The storm before the calm

Time for a duck recipe.

But first I must share with you a most unfortunate incident.


Half way through chopping some fresh sage, I took a considerable slice out of my finger. As I looked down to see part of my finger on the chopping board, I started to feel very nauseous and tired. Luckily I managed to remain conscious. Perhaps rather recklessly, home alone, I carried on cooking for ten minutes.

Browning duck legs with one hand isn’t ideal though.

As the adrenaline faded, the pain became unbearable.

I called it quits and pondered my options.

Without going into too much detail, the amount of blood still being lost an hour later prompted me to make my way to accident and emergency, complete with piece of finger in a bag of ice (y’know, just incase they need to glue it back on…)

A wonderful family friend took me to hospital where I was swiftly bandaged up and sent back home.

What’s that saying?

The show must go on.

So the thinking behind this one was that everybody likes duck, right? And everyone likes peanuts, right? (Unless you’re allergic obviously…)

After a few different approaches, I decided on slow cooked duck in port, and fresh pasta tossed with peanuts and mushrooms.

Your shopping list:
2 duck legs, half a bag of shallots, 3 sticks of celery
2 bay leaves, fresh sage, juice of half an orange
100ml of ruby port, chicken stock

fresh pasta (of your choice), 1 red onion, shiitake mushrooms
fresh parsley and chives, crushed unsalted peanuts, 1 garlic clove

For the duck legs, start off by turning your oven to 175 degrees celsius. Chop up your celery and shallots. Leave them to one side. Drizzle the legs with oil and rub well with salt and black pepper.

Heat some oil on high in an oven proof dish and brown both legs well for 6 minutes. Remove the legs and turn heat to medium and add the vegetable. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the sage and bay leaves and cook for a further 2 minutes.


Pour in the port and reduce on medium-high for 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock cube, the orange juice, and half a cup of boiling water.

When it’s simmering, re add the duck legs, season, and cook for a further 4 minutes.


Place in the oven and reduce temperature to 125 degrees celsius.

Leave it to slow cook for 3-4 hours.

When the time comes, check on the duck. Then you can start the pasta.



Start by dicing your red onion as finely as possible. Slice your mushrooms into thirds. Have your herbs finely chopped and ready to go.

Heat some oil on high in a frying pan or wok. Add a big handful of the peanuts and crush the garlic clove into the pan. Cook for 3 minutes until the nuts start to turn golden brown. Turn heat to low and add the mushrooms.

Add your fresh pasta to a large pan of boiling water with a pinch of salt. Simmer for 3-4 minutes.

In the meantime, add the onion and a handful of the parsley to your other pan. Cook on medium-low.


Strain your pasta. Add to the frying pan with the chives.


Season well, add a splash of olive oil, and cook on high for one minute.

Serve immediately with the tender duck leg and gravy from its dish, in which ever way you fancy. The duck should just fall away from the bone.




The Zone

Stood on top of a sand dune, the sun setting over green fields on one side, and the North Sea on the other, there couldn’t have been a more fitting moment to embody the entire trip.


We were in complete awe of the 360 horizon. Clear skies producing spectacular colours with the sunset. Wind turbines spinning methodically in the distance.


Two nights prior we would have given anything for such clear skies. We had taken a trip into the heart of the Kielder Forest, devoid of any light pollution, to star gaze at the observatory there.

Unfortunately there was much more snow than stars. But despite the lack of clear skies and the odd complaint about cold feet, the trip was a thoroughly enjoyable one. An insightful lecture in the observatory led by Fred, the resident professor of cosmology, provided an opportunity for the visitors to throw out all those questions that one ponders from time to time…

What is a black hole?
What is the space-time continuum?

I’d say it took an average of about 5-10 seconds of his explanation before I was completely lost and proceeded to nod coherently.

However it did seem that Fred was rather picky over which questions he replied to. If the question from an audience member wasn’t phrased so well, he didn’t offer too much in the way of reply.

One of my compatriots sadly encountered this scenario TWICE, much to the amusement of the rest of us.

We left the Observatory to take a long drive to the Northumberland Coast. We set off in convoy, with only our headlights to guide us through the winter darkness of the Kielder Forest.

We arrived at our cottage to settle in for 5 nights. The prospect of delicious food, good music, and great company meant spirits were high, even at 1.00am.

