Archive for December, 2009

Braised Red Cabbage

I couldn’t have Christmas dinner without red cabbage. This one tastes just right with a little port and a hint of cinnamon. It also freezes very well, so you can make a large batch and portion into freezer bags. Just defrost and microwave on Christmas day for a tasty side dish.

This would also go well with some roast duck or a good steak, with maybe some pomme dauphinoise on the side.

Finely sliced 1 large red cabbage (about 1kg) and add to a large saucepan. Add 2 finely sliced red onions. Now add 150ml port, 150ml water, the juice and zest of 1 orange, 1 cinnamon stick and  2 star anise. Stir to combine and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and leave on a gentle simmer for 1 hour.

Serves 8.


    Oxford Lunch

    Oxford Lunch

    This cake recipe includes ground almonds which allows the cake to keep a little longer. It’s got lots of dried fruits and just a little spice. Great with afternoon tea.


    • 225g self-raising flour
    • 115g butter
    • 115g caster sugar
    • pinch salt
    • ½ tsp mixed spice
    • 125g sultanas
    • 100g glacé cherries
    • 50g mixed peel
    • 100g ground almonds
    • 1 free-range egg
    • 120ml whole milk
    • flaked almonds


    1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl along with the salt and ground spices. Rub butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then add the caster sugar and ground almonds.
    2. Toss the dried fruit in a little flour (this stops the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the baking tin) and add to the mixing bowl.
    3. Beat the egg into the milk and mix well with the dry ingredients.
    4. Pour (this is quite a wet batter) into a greased 2lb loaf tin and sprinkle the top liberally with flaked almonds. Bake at 160°C (140°C fan) for 1 hour 15 minutes.
    5. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before removing. It’s best eaten on the day you bake it, but it will keep very well in an airtight box for 2-3 days. It also freezes quite well; just wrap in greaseproof paper and foil.

    Makes 10-12 portions.

    Irish Soda Bread

    Irish Soda Bread

    This bread is made in homes all over Ireland. It uses bicarbonate of soda as a raising agent and the buttermilk gives it a subtle tang.


    • 450g plain flour
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 300-350ml buttermilk


    1. Pre-heat the oven to 230°C.
    2. Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl. Mix well with a fork to ensure the salt and bread soda are well incorporated into the flour.
    3. Add 300ml of buttermilk and mix through the flour. Add another 50ml if necessary. You want a soft dough, but nothing too wet and sticky.
    4. With floured hands, turn the dough out onto a floured board. Knead the dough into a round loaf but don’t overwork it.
    5. Place the dough on a buttered and floured baking sheet. Cut a cross in the top of the dough. According to legend, this allows the fairies to escape.  (No, I don’t believe it either…)
    6. Place the baking sheet in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 200°C and cook for a further 25 minutes.
    7. Remove the bread from the oven and wrap in a tea towel and leave to cool slightly on a wire rack before cutting. Slice and serve coated with salty butter.

    If you want to try another type of traditional Irish bread, try my Griddle Bread recipe. It’s much quicker to make and very moreish.

    Pommes Dauphinoise

    Potato Dauphinoise #2

    Here’s a recipe for a rich and unctuous potato dauphinoise – perfect for using up your leftover Christmas ham and red cabbage. Unlike a lot of recipes I’ve seen for dauphinoise, I don’t start mine on the hob. I prefer to cook from scratch in the oven which allows me to season each layer of potatoes individually. This means the dauphinoise will always be perfectly seasoned.

    Purists will tell you that a proper dauphinoise should not contain any cheese, that the potatoes and cream form their own golden crust. Well, I’ve tried both, and I prefer this with cheese. Of course, you don’t need a mandoline to cut the potatoes, but it certainly speeds things up. Using a mandoline also has the advantage of ensuring all of your potato slices are of the same thickness and therefore cook evenly.


    • 6-8 medium potatoes
    • butter
    • 250ml double cream
    • 250ml whole milk
    • ½ clove garlic, grated or minced
    • salt & freshly ground black pepper
    • Parmesan cheese (or Gruyére)


    1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
    2. Slice the potatoes, using a mandoline if you have one . If doing this using a knife, ensure the slices are of a similar thickness, about 3-5mm.
    3. Add the milk, cream and garlic to a saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer and take off the heat.
    4. Butter a baking dish (about 24cm squared) and add a layer of potatoes. Give the potatoes a light sprinkling of sea salt and a few turns of black pepper. Keep adding layers of potatoes, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper. I normally get about 6 layers from this amount of spuds.
    5. Add the cream and milk mixture then top with a couple of handfuls of grated cheese and some more black pepper.
    6. Cook for about 1 hour at the bottom of the oven. You might want to place some buttered foil on the baking dish for the last 15 minutes if you don’t want the top to get too brown. I don’t bother, as the crispy bits are very tasty.


    • Nigel Slater (as always) has some great variations on dauphinoise in his book, Real Food – including a tasty looking version made with smoked mackerel fillets.
    • You could use a full clove of garlic, but I prefer to keep the garlic flavour subtle in this one.  Make sure the garlic is grated or ground to a paste though, you don’t want to end up with chunks of garlic in this one.

    Serves 4.

    The Guardian’s “Best Food Books of the Decade”

    The Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog offers it’s best food books of the past ten years. The reader panel, which includes Matthew Fort, Tim Hayward and Jay Rayner have picked some great titles: HFW’s “River Cottage Meat Book”, Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” and Jeffrey Steingarten’s “It Must Have Been Something I Ate”.

    Link: Best Food Books of the Decade

    Gin & Cranberry Fizz


    Here’s a great cocktail to serve at Christmas. I made this recently after discovering the recipe in GoodFood magazine. I like to serve cocktails in pitchers – it saves all that faffing around with measures and cocktail shakers.  Put plenty of ice in a pitcher and add 150ml gin, 300ml cranberry juice, some mint leaves and a bottle of sparkling wine (or champers if you’re feeling flush). Add some mixed berries for an attractive garnish. Very tasty and no fuss.

    Cranberry Sauce

    This makes a subtly spicy cranberry sauce, with a little added port for some festive cheer. I made a couple of batches of this last week which are sitting happily in the freezer, waiting for the big day. Vastly superior to the ready-made version.

    Put 500g fresh cranberries in a small saucepan along with 100g golden caster sugar, 100ml water, 100ml port, zest of 1 orange, 2 cloves and 1 star anise. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently until the cranberries have popped and the sauce has thickened. Cool and serve.

    Serves 6.