Devilled Kidneys

Devilled kidneys

There are a bunch of variations on devilled kidneys, this one is mixture from several sources, with options for dialling up the richness. It includes onion, which some might regard as heresy, but I quite enjoyed. There’s lots you can do here – go nuts with the pepper and reduce the spices to get a steak au poivre type sauce, ramp up the heat with extra cayenne or even chilli flakes, or make the sauce silky with extra butter and cream… some of this may be a little too rich for the offal-fearing novice, so work your way up.

I used spelt & pumpkin seed bread for this. Amazing what posh stuff you can get in Tescos these days eh?

Devilled Kidneys

Serves 4 as a snack/starter, 2 as a main (I actually ate 2/3rds of this myself, but I was being greedy)

400g lamb’s kidneys, cut into quarters
2 tblsp plain flour
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp Turkish red pepper flakes or 1 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to your taste)
One small onion, finely chopped
2 tsp English mustard
2 tblsp tomato puree
1-2 tbslp Worcester sauce
50ml water
couple of slices of good bread, white or brown
oil & butter
salt & pepper
handful of chopped parsley (optional)
Slosh sherry, marsala or slightly smaller slosh brandy (optional)
1 tblsp cream (optional)
Lemon juice (optional)

Wash the kidneys in cold water and pat dry. Cut out the hard white cores of the kidneys – this is best done with a pair of scissors, not a knife. In a bowl, mix the kidneys, flour, paprika, cayenne or pepper flakes, a couple of pinches of salt and a good few grinds of pepper until the kidneys are well coated. Heat a little oil in a frying pan on a medium heat, add the onion and fry for a couple minutes. Stick a knob of butter in the pan, and when it’s melted turn the kidneys in and let them sizzle for a few minutes with the onions, turning occasionally, until they’re just browning a little.

If adding booze, stick it in now, and let it reduce a bit, scraping the pan. Add the tomato puree, mustard, Worcester sauce. Mix together and add the water to form a sauce. Let the kidneys cook while the sauce thickens, 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile, toast the bread and butter it. If you want to, now stir in the cream and taste it – add more cayenne or pepper flakes if needed. Let it cook for another minute or so, then add the parsley and a good squeeze of lemon juice if you like. Spoon over the toast and eat.

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Heart & tart


Another post from last year that never made it out… from October time:

Our pear tree had just given up its rather small collection (16) pears this week. We were worried that after this lame summer they would turn out badly but they proved to be very sweet and perfectly edible. After gruffling a couple straight up, our thoughts turned to preservation for winter (pears in brandy syrup to follow another day) and of course, pear and almond tart.

I’d also picked up some very cheap beef heart from the supermarket, so that made the main course, served in my approximation of how they do it at St John. Heart is delicious, and extremely healthy.

Warm heart salad (feeds three)

500g beef or veal heart, cut into thin strips
150g watercress, roughly torn (or other strong peppery leaves)
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
teaspoon of capers, finely chopped (optional)
1 tblsp white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
olive oil
salt & pepper


If the heart is whole, trim off any sinew and any blood clots in the ventricles (yum), cut the heart open and spread it flat. Then slice thinly. Put the strips into a bowl, season well with salt & pepper and add the balsamic vinegar and thyme, then pour over a little olive oil and toss it altogether. Most recipes suggest marinading overnight, I managed half an hour and it was delicious.

Make a vinaigrette by whisking together with the white wine vinegar, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, the mustard, the shallots and capers.

Get a grill pan nice and hot and then grill the strips of heart, for a couple of minutes each side. Toss the vinaigrette with the watercress, and the warm strips of heart and serve immediately.

Pear & almond tart

I think traditionally you do this with poached pears, but I wanted ours fresh. I have to write another line in here to make the stupid WordPress formatting look better..

Shortcrust pastry to line a 22cm tart pan*
4 pears, peeled and sliced thinly
125g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
125g butter, softened

*No, I didn’t make my own. Too much effort. Use shop bought or make yours as you see fit.

Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Beat the butter, sugar and almonds together. Butter the

Pear tart

tart tin, put the pastry in it, and bake blind (with those fancy little stones if you have them) for 10-15 minutes until just turning golden.  Take it out and fill with the almond mixture. Press the slices of pear in a nice fan shape (see my lack of presentation skills in the pictures). Bake in the oven for 30-40 mins or until the mixture is set and golden brown on top. Dust with icing sugar if you like. Serve with cream or creme fraiche.