The next day set the culinary tone for the rest of the stay.
Steve took charge of mains.


Several hours later we were presented with slow cooked lamb shanks in the richest red wine sauce. Words or pictures don’t quite do it justice. Quite simply the best lamb shanks around. And in all honesty, we did intend to document the meal for the blog, but we were licking the pattern off our plates before we even remembered to gather the final photos.

The wine probably didn’t help either.

The meal was rounded off with a tiramisu I had prepared two days earlier.


Cue food coma.

We embarked on a game of risk but by half 9 we had all fallen asleep.

Throughout our stay we feasted on duck risotto, miso soup, homemade sticky toffee pudding, and sausage casserole.

Oh, and lots and LOTS of cereal.

With the log burner stoked, the evening’s activities were accompanied by a nice mixture of songs, old and new.

I have the feeling this is going to become an annual trip..


Treat City Vol. 2

The long-awaited follow up to volume 1 is here. This time we’ll be looking at a classic Italian treat, tiramisu.

The exact origin of this treat is subject to much debate. Culinary experts the world over argue over the inclusion of raw eggs in the recipe and over which liquor should feature.
The true innovation of tiramisu lies not in the technique of layering, but in the combination of coffee, chocolate, and boozey cream. Translated into English, tiramisu means ‘pick-me-up’. With such a combination of flavours, it’s not hard to see how it got this name.

I recently went to a small, family-run Italian restaurant in the city of Sheffield. Stepping into such a restaurant reminded me of family holidays spent in Tuscany, and the food didn’t disappoint. I don’t know about you, but if I go to a real Italian restaurant, I feel I’d be missing out if I didn’t try one of their pasta dishes.

Likewise with the desserts, as soon as I spotted tiramisu, I felt obliged. Surely an indicator to the true quality of any Italian restaurant.

It was stunning.

 With a little research I found that it is the Italian city of Treviso that gave birth to the modern version of tiramisu we know today.


lista della spesa:
250g mascarpone, 600ml thick double creamItalian lady finger biscuits (at least 300g just to be safe)
instant coffee (granulated or espresso style), 1 large bar of dark chocolate, 80g golden caster sugar
140ml of Marsala wine

You will most likely have some biscuits left at the end, but this is fine. It’s better to have too many for this recipe. I will explain in due course.


Mix the cream, mascarpone, sugar in a large mixing bowl. I started making this recipe with just under 100ml of the marsala but I decided to up the amount to 140ml. As it turns out, the more booze the better! (who knew!?)

Add the marsala and whisk until thick, but still manageable. 


You will need two dishes, one for the coffee and one to layer your tiramisu. In this instance I used a square cake tin with a removable bottom. This way I can just push it out of the tin in a perfect square shape. Having said that, I have done it in an oval dish, and it worked perfectly too.

Mix 4 tablespoons of your coffee with 500ml of boiling water. Add it to one of your dishes.

Now’s the fun part.

Take your biscuits and dip them one by one into the coffee, for around 5 seconds, turning them as you do it so both sides absorb equally. Leave them in too long and they’ll turn to mush in your hands before you can transfer them to your dish. Don’t worry if you lose a few along the way, this is why you bought an extra pack of biscuits!


Now add half of the whisked mixture. Be careful when you spread it over the soft biscuits, as it’s very easy to damage them. Take your time. I used two spoons to spread the mixture evenly without causing too much disturbance to the layer of biscuits.


Now get your dark chocolate and use the finest side of a grater to completely cover the mixture.


Repeat the process one more time.


Phew. Done.

Place in your fridge for at least 8 hours, overnight if possible.




Begin again

Back in 2012 I went to see the Canadian duo Purity Ring in a tiny nightclub in Leeds. I had been a fan since the end of 2011 and was lucky enough to shake the hand of Megan James after their performance.

They have recently announced the follow up album to their first outing, Shrines.

Their second album will be titled Another Eternity and the following track has been released in the build up.

Their music is pretty hard to describe. The combination of dreamy vocals and resounding basslines is best listened to on some good speakers or headphones. There aren’t too many artists out there making music like theirs and their first album Shrines is definitely worth a listen, with the track Obedear being a standout piece of music for me.

Another tune I’ve been playing recently is Church Point by Australian producer Belwoorf. A very chilled track with some interesting sounds. I look forward to future releases.

