Friday, 30 December 2011

Spiced Borsch

Spiced Borsch

I recently went to a cafĂ© called Little Georgia in Hackney. Having been told about it by numerous people, I was excited to finally be inside – eating a taste of my namesake country!
The weather was cold outside so I opted for the soup of the day - Spiced Borsch.
There are hundreds of different versions of Borsch all over Russia and Eastern Europe. I love the vibrant colour and the mix of vegetables and spices so I decided to create my own version. I got a bit carried away using all the root vegetables we had left over from Christmas but a simpler mix will do.

This soup can be made with vegetable or beef stock and if you want to add some beef to it too, there is a little note of what to do at the end of the recipe.

Serves: 8

3 beetroots, cut into matchstick strips
½ white cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks strips
1 parsnip, cut into matchstick strips
1 turnip, cut into matchstick strips
½ swede, cut into matchstick strips
2 stalks celery
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 tomatoes, skinned and sieved
1 tbsp lemon juice
1tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
2 bay leaves
5 seeds allspice
1 tsp caenne pepper
Sea salt and black pepper

M: 2.5 litres beef stock

V: 2.5 litres vegetable stock

Put all the chopped vegetables apart from the grated beetroot and tomatoes into a pan and cover with the stock vegetable stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the sieved tomatoes, sugar, bay leaves, allspice and season. Cook for 15 minutes.

Check the seasoning and sharpen with lemon juice.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

M: 750g stewing beef, cubed, fat trimmed off
2.5 litres water
To make this a meaty soup, begin by putting stewing beef in a saucepan with water. Bring to the boil, skim, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Then follow the above instructions.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Exotic Fruit Salad

Exotic Fruit Salad
Exotic Fruit Salad

After all that food over Christmas, I thought I would make an exotic fruit salad to ease myself into the New Year. The spices in the syrup make this the most delicious fruit salad I have ever tasted. My friend Zanna had a nibble and has already recreated it for all her family too.

Serves: 8

1 melon, peeled and cubed

1 orange, peeled and cut into segments

1 lemon, peeled and cut into segments

1 lime, peeled and cut into segments

1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into segments

1 pear, peeled and sliced

1 apple, peeled and sliced

1 pineapple, peeled and cubed
3 kiwis, peeled and sliced
1 mango, peeled and sliced

5 passion fruits, seeds and pulp

Handful seedless grapes, halved


30g sugar

1 clove

3 coriander seeds

1 orange, zest

1 lemon, zest

1 lime, zest

1 star anise

2.5cm ginger, peeled and grated

1 pint water

Put the dressing ingredients together in a pan to make a syrup. Bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Strain, reserving the juice.

Place all the fruit in a large bowl and pour over the syrup.

Leave for a few hours in a fridge or even overnight if you have time.

Monday, 19 December 2011

My British Christmas Dinner On Brazilian News Program - Jornal Hoje

Last week I was asked to prepare a British Christmas dinner for the Brazilian News channel Jornal Hoje – the biggest news channel in Latin America. I later found out that this clip was seen by over 2 million viewers!

The presenter Cecilia had never heard of parsnips nor had she ever tried a mince pie . . .

You can watch the video here.

Here’s what they said:

As Christmas approaches, London is full of decoration. It’s one of the most celebrated dates in the city. This report discovers what’s different on the English table.

Our cook for the day is food journalist Georgia Bateman. With a list of important ingredients, we visit the shops. The objective today is to prepare a traditional English Christmas dinner for Jornal Hoje.

The first stop is the shop of Sally, one lady who sells fruits and vegetables; without taking off the hat!

Sally sells potatoes, carrots, brussel sprouts and parsnips, that, if you don’t know, is a root vegetable cousin of the carrot.

The next destination is the butcher. Harry takes the wrapping off a Christmas turkey that’s almost 6kg and gives tips on how to prepare the bird. With the money left, we spend on decorations.

Later we have many bags; finally it’s everything we need for supper. The final price of this feast: a little over $ 300 (£120).

In the kitchen, the main dish deserves attention before entering the oven. Then it's endless cut, peel, cut, peel. Georgia puts the reporter to work, preparing the bruseel sprouts....

The guests arrive and the kitchen is too small for everyone, but it's Christmas and there is always room for one more.

Dinner begins with Christmas crackers; a weird tradition for the Brazilian friends of the hostess. From inside the packaging out comes paper crowns, small gifts and messages of good luck.

One by one, the dishes come to the table. The meal is plentiful and fills our eyes. The dinner is highly aproved by all. Finally, the cook can enjoy the very best of Christmas, no matter the country, loved ones around a table.

Here’s what I made and the recipes:


Turkeys were first imported from Mexico in the 1500s by Spice Merchants, known to the English as Turkey Merchants, and that’s how the bird got its name The large bird was swiftly recognised as ideal for a feast for special occasions.
Order your Christmas turkey in advance from an organic butcher; they sell out very quickly. This year I got mine from The Pure Meat Co in Kentish Town.

