No one likes Brussel Sprouts

Until now…

Probably the most hated vegetable on the planet.

Until now…

The humble Brussel sprout has been subjected to all sorts of research into why some people find it so awful and others just mildly distasteful. Its apparently got something to do with your taste buds, and how you taste bitter things. Personally I hate any vegetable that’s been boiled to death. Any sweetness there may once have been is lost, boiled away like the innocence of youth subjected to the rigours of everyday life to leave a bitter and haggard old woman…I mean vegetable. Ahem.

I like to treat Brussel sprouts as mini cabbages. The mildest of blanching, and then lashings of butter either in the oven or a frying pan.

My sister has taken this one step further. And now they’re an un-refuseable vegetable. She added bacon. AND cream.

And, as with the carrots, you can get funky coloured sprouts now too. Flower sprouts are readily available in most supermarkets and several veg box schemes too.



Brussels with Bacon and Cream

Brussel Sprouts (flowery or normal), smoked streaky bacon, double cream, black pepper, nutmeg, salt.

Blanch your sprouts first. Bring a pan of water to a roiling boil with plenty of salt in it. Put the sprouts in for about 3-4 minutes. Lift the sprouts out and put them straight into cold water. This helps them retain the vibrant green of the leaves.

Once cool, slice the brussels in half or thirds. The larger the surface area the better for crispy yummy edges. In a large frying pan or wok, heat a little oil and begin cooking the bacon. Once its gone opaque add the brussels. Do not turn it over too often. The food needs prolonged contact with the hot base of the pan in order to caramelise, but not too long that it burns. Flick the mix over rather than stir it as the spoon breaks everything up and makes it mushy, not crisp. Once all the bacon and brussels have nice crispy edges, turn down the heat and add enough cream that everything is coated but there’s no puddles.

If you want to go the whole hog…add cheese. Grate a little Parmesan over the top and grill lightly to get a bit of colour. Because everything is better with cheese.



A Return to our Roots

Side dishes. They often get forgotten. Especially when you’ve got an expensive piece of meat in the oven, you’re not necessarily focused on the vegetables accompanying it. Likewise, when you’ve got meat on your plate, many people will eat that first and leave the veggies til last, just in case you can’t fit it all in.

With meat becoming a growing issue in both the farming and the climate change debates, I think its high time that more was made of the veggies and that what meat we do have to grace our plates is of the highest quality, not quantity. This is not a radical vegetarian movement; more an argument for eating meat in sensible amounts as part of healthy, balanced diets. Something that has been championed by many TV chefs, including my inevitable hero Hugh F-W at River Cottage.

Our forebears enjoyed carrots that were full of sweetness and flavour – and not always orange in colour. Your average chopped-up supermarket carrot will be a common or garden variety, developed for bulk sales rather than taste. Yeurgh. What you want to get your hands on is a heritage carrot, one that harks back to the days when carrots came in all sorts of colours and configurations and actually tasted – in that peculiarly sweet and intense way that one remembers from childhood – of carrot.

The following recipe is one of my father’s. It is actually a staple of most of our roast dinners, though when its me cooking (because I never plan anything) it might just end up as herby carrots, flavoured with whatever fresh herbs I can get my hands on. Tarragon is best though.

Tarragon Carrots

Carrots, tarragon, brown sugar, butter, salt and pepper

Slice the carrots into rounds, just a bit thicker than a pound coin. Put in a saucepan and JUST cover with water. For four carrots (I do a carrot per person for roast dinners) put in about two tsp of brown sugar. Alternatively you can use the three tsp of honey if you’re not into refined sugars. Chuck in a big knob of butter, big pinch of salt and pepper. Boil the carrots dry and then add tarragon If using fresh tarragon chop up a 25g bunch, omitting any woody bits of stalk. Approximately two tsp of dried tarragon. But once you get to know this dish you’ll probably add more. Fry in the butter until sticky and caramel-y.

Just cooking the carrots with the sugar makes them Vichy Carrots. Adding the herbs makes them the Best Carrots in the World…


And Breathe…

We cooked Christmas lunch. My sister and I some how managed to cook Christmas lunch for ten without murdering each other with a carrot. Well, nearly. It seems gravy is a contentious issue.

