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"Winging it with what's to hand can be so liberating - flinging in this or that with the joyful abandon that comes from not trying too hard or expecting too much." Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Which is a bit like how I approach this blog as well as my everyday cooking. And today is one of those raids of the bits and pieces waiting to be used somewhere, that litter my desk. A desk raid as opposed to a fridge raid.

When you look at a photograph like this you know you will never be a proper photographer. But then just about everyone knows that there are others who are better than them - whether it be what they do best, or whether it's something else entirely. Even Michelangelo must have realised that others were better at - let's say, cooking than him, and top athletes are never top athletes for their entire lives. Still it is a bit depressing to know that everything we 'ordinary' people do is always done better by somebody else. All we can do is the best we can do I guess.

Anyway I liked the photograph as an introduction to one of my regular bits and pieces from here and there posts. So here we go - in no particular order, beginning with three short things from Nigel Slater in A Cook's Book.:

Burnt lemons - they seem to be everywhere these days, although, of course I now can't find the dishes that inspired this - I've seen a lot of late it seems to me. Here is Nigel on this very trendy ingredient.

"The difference a scorched lemon - its juice hot, sweet, smoky and sour - can make to a grilled aubergine is extraordinary. Slice a lemon in half, place it cut side down on a hot griddle and leave it there until the cut side is almost burnt. The juice will enhance almost anything you squeeze it over."

Very frustratingly though I cannot find a recipe in the book - well using the index anyway - that includes burnt lemons.

Others roast them rather than grill them, as in this recipe for Burnt lemon spread from Asif - Culinary Institute of Israel - which could be interesting.

I will keep a look out for more recipes. I guess they're a food stylist's dream. They look so pretty.

A green sauce for almost everything

I suppose it's just salsa verde - as he says:

"a chuck-it-in-a-blender sauce for serving with whatever you like, from grilled fish and prawns to baked tomatoes."

The ingredients to chuck in the blender are: 10g basil leaves, 15g parsley, 10g mint, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 6 anchovy fillets, a teaspoon of Dijon muistard and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Pour in 100ml olive oil and process. Stir in tablespoon of capers. Scraps.

Whatever did we do before we had blenders? I suppose those who really cared used a pestle and mortar - or those who grew up using such a thing. The rest of us just didn't do these things. Such an array of dips, sauces, pastes, crunchy toppings and other such things are just a whizz away with a blender are they not? And you can obviously change Nigel's recipe to suit your own tastes - different herbs, no anchovies, maybe some olives? It's sort of Provençal as it stands, but you could also make it Middle-Eastern with just a few changes. Or Indian, or Chinese ...

A herb cream - a different kind of green sauce to go with everything, and, I think, a version of the Middle-Eastern green tahini sauce. This picture is just a rather lovely generic one, but then this is a generic sauce - vary it to taste. Nigel's recipe is as follows:

"Put 200ml of thick yoghurt in a bowl, then stir in 4 tablespoons of tahini and a squeeze of lemon juice. (I like it especially with the burnt lemons above.) I prefer to do this lightly, leaving ribbons of the sesame paste marbling the snow-white yoghurt. to this add shredded basil leaves (about 10 medium-sized), a handful of finely chopped dill fronds or a mixture of 12 finely chopped leaves of mint and 20 of coriander."

If you want to use it as a salad dressing he recommends whisking a couple of tablespoons of iced water.

'The cookies' and other 'viral on Instagram' thoughts

Apparently 'EVERYONE' is cooking and eating these cookies. It's yet another Instagram sensation. But I'm not here to tell you about these cookies. Rather it's to direct you to an interesting article called How a recipe goes viral on Instagram by Nisha Chittal on the website Vox. This is a topic I have been meaning to look into for ages and ages but when I came across this article I thought that she had done such a good job that there was no need for me to pursue the topic any further. Well for now anyway. She also talks at length about millennials and their attitude to cooking. Another topic I have often thought about. Like I said, somebody has always done whatever you have thought about before you, or they've done it better. It's a world that is a bit of a mystery to me which makes me slightly ashamed.