Sticking with the chilled theme, I thought I’d share a tune by a french DJ/producer called Moullinex (not 100% sure how that’s pronounced) titled Darkest Night.

Finally, a piece of catchy reggae that got lost when my Macbook was stolen over a year ago. Although I managed to recover all my music, my playlists were gone and so many songs were lost in my itunes. Thankfully this one has resurfaced.

Picture on the Wall by the Naturalites and the Realistics was released in 1983

Hope you’re all having a great week!


Less is more

Following on from the previous post, I thought I’d include a dish in which chorizo makes a welcome cameo.

The blueprint to this dish was a staple at university. Popular among fellow scholars and easy to whip up at short notice, this one has been slightly edited since. I have used the traditional Spanish sausage sparingly in this prawn and chorizo gnocchi.

Less is more.

 What you’ll need:

500g of gnocchi, 1 red onion, crushed cashew nuts, mange tout
chorizo sausage , cooked king prawns, lemon infused olive oil, 1/4 medium red chilli
1 clove of garlicfresh tarragon, thyme and basil
3 tbsp mascarpone cheese



(serves 2)

 Put a baking sheet in your oven and turn heat to 220 degrees celsius. Finely chop about a little finger’s length of the chorizo and dice the red chilli and red onion finely. Slice the mange tout in half lengthways.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil with a little salt. Add the gnocchi for no more than a minute and a half. 


Remove from the water and drain for a minute or so.


Before placing the gnocchi on your baking sheet, apply the lemon infused olive oil generously. Season well and apply a little more oil. Put back in the hot oven. Conveniently, I find they take just the same amount of time as the other ingredients do to cook.

Heat some of the oil in a frying pan and add a handful of the crushed cashews on medium heat. Finely chop your red onion and add when the nuts have started to brown. Keep on medium for 4 minutes.

Add the crushed garlic clove, chorizo and chilli. Keep on medium-high for 4 minutes. Season well.
Check on the gnocchi and shake tray to ensure they cook evenly.

Add the prawns to your frying pan and cook on high for 2 minutes.


Add a good handful of the fresh tarragon and thyme with a handful of the sliced mange tout. Turn heat to low and season.

Remove your gnocchi from the oven. They should be starting to turn golden brown and slightly crispy.



Go ahead try a few but leave some for the dish!!

Mix into the prawns along with 3 generous tablespoons of the mascarpone. Keep on medium heat for 2 minutes.


Serve with some torn basil leaves.




Whatever happened to Thai Sweet Chilli?

A few years ago I remember thai sweet chilli could do no wrong. Everything started to come with a side of thai sweet chilli sauce for dipping. It started popping up on menus in all kinds of restaurants, bars, and pubs. Thai sweet chilli chicken started to creep into the meal deals of supermarkets and the like. You may or may not agree with me, but doesn’t it now feel like a past trend?

Similarly, chorizo also comes to mind. I wouldn’t say that Chorizo is out of fashion, but I do remember a time when its popularity was certainly higher than it is now. Pasta dishes, pizzas, and even burgers became saturated with the traditional Spanish meat. Its popularity having perhaps plateaued somewhat in the past few years, it still remains a versatile cooking ingredient.

Both chorizo and thai sweet chilli share a common trait. Both flavours can be dominating, to the point of overwhelming. I’ve had thai sweet chilli chicken stir-fry which was far too sweet and sickly to realistically finish. I’ve eaten a burger with a giant slab of chorizo, oozing with grease, which made everything else on my plate obsolete as far as being able to taste them was concerned. The need to include it on the menu seemingly overriding judgement on the quantity of such an ingredient.

I suppose we should talk about pulled pork.

Pizzas. Burgers. Sandwiches. Sundaes. You name it, chances are, there will be pulled pork.

And yes, pulled pork sundaes are a thing.
Slow cooked pulled pork in a sweet BBQ sauce underneath a crowning scoop of cheesy mashed potato, finished off with rashes of streaky bacon.


It was too good to be true. However, the guilt combined with the impending indigestion was enough for me. On that day, I reached the pinnacle of pulled pork. I’ll be honest, I haven’t ordered pulled pork in a restaurant since.

The growing influence of American-stye, slow cooked BBQ meat is on the rise. With each tender mouthful, you can almost taste the time and dedication that goes into a slow cooked rack of ribs. Considering the breadth of literature appearing to dissuade us from eating red meat, this is an interesting direction for food.