In order to prevent murder most foul we separated the jobs to do about three weeks ahead of time so my sister could write a complex itinerary of timings, a list of ingredients, and establish marshal law in my poor mother’s kitchen. I was doing the meat and she the vegetables. I knew I was cooking a turkey crown and a large piece of beef striploin. My planning extended to turning up with a hangover, finding the meat, and cooking the meat. What we didn’t decide was who’s responsibility the gravy was…


Needless to say, we had way too much food. The turkey crown was surprisingly tasty (I don’t normally eat turkey) and the beef was divine. We had about seven different vegetables; the best and most popular of which was the brussel sprouts…no really. My sister smothers them in cream and fries them with bacon, it is truly delicious. There was cauliflower and broccoli cheese, tarragon carrots, honey roasted parsnips, roast potatoes, mashed carrot and swede…most people think the meat is the most difficult bit. I got let off lightly. Steph’s veggies really were the stars of the show. We, as a family, have always prided ourselves on our roast dinners. We love to feed people; my father’s present to everyone on Christmas Day is the showstoppingly lavish dinner he provides.

A roast dinner is never just meat, potatoes and a few veg. It is a decadent celebration of all things seasonal. A feast. Each item lovingly prepared to showcase its unique flavours. It is a meal to take your time over. To prepare with love for those you love. Roast dinners are not scary, unless you’re faced with the same boring, soggy vegetables every week. They are an exciting way to explore new and exciting vegetables, delicious meats and different methods of cooking. The ultimate way to appreciate and stay connected to the seasons; once a week you can take the time to assess whats going on in the world around you. A walk while the meat cooks to see how the lengthening days are changing the pattern of the landscape. Duck, goose, grouse, guinea fowl, hare, mallard, partridge, turkey, venison. Much of the venison produced in the UK is from deer that roam freely, rather than being intensively farmed, resulting in superior meat. Good quality venison is tender, tasty and close textured, which means it’s easy to produce great results using simple recipes. As for vegetables, winter is by no means a boring season if you know what you’re looking for. Beetroot, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chicory, horseradish, jerusalem artichoke, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, parsnips, potatoes, salsify, shallots, swede, truffles, turnips, and a range of wild mushrooms.

Eating the seasons not only helps to ground a busy life, it is also a nutritionally, financially and ecologically sound way of organising your diet.

Between now and New Year I will add a few recipes that will turn your carrots from soggy reminders of schools dinners to transcendentally delectable nibbles of loveliness, your parsnips from boring sticks of root veg to dragon’s tails and sweet salads. Never cooked Jerusalem artichoke? Never fear. The gratin is here!



Roasted Pumpkin with Quinoa

Its winter. Well, sort of. Its not actually that cold yet. There’s been one frost so far this year and believe me, living in a caravan I am very thankful for that. But I also miss that chilly crispness to the air that turns your ears and your nose bright red and leaves you craving warm and satisfying foods that radiate heat (and sleepiness…) from your insides out.

This is one of those dinners. It is hot and comforting; imagine swallowing the feeling your duvet gives you when its toasty warm cocooned inside but the air outside is a bit nippy.

And its even better if you cook it in a log burner or tucked into the coals of an open fire. Gah, its just so quaint!

Roasted Pumpkin stuffed with Creamy Quinoa

A pumpkin (little ones are best as then it’s one per person), a small handful of quinoa, double cream, Parmesan (or other cheese, goats cheese is nice in this too), thyme, black pepper

Get the log burner or the fire going nice and hot so you’ve got glowing embers in the bottom, or alternatively, put the oven on (boring…) and turn it to 180C.

Cut the top off the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds, keep them to one side for planting next year, or roast with salt for crunchy nibbles. Half fill the pumpkin with quinoa, add a bit of grated or crumbled cheese of your choice, seasoning and thyme then fill almost to the top with cream. There are no measurements here as it really does depend on the size of your pumpkin…I always say there’s no point putting an ingredient in if you’re not going to taste it. That probably doesn’t help much but it sounds good right?

Put the lid back on then wrap the whole thing in tinfoil. Place on a baking tray and put in the oven, or, if you’re cool, put it in the fire.

Cook until the flesh is soft and the quinoa is no longer bite-y (hard).

The whole pumpkin acts like a bowl so if you’re feeling brave and haven’t stabbed the knife through the bottom in the process of cutting off the lid eat it straight from the tinfoil. If not, serve it in a bowl with a nice bit of winter salad and a hunk of homemade log burner bread.




Why are people afraid of homemade?

On nibbling from the hedgerow…

‘How do you know it’s an elderberry? What if its poisonous?!’

‘I know its an elderberry the same way you know broccoli is broccoli…’

Image result for ElderberryImage result for ElderberryImage result for Elderberry


Yesterday I made beeswax and coconut oil balm and was shocked when a friend of mine turned it down in preference for something he could buy in a shop. Rather than take this personally…it really is rather good…I wondered why he would think that way. Others I have come across are equally perturbed by things I have either made myself and/or foraged.