6kg free range organic turkey
2x juice of lemon
200 g butter
4 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
Sea salt

Heat oven to 180 C.
Mix together the lemon juice, butter, garlic, parsley and salt. Rub all over the turkey and under the skin. Place the turkey on a baking tray, breast side down, and cook in the oven for 3 hours. Turn the turkey over and cook for another hour to crisp up the breast.

Turkey giblets
A few sprigs of rosemary
A few sprigs of thyme
1 onion, peeled
1 carrot, peeled
1 bay leaf
Dash of red wine
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter
Salt and black pepper

Place the giblets, onion, carrot, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf in a pan. Cover with water and boil for 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid.

In a separate pan melt the butter over a low heat and stir in the flour until it turns into a paste.
Gently add the liquid from the giblets, stirring quickly to avoid any lumps. Add the juices from the turkey and a dash of red wine.
Bring to the boil and season to taste.
If the gravy becomes too thick, add a little water.

Chestnut, Apple and Pork Belly Stuffing

Chestnut, Apple and Pork Belly Stuffing

This stuffing recipe is inspired by Elizabeth David.

500 g chestnuts

2 large cooking apples

½ pint of milk

I small onion


500 g minced pork belly

salt and pepper

bunch of parsley

1 free-range egg, whisked

Heat the oven to 180 C.

Make a crosswise incision across the rounded part of the chestnut and roast for 10-15 minutes. Take out a few chestnuts at a time and shell them while they’re still hot. I find the easiest way to do this is to cut them in half and use a teaspoon to scoop out the soft nut.  Stew them in the milk with ¼ pint of water for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Flatten the minced pork belly to a disc shape, wrap in clingfilm and cook for 10 minutes in water. Drain and remove from the clingfilm.

Stew the apples in a dash of water until they reduce to a puree.

Mix together the chestnuts, pork belly, apple, onion, parsley and seasoning. Bind together with the egg.

Stuff the turkey with the pork mixture and roll any remaining stuffing into balls; place these around the turkey on the baking tray.

Golden Carrots

Golden Carrots
It seems that throughout the year carrots are slightly underrated but in these winter months they shine with all their glory. Carrots are one of my favourite vegetables on a Christmas spread, not only because I love the colour but because they taste so very good, too.

Bunch of Carrots with stalks (1 per person and a few extra)

A few sprigs of fresh thyme

A few sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 bay leaf

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

Olive oil


Peel and trim the carrots, leaving part of the stalk on show – just because they look pretty.

Place the carrots in a pan with a glug of olive oil, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and garlic. Cover with water and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Drain and leave to cool.

Just before serving heat a knob of butter in a large frying pan and gently fry the carrots until golden.

Chili and Garlic Brussel Sprouts

Chili and Garlic Brussel Sprouts

Brussell sprouts – you either love them or hate them – but on Christmas day EVERYONE is forced to eat at least one. But why do so many of us dislike them so much? Perhaps it’s not because they are a mini cabbage-like vegetable but because of the way they’re usually cooked.

I tested this garlic and chili recipe on a few friends and it went down a treat. Everyone ate more than just the obligatory one. They were also shocked at the large stalk from which I cut the sprouts; they had no idea how sprouts grew as they were used to seeing them ready-picked in supermarkets.

This dish completely changed my friend Natasha’s view of brussel sprouts. Not only did she gobble up more than her fair share, she took the stalk home to place in a vase on her mantelpiece!

1 stalk full of brussel sprouts

2 cloves of garic, peeled, crushed and finely chopped

2 red chillies, de-seeded and chopped

Olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

Cut the brussel sprouts off the stick, peel outer layers and slice a cross in the bottom of each sprout.

Boil in salted water for 4 minutes. Drain.

Before serving, get a wok or frying pan really hot, add a glug of olive oil, the garlic and chilli and toss the sprouts for a few minutes. Season before serving.

Winter Red Cabbage

Winter Red Cabbage
This winter red cabbage dish is full of Christmas inspired spices.

1 red cabbage, quartered, core removed, and thinly sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange, zest and juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 red onions, peeled and sliced
150 ml water
Dash of red wine
Knob of butter
Sea salt and black pepper

Cook the onions in butter until soft. Add the orange zest, cinnamon stick, red wine vinegar . Cook for a few minutes. Stir in the cabbage. Add the juice of the orange, a dash of red wine, the water and season. Give it a good stir and cover with a lid.

Cook covered for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Honey Roasted Parsnips

Honey Roasted Parsnips
TV presenter Cecilia Malan from Brazil’s news programme Jornal Hoje had never seen or heard of parsnips before, and had to look up the word in Portuguese!

I was surprised as parsnips are so popular in the UK – a great accompaniment to the British Sunday Roast.

I explained that parsnips are vegetables that grow underground; they are at their very best this time of year as they are sweeter after the first frost. I wouldn’t have a Christmas dinner without them.

For this recipe, I further sweetened the parsnips by drizzling over honey before roasting, and Cecilia absolutely loved them.

