Our (basic) Thanksgiving menu!

23 November 2021

This week is Thanksgiving, and I have already made cranberry sauce!

Thanksgiving in London isn’t the same. Here, of course, it’s a regular week work/school day, and, more crucially, so is Friday. Living in New York I came to appreciate this time out — outside time — holiday. For four days, everything stops. In London the celebration wedges in between busy schedules as usual. Still, I love this tradition, unique in its celebration of food and togetherness and nothing else. We’ve attempted moving it to the weekend and were sternly rebuffed, ‘it’s not Thanksgiving, it’s just another dinner.’ Which, I must admit, is kinda true.

Our menu varies only slightly from year to year. I understand the temptation to change and imagine new things, but I have become attached to this version of the meal, developed over the years, with only slight tweaks. It anchors and pulls me back to New York, which, without being sentimental, really were the best days of Thanksgiving.

Our basic Thanksgiving menu
I often decide to add things at the last minute, but these are indispensable

Heritage turkey with apple chestnut stuffing (deliciously and accidentally gluten-free!)
Roasted carrots
Celeriac mash with parsley
Sautéed hen of the woods mushrooms
Cranberry sauce

I cook all the savoury parts of dinner, and we ask each guest to bring dessert. The surfeit of sweets is a great way to revive a party that may have become drowsy from all the food. While just one or two pies might be picked at halfheartedly, a table of desserts rekindles the party.

So we have a smorgasbord of pies, cakes, and desserts, brought by our friends. Can’t resist one or two contributions though, probably:

The best, award-winning pumpkin pie usually made by Balthasar
and David Tanis’ cranberry curd tart made by Thomas

Double celery soup with lentils and gremolata

11 November 2021

It has been a beautiful autumn in London. Apart from the occasional dreary day, it is often sunny and remarkably mild. Still, autumn is here and soup beckons.

And so the latest instalment of my ‘things I discovered while going through the fridge’ soups. I could not have planned it better had I intended to make exactly this. But once again, it was created from the happenstance entrails of the fridge, which today yielded celery stalks and root (celeriac), and not much else. Also a couple of rather sad looking bunches of cilantro and parsley. Serendipity.

The persistent memory of a lunch years ago at ABC Kitchen in New York under the masterful hands of Dan Kluger — of all the things I had there, lentil soup with celeriac and gremolata is the dish I remember! — nudged the idea.

This one is very simple. I didn’t have any broth on hand but water was enough with an assertive dose of onions and garlic, which should be plentiful, always.

Double celery soup with lentils recipe

3 to 4 medium onions
Olive oil
1 celeriac root (approximately 500g)
1 whole celery (stalks)
3 to 4 cloves of garlic
Water (or 1 litre chicken stock if available, plus more water to cover if needed)
250g Puy (or small brown) lentils
Bunch of parsley and/or cilantro
Zest and juice from 1 lemon

Peel and cut the onions into small dice.

Pour a little olive oil into a saucepan, wait a few seconds for it to warm up, and slide in the chopped onions. Cook (‘let sweat’) over medium to low heat, remembering to stir occasionally, while preparing the other vegetables.

Meanwhile, trim the celery stalks at both ends, wash with cold water, and slice fairly thinly.

Peel the celeriac and wash it if the flesh has become grubby from leftover soil. Cut the celeriac in two, then each half, cut size down on a cutting board, into strips about 1 1/2 cm (1/2 inch) wide. Thinly slice the strips into pieces approximately similar thickness to the celery stalks.

The onions should have become translucent by now. Add the celery and celeriac to the pot, stir, cover, and cook, still over fairly low heat.

Peel, squash with the blunt of a knife, and slice the garlic cloves. Add it to the pot.

Salt generously (about a tablespoon), stir, then cover the vegetable with water (or broth) until just submerged.

Cook over medium to low heat (there should be a constant but languid simmer) for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash the lentils.

For the gremolata: wash and pluck the leaves of the parsley/cilantro, zest the lemon, and peel and very finely chop a clove of garlic. In a smallish bowl, mix a handful of the leaves with the lemon zest and garlic, and pour in a little olive oil. Stir and set aside.

Add the lentils to the soup and cook at a slow simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Before serving, remove the soup from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes to cool down.

Serve the soup with a generous spoonful of the gremolata (and a little chili too!).

This is Halloween … Aren’t you scared?

30 October 2021

This is Halloween, this is Halloween,
Pumpkins scream in the dead of night …
This is Halloween, red and black, slimey green
Aren’t you scared? …

I can’t think of Halloween without this song from The Nightmare Before Christmas dancing in my head. It is high up among our favourite Halloween films.