Date syrup

This is the last page of the current Woolworths Fresh Ideas Magazine. This is a page where they feature a lesser known product that you can find in their stores, by posing a few very simple questions - well really they are telling you about the product. And this time it is date syrup - which somehow or other vaguely reminds me of something medicinal like this that we were fed as children - or was that prunes? Anyway I checked - and yes - they do have it in stock. Coles doesn't - so a tick to Woolworths. They also claim to have pomegranate molasses though I have yet to find it on their shelves - or on Coles shelves either. Anyway date syrup is recommended to drizzle over things, use in salad dressings or use in marinades and smoothies. Or, trawl the net for recipes that use it. There are lots. I do love dates, so I could well love this, but I'll wait until I find a recipe that uses it. Speaking of which you would think, would you not, that having featured it hugely in the magazine there would be a recipe somewhere within that used it? There isn't.

Grazing platters - Still with the Woolworths Fresh Ideas Magazine and demonstrating how things evolve we have a small section on platters. Both supermarket magazines regularly have platters in their magazines, but they are usually the traditional kind - cold meats and various accompaniments or cheese platters. So passé it seems. For here we have a different kind of platter - more of an assemble it yourself kind of thing. Which is interesting because the 'platter' was an unknown thing in my youth. I'm not quite sure when they came in - maybe in the 80s? Maybe before. Elizabeth David, of course, introduced us to the notion of crudités and posh restaurants would have a cheese table and an hors d'œuvre trolley, but these were not quite the same thing. I guess there was Aioli - the meal not the dip. and Bagna Cauda which is similar, but assembling together a mix of various cold meats and things as a platter, I don't think was a thing. Although I suppose, when I think about it, the Ploughman's lunch was a kind of platter. Of course the meat or cheese platter is commonplace now. I regularly do it for a scratch lunch. I suppose what Woolworths has done here is take the notion a step further - a little towards a buffet I suppose. They propose a hamburger platter; a Caesar salad platter; a bruschetta platter; a smoked salmon platter and a waffle platter. Below are the waffle and bruschetta options just to give you ideas for your next big family gathering.

Dried apricot nibbles

Last item from Woolworths - a rather neat idea for nibbles and one I might try for Sunday's Easter egg hunt because I have a jar of dried apricots that need to be eaten soon. They go all hard and brown after a while. The ones shown in the picture are topped with goat's cheese, pistachios and honey, but they also suggest: blue cheese, pecans and rosemary; topped with goat's cheese and wrapped in prosciutto; brie and thyme leaves; tahini and chopped parsley. Well from that list I'm sure you could get a whole lot of other ideas.

Please explain

This is an ad in the current Coles Magazine and I do get that it's an ad for Bulla ice cream, but what does 'nea polit' mean? Oh dear I've just seen the it's a distortion of Neopolitan. Of course. Stupid me. But honestly I have only just got it. I looked at it for ages. Maybe if the little cartons of ice cream at the bottom were a bit larger so that the word Neopolitan jumped out at you I would get it. And why unfakeable? Why would you think of something fake? Too clever for words but I suppose it made you look at it. And you certainly noticed the ice cream. It's actually perhaps my least favourite kind of ice cream. I don't like mixing up flavours, even when you have two scoops from those wonderful gelaterias. At least you can sort of keep those separate.

Ok that's my scraps for now. Woolworths had a useful tip for the scraps of foil that you get from all those little easter eggs the kids find in their hunts. Gather them all together and roll them into a ball. When it's as big as a tennis ball put it in the recycling bin.

And don't throw out any scraps from your fridge before thinking hard about what you could do with them. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book Love your Leftovers is an absolute must have in your kitchen. So many ideas in there, whether you follow them exactly or just get inspired to do your own thing. As he says:

"It's the story of how I cook at home most of the time. Not with a list or even much of a plan, but standing in front of the fridge scanning for possibilities ...

It's the sort of cooking that allows the cock, quite justifiably, to feel rather pleased with themselves."


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