5 parsnips, peeled and quartered lengthways

1 tbsp runny honey

Glug of olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 180 C.

Place the parsnips in an oven-proof dish. Drizzle with olive oil, runny honey and salt and pepper; mix well so all the pieces are covered.

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until crisp, turning occasionally.  

Roast Potatoes

Roast Potatoes

10 Maris Piper potatoes (approx one per person), peeled and quartered
A few sprigs rosemary
Sea salt and black pepper
Olive oil

Heat the oven to 180 C.

Pat dry the potatoes with a clean tea towel.
Drizzle an oven tray with olive oil and place in the oven for a few minutes until the oil is piping hot (this helps the potatoes to crisp up). Remove from the oven and gently place the potatoes in the tray. Sprinkle with rosemary and lots of seasoning, mix well and place back in the oven for an hour, turning occasionally.
The potatoes should be soft inside and lovely and crisp on the outside.

Pigs In Blankets

Pigs in Blankets

Although I think about eating pigs-in-blankets quit often, this is a treat I save for the Christmas festivities. They are so delicious that I just like to keep them simple: chipolatas wrapped in streaky bacon – that’s all you need if the meat is from a fantastic organic butcher like The Ginger Pig.

12 chipolatas
12 rashes streaky bacon

Wrap the bacon around the chipolatas. Place in an oven-proof dish and bake for 25 minutes, turning halfway. 

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine
1 orange, peel and juice
A few slices of orange for decoration
1 lemon, peel
1 lime, peel
250 g caster sugar
Pinch of cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 bottles of red wine
A few shots of brandy

Place the sugar, orange juice, orange peel, lemon peel, lime peel, cloves, bay leaf, star anise and nutmeg in a pan over a low heat. Add a few glugs of red wine and gently simmer until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil for a few minutes. This creates a base for the mulled wine that is full of flavour. Turn down the heat and add the rest of the wine along with the brandy. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Ladle into glasses.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Roast Pheasant with Rosemary and Lemon

Roast Pheasant with Rosemary and Lemon

The Vegetarian was out last night so I decided to treat myself and a friend to a feast of roast pheasant. December is the tastiest time of year for pheasant as they have had the summer and autumn to gain fat. Make sure you ask your butcher for a female pheasant, as these are the best for roasting. 

Serves: 2 meat-eaters

1 female pheasant

A few sprigs rosemary

¼ lemon

2 slices of bacon fat

Glug of olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper


For the gravy:

1 tbsp plain flour

1 tbsp melted butter

Dash of soya sauce

Dash of Lea & Perrins

Dash of red wine

Heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Place the pheasant in a baking dish.

Rub the pheasant with the olive oil, the juice of the lemon, rosemary and seasoning. Make sure you get under the skin too. Place a bit of rosemary inside along with the remaining lemon.

Lay the bacon fat on the breast of the pheasant.

Pour about 5mm of water around the pheasant and place in the oven for 40 minutes. Baste the pheasant every 10-15 minutes.

For the gravy, mix together the butter and flour over a low heat until it becomes a paste. Gently add the juices from the pheasant and stir quickly to stop any lumps from forming.

Add the soya sauce, Lea & Perrins and red wine and season to taste. Bring to the boil for 2 minutes and add a little water if the sauce is too thick.

Serve with roast potatoes and a medley of vegetables.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Asian Spiced Masala – Cauliflower or Prawn

Asian Spiced Masala With Prawns

This recipe comes from Kerala in Southern India. The Vegetarian loved the contrast of the soft potatoes against the crunch of the cauliflower. For an extra protein boost (and because the Vegetarian likes to eat as much as possible) I added a boiled egg. He happily gobbled it all up.

The variety of spices made an enticing dish and left me wanting more.

Black tamarind looks like dried prunes. An Indian chef told me that once added to the dish it can be removed and kept in the fridge to be used again several times.

Serves: 1 Vegetarian, 2 Pescatarians

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic, crushed and finely chopped

2.5cm ginger, peeled and chopped

5 fresh curry leaves

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp chili

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt

2 black tamarind

400g Tin of chopped tomatoes

400g pasata

Olive oil

V: ½ potato, diced and par-boiled

Handful cauliflower florets

1 free-range egg, hard-boiled (optional)

M: 2 handfuls pre-cooked king prawns

Heat a glug of oil until very hot, add the onion, fry until brown. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another minute.

Toss in the mustard seeds until they pop. Stir in remaining spices and fry for a minute before adding the chopped tomatoes and pasata sauce. Cook for 10 minutes over a medium heat.

Divide the sauce between two pans.  Remove the tamarind.

V: Boil the potatoes until tender (approx 10 minutes). At the same time add the cauliflower to one of the pans with the tomato based sauce and cook over a medium heat. Drain the potatoes and stir into the sauce. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the egg, if using, to warm through before serving.

P:  Add the prawns to the other pan and cook for a few minutes until piping hot.

Serve with basmati rice, yoghurt and a selection of chutneys.