We were going to be away and miss it altogether this year, but an unexpected change of plans means that, instead, it is going to be a full weekend of Halloween (Hallowe’en!).

And so, here are a few ideas — to make, to eat, to watch, to read…

I first made a prune spider nine years ago for this carrot cake. (Apparently, then, I didn’t take a photo?) I’ve upped the ante this year with a full attacking cluster (above). Carrot cake always whiffs of Halloween for me, but any cake would be great (the one here is a quince cake!), as long as there is icing.

I love these naturally dyed cookies of the deepest charcoal black. They could be made into any shape of course: bats, cats, rats, hats, …

As you will know by now, when it comes to decorating I prefer simplicity and minimalism (happy to call it indolence), and this RIP chocolate cake was so easy! Using Nigella’s quick almond and olive oil chocolate cake: two cakes baked in loaf tins, one cut in half and positioned around the other in the sign of a cross, some icing sugar sprinkled over a RIP paper cut-out. Voilà!

A few other great ideas from elsewhere:

Mummy sausage plait — can’t wait to make these
Ssslithering sssalad — very clever
Monster feet — so cool!

And there are more films to watch. Our list of indispensables also include It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and The Book of Life, Coco and Spirited Away.

I’ve just discovered the Children’s book club Instagram account showcasing illustrated books, apparently largely from the 1970s (though not only). It currently has a whole flight of books featuring witches!

But first, there are costumes to make(/unearth).

Wishing everyone a ghostly, ghoulish, ghastly Halloween!

Latest Letter from N&Q | October

26 October 2021

The latest Letter from Nettle & Quince — eating in October — is now out!

It’s a lot about quinces. But pears and medlars, too. About the pause of October and the start of the festive season, a nod to Hallowe’en and a link to my favourite spooky edible creation — sausage mummies!

You can find it HERE.

You can also sign up for future newsletters here.

Happy reading!

A nice way with chard — sweet and sour

18 October 2021

A caponata-inspired, quick chard dish to tackle the enormous amount of vegetables that have, again, accumulated in my fridge.

On Wednesday I had a brief moment of panic when I opened the refrigerator. Vegetables crammed in each drawer, wedged on every shelf, and a few days coming up ahead with no time to cook.

Thomas and I put on some music and proceeded to wash, peel, cut through most of it: onions, kilos of leeks and courgettes, a whole bunch of celery, mizuna, spring onions, chard. The simplest battle plan, in such cases, is usually soup, and that is where I was headed. But there was barely enough room in my big pot, I needed to find another idea for the chard.

My thoughts wandered towards caponata, sweet and sour, pared down to the minimalist treatment: raisins and vinegar. I had a bunch of spring onions too… I’ve become a bit fixated on sautéed vegetables with spring onions.

The soup was good — speckled green on green, herby and blended smooth (always a great cause of debate in this house, as there are those in favour of blending, and those vociferously against!).

While the chard, practically an afterthought, turned out really great!

A nice way with chard recipe

One large bunch of chard, about 400g
Two bunches (about 12) spring onions
Olive oil
A handfull of sultanas (I’m quite partial to sultanas but raisins would be fine)
2 Tbsps red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp sweeter white wine vinegar, such as moscatel (or use cider vinegar)
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim the stalks of chard off the leaves, then cut off and discard the dried very end bits. Wash the stalks, cut them into 1cm (1/2 inch) pieces.

Cut the chard leaves into strips, roughly 5 cm (2 inches) wide. Wash them well — this might require two passes in cold water, as chard can be gritty.

Trim off the roots and any damaged leaves from the spring onions. With the flat of a large knife, squash the onions along their length. Cut the flattened onions into 5cm (2 inch) pieces.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet/frying pan. When hot, add the spring onions. Leave them on medium heat, without stirring, until they begin to turn brown — just when they start sticking to the pan. Now stir, add the chard stalks, lower the heat and cover the skillet with a lid (my skillet doesn’t have its own lid so I use one from another big pot, even if it doesn’t cover the pan completely). Cook gently for 7 to 10 minutes, until the stalks become slightly translucent.

Toss in the sultanas and the vinegars and cook for 2 to 3 minutes uncovered.

Now add the chard leaves, salt, and pepper, cover once more with a lid, and cook, still over low heat, mixing through occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes. The chard (both stalks and leaves) should have softened completely.

Cool, then refrigerate, and ideally let come to room temperature before serving. This keeps in the fridge for a few days.


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