Why are my friends and family happy to eat home-cooked food but scared of home-cooked health and beauty products? Why will some people happily spend money on blackberries from the supermarket but balk at eating ones foraged from a natural hedgerow?

The balm, for example, is made using a recipe I was taught by an organic soap maker. He uses the very same recipe for the lip and beard balms he makes himself and markets in his online shop and to wholesalers that supply companies such as Neal’s Yard. So its a tried and tested recipe that is sold in shops but because I made it at home in my caravan, suddenly that makes it unappealing. But my homemade bread, baked in the log burner, went down a treat; even if it was slightly burnt with a light coating of ash…


As for foraged ingredients. I am a chef and enjoy using unusual ingredients in the food I prepare. Like magnolia petals in homemade sushi. The flowers of the magnolia tree are edible, there is a wealth of data online to prove this, and the fact that I’m alive and well certainly proves that at least I find them palatable! They taste faintly of ginger and have a similar texture and juicy crunch to endive, also known as chicory. It is perfect for sushi, in salads or as a scoop-like vehicle for humus, remoulade or any number of delectable dips. But would my friend eat it? No. How do you know its safe? What I’m getting at here is, why are people fine to eat foods packaged in argon gas, wrapped in plastic and covered in chemicals, yet frightened of eating natural, wild, package less flowers. If it were served in a restaurant would you be happy with it? Because I cook there too…Why are people happy to use beard and lip balms that are full of colours, preservatives and stabilizing chemicals but won’t use my two ingredient, organic balm?

I’m not sure of the answer to be honest. But I think a lot of it has to do with how we buy things these days, and how we are educated. People in my Nanny’s generation made their own clothes, made food from scratch and grew vegetables in their gardens. They weren’t afraid of a bit of chicken fluff on an egg, because the egg came out of the chicken’s backside! And they knew that. They weren’t afraid of mud on carrots or potatoes because the mud was a part of their garden. They knew the provenance of that mud in their bones. Now we are told that mud is dirty, that eggs carry disease and that all produce must be peeled – because there are chemicals on the skin if its not been produced organically. And yet, sloe gin, made from wild blackthorn fruit (sloes) is more popular than ever in the supermarkets? Weird.

Image result for sloe ginImage result for sloe ginImage result for sloe gin

But then, it is gin, and who doesn’t like gin?!



Apple Square with Toffee Sauce

Gosh its been a long old summer! Its still 24 degrees here in the South of France but soon I will be returning to the UK where it is damp, chilly and a little foggy apparently! (Hahaha 😉 )

On my return I will be starting a new venture, a little company called Free Range Kitchen. Through this, you lovely people can actually have me come to your house (!) and cook you dinner. Or help you cook something you’ve been wanting to learn, or even just fill up your fridge or freezer with yummy delightful dinners!

Autumn in a cake

Autumn in a cake

On that note, I have been testing out lots of new recipes for my sample menus and this is just one of the many puddings that will be on offer during the Autumn.

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Brown Sugar Salmon

The Captain on the boat I’m on came into the galley the other day and said I needed to rename my blog ‘Masa Yummy’ because basically while I’m here I’m documenting all the delicious food I’m cooking for the owner and the crew.

Good Ship Masa Yummy

Good Ship Masa Yummy

Our season is in full swing now and we even had some very special guests on board last week that I couldn’t possibly tell you about (yet!) but who were super exciting to cook for because one of them was FAMOUS!

I can however tell you what they ate….

Brown Sugar Salmon

A large fillet of salmon

Dressing: 100ml soy sauce, 100ml water, 25ml sesame oil, 25ml olive (or rapeseed) oil, 25ml red wine vinegar (or rice wine vinegar if you have it), 2 tbsp honey, 100g brown sugar, 1 tsp chili flakes (more if you like it spicey) – shake all the ingredients together in a jar until the sugar is dissolved. Taste it as you go, it should be sweet and salty

Gimme a little sugar...

Gimme a little sugar…

Marinade the salmon in the dressing for 2 hours before cooking, tuperware is excellent for this. If you have a large fillet that needs to be portioned out, do it before cooking with a sharp knife as it is much easier. Reserve the marinade and place the salmon on to a baking tray and place in the oven at 180 C. For a whole, 500g fillet bake for 20 mins, less time is needed if the fillets are smaller so keep an eye on it. You want a little browning around the edges where the sugar in the marinade is caramelising. Put the rest of the marinade in a saucepan and boil it until its reduced to a thick sauce. Pour over the salmon once just before serving with potatoes, green beans and a leafy green salad.

This sauce is also delicious over salad, once its reduced down, as a dressing. Particularly with bean and lentil based salads that can take a bit of oomphy flavour.