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puerco pibil – Mexican pork to kill for

Stag plus 1 chef

Here’s a post about a stag weekend that Luke and I went on earlier this year. Not a common starting point for an interesting post on food, but bear with us. Being old, wise and averse to pain and humiliation, we were less interested in paintball and provincial nightclubs, and more interested in ‘classy’ drinks and fancy eating. So we rented a house in the country for the weekend, bought lots of exotic liquor and about 30kg of meat, and your two correspondents took care of cooking 3 days of food for 16 men.

The Mayans invented puerco pibil, and built this.

Catering for this many poses its own problems, but it gave us an opportunity to try out something we wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to cook – an enormous piece of pork, slow roasted Yucatecan style: ‘puerco pibil‘ or ‘cochinita pibil. I’d had this before on holiday in the Yucatan, Luke’s game for any serious meat endeavour, and Mexican-American film director Robert Rodriguez was thankfully on hand to guide us through the preparation. The key to this dish is the achiote powder which gives the pork an earthy, yet tangy flavour. It’s unfamiliar to the British palate and this is down to annatto seeds, a Mexican spice that can be hard to track down in the UK. We got pre-prepared achiote powder from specialist Mexican supplier, but they seem to have stopped stocking it, so if you’re in the UK and can’t find it, then you can order annatto seeds here, here or here (you’ll need minimum 30g), and then make your own achiote powder.

What (for 8 people)

  • 2.5kg pork shoulder, sliced into 5cm cubes
  • 7 tblsp achiote powder
  • 5 tblsp annatto seeds, 2 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tbsp peppercorns, 8 allspice, 1/2 tsp cloves – ground finely in a spice grinder (annatto seeds are incredibly hard)
  • 150ml orange juice
  • 150ml white vinegar
  • 2 scotch bonnets or habanero chillies, remove seeds to moderate heat
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • juice of 5 limes
  • a splash of tequila
  • corn husks/banana leaves/tin foil to wrap the meat up with

Having got your hands on achiote powder, or ground your own, blend all the ingredients except the pork (and the corn husks/banana leaves/tin foil obviously) in a food processor or some such – note that the annatto will stain plastic orange-red, but this will fade with time/washing… Pour the resulting liquid over the pork and marinade in the fridge overnight. The next day, line a deep baking tray with corn husks (these will need pre-soaking for 30 minutes to soften)/banana leaves and put your meat on top, before covering with more corn husks/banana leaves and carefully seal the tray with tin foil – you don’t want the liquid evaporating and your meat drying out. If you can’t get corn husks/banana leaves, tin foil alone will do. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C, and then cook the meat for 4 hours. Result: meltingly tender hunks of spicy, citrusy and earthy pork. Serve with rice, beans, guacamole, salsa etc and marvel at how good real Mexican food can be.

Corn husk-encased meat

Piles of slow cooked spicy pork

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Karim’s Hot Sauce Recipe

Here is a guest post from my husband, Karim.

Note that all measurements are very approximate; feel free to to alter to your taste.  You can alter the consistency and thickness of the sauce towards the end if you need to. A useful tip that applies throughout this recipe: do not attempt to rub your eyes, go to the toilet, change a baby’s nappy, or attempt any sort of intimacies with your significant other at any stage during the process.  Pain will result.


  • 1 roughly chopped onion
  • 4 roughly chopped cloves of garlic
  • 400g of roughly chopped Jalapeño, serrano, and birdseye chillis, in whatever proportion you’ve purchased them in.  For a hotter sauce, use habaneros or Scotch bonnets.  Basically, you can use any types of peppers you’d like- I’ve found that Scotch bonnets have the most flavour to go with their heat, and would have used some if I had found any in the local supermarkets and grocers.  You can also add some Turkish or bell peppers for more flavour and less heat.
  • 600mL of clear vinegar, preferably white wine or apple cider
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of molasses
  • 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Take a non-reactive stock pot or large saucepan, and gently fry the onion until it’s translucent. Add ALL the other ingredients, and set to a gentle simmer. The liquid should almost, but not quite, cover all the solid ingredients- alter amount as needed. Leave to simmer uncovered for an hour, occasionally stirring, until the peppers are very soft and tender.  If your liquid level looks to be getting too low, just cover your pan. It’s advisable to run your extractor fan at full for this stage, as you risk a mass exodus of family members/flatmates, all shouting, “My eyes!  I’m blind!” if not.  If anyone in the neighbourhood has a cold, invite them to stick their face over the pan; their sinuses will soon be clear, if a little painful.

When tender, allow to cool slightly, and use a blender to reduce the nascent sauce to as fine a puree as you can.  At this stage, appraise the consistency of the sauce.  If it’s too thick, add vinegar and simmer for another 15 minutes.  If it’s too thin, simmer uncovered until it’s reduced down a bit.

