Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

List | Tried and true gifts for the kitchen

8 December 2021

Every year I consider publishing some Christmas gift ideas — can’t resist a list! — but … I’m such a minimalist shopper that nearly all I own in the kitchen I’ve had for years, if not decades, so I’m the last person to ask about the newest gifty things and gadgets that have just come out!

Well precisely, perhaps. All of the things listed here have proven their usefulness and resistance over many many years. They are also, not incidentally, beautifully designed, and using them makes me happy every time — which is nearly every day.

Contrary to my list of coveted cookbooks, this guide features only things that I already own, that I’ve used for years and that I take pleasure in using, however mundane the task. So for a change it isn’t self serving (!), it’s intended purely as inspiration.

All of these I would give or have given or have received, I think each one makes an excellent gift (and I’d be happy to receive some of them again… Ha, self serving after all!).


LODGE cast iron skillets — I use only cast iron skillets, I don’t own any others anymore (except a specific crêpe pan) and I’ve never missed them. There are other beautiful brands but I love the simple ‘undesigned’ Lodge look. It’s a classic brand and very reasonably priced. Our little nestled collection of four is used daily and serves our every need — we have a 12 inch, 8 inch, 6.5 inch, and 5 inch skillet.

Le Creuset enamelled cast iron pots — It’s a little unfair to start by saying that I’ve secretly coveted a large Staub cocotte for years… BUT Le Creuset is an indispensable part of our kitchen. We have one basic 4.2l round casserole, a large 7.5l oval casserole great for slow braising lamb and pork shoulders, and a shallow 3.5l casserole that is super useful for vegetables.


An amazing Japanese knife that is only taken out a few times a year to cut steak tartare, smoked salmon, or raw fish for sushi or poke bowls is completely worth it and a stellar present. (With a specific mention for the excellent shop that is Kitchen Provisions.)

But so are these (much more everyday) Opinel knives. They fold up completely and can be used at home as well as for picnics. They are indispensable and ubiquitous in every French household, and everyone has a preferred size. I love the smaller blades (no.06) for everyday picnic use, but I am also pretty smug about my enormous fairy-tale ogre’s no12 knife. Most people like the more standard no8. The knives all come in a choice of stainless steel (easy maintenance) or carbon steel (sharper), and different types of wood.


The Classic Swiss vegetable peeler may look unremarkable and even a bit uncomfortable with its sharp-edged metal handle, but these are hands down my favourite peelers. The blades are sharp and have the right angle, the handle is easy to hold, they just work the best. And personally I think they look nicer than other more ergonomically designed ones.

Mason Cash original white pudding basins — These are mixing and serving bowls rolled into one. They may not be the most resistant and durable of available kitchen bowls (I have a few metal ones too), but they are so useful and versatile, and tactile. I use them to mix bread dough, cake batter, to serve salads, and as chips bowls for apéro!


Sturdy Duralex glasses used in school cantines (and many other places) all over France for decades have now become ubiquitous elsewhere. My favourite style is the Provence tumbler (160ml / pictured above). It is harder to find than other designs but I think it’s more elegant, and suits well for a glass of wine.

Falcon tumblers — All Falcon enamelware is lovely and classic and covetable, but I am especially partial to these tumblers which we’ve been using assiduously this past year as our favourite picnic (wine) glasses.

Shanagarry Egg cups — The children gave us these beautiful eggcups for Christmas last year and I’ve only just realised they are a classic design by Stephen Pearce from the Shanagarry Pottery in County Cork, Ireland. This ignorance didn’t preclude them from becoming the only egg cups we grab in the morning, and we really do use them every single day at breakfast. I love them very much.

Ok, I can’t resist, here is ONE thing I don’t own that I would love to have one day… because anyone who has come to our house can tell you that while we are decently adept in the coffee department, our tea selection/equipment/paraphernalia is deplorable. And we’ve lived in London for eight. years. already!!

Happy gifting shopping!

List | Coveted cookbooks in 2021

29 November 2021

My head spins at the number of cookbooks that come out every season, and for a while my reaction was to hide in the sand and stop purchasing any. I was missing out, of course. And as I started to feel my cooking running in circles, last year, I also found real pleasure and solace in delving into cookbooks again. I’ve bought quite a pile over the past months, and there are a few more that I covet.

I began perusing lists. There are many lists of cookbooks to buy in 2021. Each one has one or two or a few that whisper out to me, but no compendium was entirely satisfactory. I am creating my own.

More than individual recipes, I look for books with a distinct wholeness, which might permeate from the story, the voice, to the photographs, the design, — the paper! One of my top favourites in that respect is Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem. In all those senses it is practically perfect. It transports immediately, before the beautiful cloth cover has even been opened, and from there the journey continues.

Once I have looked at, felt, and opened a book, the next test is to leaf through the recipes. If the rest holds true, a couple, or even one great recipe can be enough to convince me that the book is worth having.

Leaning on these criteria here is a subjective, very personal (wish)list of cookbooks published in the past two years. As Thomas pointedly remarked ‘Oh, so this is basically your Christmas list.’ Well, in fact, yes! In alphabetical order.

Advent / by Anja Dunk

I am cheating already as I actually bought this book as soon as it came out. I love Anja’s previous books, her charcoal drawings and linocuts, her food. I met Anja a few years ago at the most memorable Christmas cookie baking adventure, at (the now closed) FEEST in Stoke Newington, during a biblical downpour which infiltrated the café in every corner. We spent a large part of the afternoon lugging huge pans of water to contain to flood! The true reason is, the book is perfect. The organisation in 24 chapters for the 24 days of Advent, the linocut illustrations by Anja, and the sheer abundance of recipes, which is sure to complicate my Christmas preparations… So many (more) things I would like to bake! Were there to be just one book this year it would have to be Advent. It already is.

Baking with Fortitude / by Dee Rettali

I haven’t yet been to Fortitude bakehouse but a good friend knows it well and I trust her judgment completely. Having learned more about the Fortitude story, and held and leafed through the book, I know I will love it and bake from it. All made with sourdough!

Black Food / edited by Bryant Terry

Described as ‘genre defying,’ this book is a collection of essays, stories, art, and recipes. It is one of a kind and not to be missed.

The Flavour Equation / by Nik Sharma (also Season, 2018)

I am not sure how either of Nik Sharma’s books have eluded me so far, perhaps the fact that I have a pernicious habit of buying cookbooks in their original edition, and I haven’t been in the US for a few years…

Getaway / by Renee Erickson with Sara Dickerman

An exception here as I haven’t seen this book but I love the premise of food as a means of travelling, not to just one place, as is often the case, but as many mini escapades through the palate. And I’ve have heard such good things!

In Bibi’s Kitchen / Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen

Here is another book I haven’t held, but again the idea is excellent. As described in the subtitle, it captures: ‘The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean.’

Taste / by Stanley Tucci

Because of Big Night, one of the best food films of all time. And also, I admit, everyone seems to be reading and talking about it!

Towpath / by Lori de Mori and Laura Jackson

I was a bit late to the party, but the renowned canal-side café has become my favourite coffee/breakfast/brunch/walk/or/cycle pit-stop. It really is unique, and the book captures this singularity, in all the best ways.

And here are a few other recent books I do own that I would recommend:

A to Z of pasta / by Rachel Roddy

A delicious book for all lovers of pasta. Rachel Roddy’s stories and recipes are always delectable.

Falastin / by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley

The essential complement to Jerusalem (see above!)

Red Sands / by Caroline Eden

Transporting vicarious travel, in a time when we couldn’t really.

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!).

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.

%d bloggers like this: