk (it’ll cool the butter and the whole thing with go like a big lump of playdough, but don’t worry, keep whisking), add a splash more, whisk again, and repeat this making sure there’s no lumps before the next milk addition until it’s started to thin out again to the consistency of thick cream. At this point you can add the bayleaf and slosh all but about a small teacup’s worth of the milk and bring the heat up a bit, whisking to stop it thickening and sticking to the bottom, until it’s all thickened. If it’s too thick you can always slacken it with some more milk.

Now let it cook for a few minutes, still staring and be careful because if it bubbles it’ll splash you. Turn off the heat and add a big pinch of salt, pepper, the chilli or cayenne and grate in the nutmeg. Taste it. It should taste nice a deep a smooth. If it tastes at all thin or watery add a bit more salt.

Grate of chop up your cheese quite small, bring the sauce up to the boil again, turn of the heat and THEN whisk in the cheese. If you add the cheese while it’s still bubbling there’s a danger it’ll split and you’ll have a grainy texture which really isn’t as nice as a smooth one.

Again, taste it and adjust – more cheese, more salt, more chilli etc.

Incidentally, these measurements are rough. Of course if it’s too thick, add more milk, if it’s too thin, well, there’s not a lot you can do apart from add more cheese at this stage, but take note and add less milk the next time you make it. But thinner is better if it’s coating pasta because it wants to be smooth and silky, not gloopy.

It’s a bit more manageable for adding to a dish when it’s not too hot as it’ll thicken up more. And cold in the fridge it’ll set like a loose jelly making spreading under the cheese on shoes on toast very easy. I’ve had mixed success freezing (seems fine when it’s incorporated into a dish like a lasagne, but when frozen solo seems to split when defrosted), but it’ll keep in the fridge for a week or so and can be dipped into for all those dishes listed above.


*see what I did there?