Pass the puree through a metal sieve, working the mixture with a wooden spoon, and collect the now-smooth sauce in a large measuring jug or anything easy to pour from.

Now sterilise your preserving jars or Kilner jars.  I do this simply by pouring boiling water over and into them, let stand for 5 minutes, and draining them.  You can also sterilise them in the oven if you prefer, if there’s no non-heat-resistant plastic inserts anywhere in sight.  Be sure to only handle them with a clean dishcloth from now on, and try to let nothing come into contact with the mouths of the jars.

Carefully pour the hot sauce into the preserving jars, ensuring none spills on the rims, and seal.  Now you play the waiting game: place the jars somewhere cool and dark for a month, then open and enjoy.  If you’re worried your sterilisation technique isn’t up to standard, if you have a filthy kitchen, or if you’ve made your hot sauce in the monkey enclosure at the zoo, then you may want to store them in the fridge.

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Saltimbocca bocca bocca

This is a recipe post, but I’m going to start it with an opinion. This is not a very fashionable view in some quarters, but I like veal. Moreover, I actually think that for meat eaters who also consume dairy products, there are strong ethical reasons for eating veal, so long as it’s responsibly produced. The logic goes like this – dairy cattle have been selectively bred for certain traits, specifically the ability to produce milk and not for the quality of their beef. Despite endless artificial selection, male dairy cows still won’t grow udders, which results in a conundrum for the farmer: dairy cows must breed continually to ensure they produce milk. But 50% of the calves are males, which will never grow into milk-producers or be viable beef cattle, leaving two options – kill these male calves at birth or rear them for veal.

The UK has some of the strictest legislation in the world regarding ethical production of veal, but the domestic market for veal is so small that most calves are either exported to Europe (where rearing standards are generally lower), or shot at birth. And a lot are shot at birth. If however there was more of a domestic market for veal, these animals would be reared for 6 months to the higher standards that exist in the UK. This is not a long life I grant you, but it’s surely better better than death following immediately after birth. Finally, it’s worth noting that Compassion in World Farming endorses the eating of veal for these reasons, and it’s not just me and my deranged meat-saturated mind that thinks like this.

Anyway, now for the veal recipe: saltimbocca (‘jumps in the mouth’, apparently) is a simple Italian dish of rolled veal parcels, pan fried then braised in white wine or marsala to finish. This is a classic Roman recipe and I should credit Elizabeth David for introducing me to it.

What? (for two people)
2 veal escalopes
prosciutto or other dried ham
sage leaves
cocktail sticks
250ml white wine or marsala

Place a veal escalope between a couple of sheets of greaseproof paper and use a rolling pin or meat mallet to hammer it thin – don’t be shy, it should only be a couple of millimetres thick. Do this for all the veal, then cut these (now much wider) escalopes into pieces approximately 10cm x 15cm (don’t worry about being exact). Place half a piece of prosiutto over each piece of veal, put 1 sage leaf at one end then roll up around the sage leaf to make a mini meat cigar. Push a cocktail stick through it to hold it in place, then continue until you’ve used all the veal.

Melt a generous knob of butter in a frying pan, and over a brisk heat, fry the saltimbocca until golden brown all over. Now turn the heat down a bit and pour in your marsala or white wine and let it reduce by half. Plate up the saltimbocca, taking the cocktail sticks out, then pour the wine sauce over the top. Serve with a green salad, and whatever stodgy side dish takes your fancy – polenta, buttered fettucine, couscous, sauteed or mashed potatoes are my suggestions.

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Blackberry, rhubarb and apple crumble

This was written back at the end of July, and I never got around to posting it:

Alice with some blackberries


Blackberry season is in full swing, and Hackney & Walthamstow marshes are groaning under the weight of fruit. Enterprising individuals have cut swathes into the huge thickets of brambles, but there are still huge amounts of juicy berries just out of reach. Next time I go out picking I might take a machete to hack through…

Rhubarb is of course in season too, and finding some at our local grocers (I never seem to be able to find it in supermarkets?) crumble is the obvious answer.


This recipe is based on one of Nigel Slater’s, that I got from here – but as I was doing it I remember following this last time and he uses way, way too much butter to flour and sugar. It’s impossible to crumb it with your fingers, you just end up with a pastry dough.

Serves 8-12, depending on how hungry you are…

Fruit ingredients

500g rhubarb, cut into large chunks
2 Bramley apples, peeled & cored, cut into chunks
200g blackberries
Juice of half a lemon
100g caster sugar

Topping ingredients

200g plain flour
150g caster sugar
175g salted butter, chopped into small pieces.
75g oats

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 / 200 C.

