chorizo, nutella, sour cheese and pickled apple crostini

chorizo and nutella crostini with pickled apples and labneh
A few years ago I started to make a party canape that was essentially a crostini smeared with Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread) and topped with a crisp slice of Spanish chorizo sausage. While some people were a bit suspicious of the combination of cured pork with chocolate, they were usually won over by the flavour. What it lacked in sophistication, it definitely made up for in taste. It is, if I say so myself, a bit fabulous.

The reason why I think it works is because of the synchronicity in “companion eating” - serving meat with the kind of fruit or vegetables the animal might once have eaten - so venison with blackberries, or pork with apple and nuts. The peppery spices in the chorizo also seem to have an affinity with both hazelnuts and chorizo.

nasi goreng (malaysian fried rice)

nasi goreng
It's not often that I turn from mild-mannered cook by day into my foodie crime-fighting alter-ego; righting food wrongs with a wave of my magic feather boa. I am not saying that the feather boa actually works, but I prefer it to a cape and too-tight knickers; to each super hero(ine) their own fashion-sense. It seems to work for me.

smoking bishop

smoking bishop
There are three constants in all my life – food, literature and history. So if I can cook or drink a thing that combines my other loves, I count myself as very happy indeed. Although after drinking a Smoking Bishop or two, I may be happy but not entirely sober!

jerusalem artichoke soup with smoked oyster gremolata

jerusalem artichoke soup with smoked oyster gremolata
If you haven't planned on your Christmas menu, than you there is still time to rush and buy some Jerusalem artichokes. How can you not love the Jerusalem artichoke, which is neither from Jerusalem nor is an artichoke? Well if those reasons aren't thrilling enough, they are said to have all sorts of wonderful health benefits too (which may not be what you're thinking about at this time of the year, but you may well thank me later!

devilled eggs: time for a revival?

devilled eggs
Almost from the moment that humans first learned to cook an egg, I suspect that they were "devilling" (spicing) them too. We know that the Romans such as the gourmand Apicius liked their egg recipes; I suspect those ancients liked theirs drizzled in garum or liquamen (highly pungent sauces made from fermented fish - possibly an acquired taste!) The sadly maligned Victorians would devil just about anything, which goes to prove that in food, at least, they were neither particularly conservative nor unadventurous. And I would defy anyone to find a cookbook on entertaining from the 1950s, 60s and 70s that didn't include these brightly coloured little numbers.

party nibbles: bacon-wrapped marinated water chestnuts

bacon-wrapped marinated water chestnuts
Growing up as expats in Malaysia, my little brother's obsession with the crunchy texture of water chestnuts was legendary. (Although I pretty certain no other family ate them in spag bol!)

An American friend of my mother's introduced my family to these delicious marinated water chestnuts. It was love at first bite.

Spicy, sweet and sour - these lovely nibbles are perfect for the party season.

curry mary: a curry-spiced twist on the classic hangover cure

spicy curry mary
Many of us have firmly-held beliefs that, despite evidence to the contrary, we are most reluctant to relinquish. So when scientists or nutritionists say that there is no evidence that hair-of-dog-that-killed-you can help soothe a booze-induced hangover; that more alcohol can actually make you feel worse, we smugly tend to think that we know something that scientists and nutritionists don't. From a tall glass of ice-cold Coca-Cola and last night's leftover curry, to tripe soupa Full English Breakfast or Marmite-on-toast, most of us prefer to believe in our tried-and-tested home-remedies.

mulled damson gin (brings a little festive cheer!)

mulled damson gin
If you read my post about making damson gin last year, you will know that as much as I love gin, I don't drink it very often as it brings out the miserablist in me; we are talking weeping, wailing, and teeth-gnashing. I end up looking like a demented panda caught in a rain storm.

a story of a Goth, a grandmother and baklava, with a sting in the tale!

honey nut baklava
I am thinking about Christmas baking and alternatives to the usual spiced cakes. I want to make some baklava, filo pastry stuffed with spiced nuts and drenched in a honey syryp, which reminded me of my first ever baklava experience and possibly the most disastrous "meet the family" episodes of my life.

devilled chicken livers: a retro party bite

devilled chicken livers
My father worked for a well-known drinks company in the late 1960s and 70s. It seemed to my childish eyes that life was one long party, as my parents always seemed to be entertaining. I realise now that it was all part of the job, but there was clearly a lot of pleasure (well food and wine) involved too. While my mother may have been bored by the drudgery of day-to-day cooking, she was actually a very good cook and loved to cook for these parties. I suspect there was also a little bit of the show-off in her too for she loved putting on a good display of fabulous food, often of the sort that other people could only dream of. (If I tell you that she used to make her own puff pastry, you'll know what I mean!)

what's in season: december

my santa's elf hat chilli!
No Christmas elves were harmed in the delivery of this seasonal post. 


I was tidying up some plants on a dusty windowsill and found the saddest plant you've ever seen. I say plant; it was actually a few twigs in some dried-up compost. It had been a chilli plant and still clinging to it was this wrinkled chilli, which to my mind looked like the sort of hat you might see on one of Santa's little helpers, if he hadn't bothered to iron it. 

Once I had stopped laughing, I decided to photograph the chilli to illustrate December's good food. And it is highly likely that I will later even use it in some paste or other. That's a guarantee really.