Cut up the fruit and place it in a large sauce pan, with the lemon juice, sugar and a splash of water. Cook on a low heat for 15 minutes, or until the rhubarb is a getting tender. Pour into a large ovenproof dish.

Put the flour and butter into a mixing bowl, and rub together with your fingers until you have the consistency of breadcrumbs. Then mix in the sugar and oats, and scatter loosely over the fruit.

Bake for 30 mins or until golden brown on the top.

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Birthday Tea

It was my 32nd birthday at the weekend and as I’m pregnant with twins, the thought of an adult late night boozy party filled me with a) nausea and b) seething jealousy. I felt the only reasonable response was to throw myself a perfect afternoon tea. I like a proper cake for my birthday and there’s nothing more proper than a Victoria Sponge. I’ve never made one before so this seemed like an excellent choice.

There is some debate over the Victoria Sponge as to fillings, size etc, even the WI and Wikipedia fall out over what should be the filling, with Wiki going all gaga for cream and the WI staunchly claiming it should be jam and jam alone between those lovely sponges. We plumped for a mix of the traditional and the jazzy by sandwiching ours with raspberry jam and buttercream. To be sure that I wouldn’t bring the wrath of the WI down on my head, I followed this Delia recipe which was fantastic. Delia has her detractors, but for those times when you are trying out a classic I find her to be the best and most reassuring cookery writer. Adding details like the height of the sieve and what kind of spoon to use to fold the batter certainly seemed to make all the difference with our cake.  I keep saying ‘we’ as without Karim, my husband, this cake would not have happened. We’ve just moved and have the bare essentials in our kitchen so no electric mixer for us and my arms are no way near strong enough to cream three lots of butter! Creaming butter is essentially where you beat together butter and sugar until the sugar is totally incorporated. It is essential the butter is at room temperature otherwise you might have to replace your electric mixer or your arm. Here is some evidence of his energetic beating:

Notice the pale colour of the butter and sugar mixture. You really do have to keep battering the stuff until it becomes light and fluffy and falls off a spoon. Adding the eggs very very tentatively also seemed to help avoid the dreaded curdling. Sieving from a great height was another excellent tip from this recipe and did seem to result in a beautifully light and soft sponge. One tip I picked up from a random TV show is that when you divide the mixture into the two tins, create a slight dent in the middle of the cake mixture. That way you avoid the doming that you get when cakes rise in the oven. This makes it easier for sandwiching.

For the buttercream, take 110g of butter and beat it until it’s soft and pliable. Then, gradually add 220g icing sugar (yes, you read that correctly). Next add a tbsp of milk and a tsp of vanilla extract. Neither of us had baked a sponge before and I’d only ever baked one cake so I was pretty happy with the result. Once the cakes were cool it was easy to handle them, I spread the jam on the underside of the top layer and we spooned the buttercream on top of the bottom layer, smoothing it towards the edge. I secretly splodged another dollop in the middle whilst Karim wasn’t looking and gently squished the layers together.

If that all sounds like a total faff, this muffin recipe will be for you as muffins are the easiest and least precise of the baking dark arts. The chocolate chip muffins that we served with the cake (we do live in Canada after all) are a bastardized version of a recipe from a marvelous baking book called Baking by Martha Day (thank you Becky Hatch!). Her recipe is for an oatmeal and raisin muffin. I’m not that fussed about raisins so I replaced them with the same amount of chocolate chips, but that didn’t look enough so I doubled it. I did worry this would ruin the balance of the recipe, but guess what? It just made it more chocolate chippy, what’s not to love? Here is the recipe, it makes 12:

85g rolled oats
250ml buttermilk
120g butter, at room temperature
100g dark brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
120g flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp salt

and 50g chocolate chips!

1. In a bowl, combine oats and buttermilk and let soak for 1 hour.
2. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin or use paper cups.
3. Preheat oven to 200°C/Gas 6. With an electric mixer (or your incredibly strong arm) cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, slowly.
4. In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Stir into the butter mixture alternating with the oat mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips. Do NOT overmix.

5. Fill the prepared cups two-thirds full. Bake until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Try not to eat them all within half an hour of cooking.
Handy tip: if you don’t have buttermilk in your local shop, add 1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar to milk. Let the mixture stand for a few minutes to curdle.

It was a great birthday tea and I have just enough ingredients to make myself another batch of muffins so I was happy and full. As usual.

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