I have tried to cut down on meat in general. It’s not the easiest of tasks but you’d be surprised how much mushrooms can make up for meat.


I had some leftover shiitake mushrooms, so I grilled them and added some chopped spinach and parsley. I served with a poached duck egg on some brie and crusty white bread. No meat in sight.



Deer readers

In all honesty, I set off to buy two duck breasts for this recipe. Late in the day, I was unable to find any duck, so had to settle for two venison steaks that I had spotted were on offer.

Not the worst substitute in the world.

Venison has much more of an intense flavour and colour than beef. It’s also great in a casserole…

I decided to have my venison with potato and leek rosti and a buttery mushroom sauce.

Two sides that go superbly with red meat and that are easy to make.

 What you’ll need:
15g of dried porcini mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, fresh parsley, 1/2 a white onion, 125g of butter, 3 tbsp crème fraîche.
3 baby leeks, 1 small clove of garlic, 1 large potato, 1 egg, flour, fresh chives
2 venison steaks


First things first, put the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and fill to the top with just-boiled water. I would say use between 15-20g of them (I bought a 25g bag).

Finely dice the baby leeks and half the onion. Add the leeks and the crushed small garlic clove to a frying pan with a little oil. Heat on medium-low.

At the same time, melt the butter in a pan. Then add the onions on a medium heat. Season well. Careful not to burn the butter.


Now you can peel your potato and chop into 4 even pieces. Add the pieces to a bowl with a splash of boiling water, cover with clingfilm.
Pierce the top a few times and leave in the microwave for 4 and 1/2 minutes on high.

Take the leeks off the heat once they are soft and set to one side.
Keep stirring the butter and onions and turn to medium-low heat.

Once the potato has cooled you can begin to grate it into a bowl. Use the grater side with the biggest holes.


Season, then add the egg, leek and garlic, a small handful of chives, and a heaped tablespoon of flour. Mix gently so not to mush the potato up too much, you still want the grated texture.

Check on the butter and onions…

Make two rosti out of the potato mix. Place on baking tray and drizzle with olive oil.


Put under a hot grill in the middle of the oven and shut the oven door. These are going to need around 15 minutes, turning them half way through.

Strain your porcini mushrooms and add the stock to the butter and onions, along with a handful of the chopped parsley. Turn the heat to very high and begin to reduce, stirring occasionally.

Season your venison well and rub with olive oil.


This is when I added the steaks to a hot griddle pan (because you’ll need at least 5 minutes to let it rest at the end) but each person enjoys their red meat done differently so I’ll leave that up to you.

After 7 or so minutes have passed, you can chop 2 big shiitake mushrooms and add them to the pan. Keep reducing.

Don’t forget to to turn your rosti…

After another 3 minutes, the sauce should have reduced by more than two thirds. Season well.
Stir in the crème fraîche. Keep on a medium heat until your happy with the consistency, stirring often.


Check on the rosti. They should be looking golden brown and smelling very decent. Remove from the oven when you’re happy with them.



Let your steak rest for at least 5 minutes.

Slice and serve with the rosti and mushroom sauce.


Steam some kale and spinach while it’s resting if you fancy…




Hunger of the pine

Happy New Year!!

I hope you all enjoyed the festive season. Having eaten so much meat in the past week I thought I’d share a fish dish with you to start 2015.

is something I often overlook on a menu, I admit I am guilty of going straight for the red meat. Having tried out a few recipes of my own for a smoked haddock and pine nut risotto, I’ve come to appreciate them much more. I made a duck and shiitake risotto a while back, which needs work, but will be up in due course…


What you’ll need:
2 smoked haddock fillets (dyed is fine), a good handful of pine nuts, arborio rice (risotto rice)
A bunch of spring onions, 1 leek, 1/4 of a medium chilli (depending on spice tolerance)
Zest of 3/4 of a lemon, dry white wine, vegetable stock
Fresh chives, parsley and thyme
Milk, 1tbsp crème fraîche. 

(serves 2)

Finely chop the onions, leek and chilli. Do the same with the herbs. Leave to one side…

Start by poaching your fish fillets in milk.
Add enough milk to almost submerge your fillets to a large pan. Heat on medium until the milk is starting to bubble at the edges ever so slightly.
Reduce to a low heat and add the fillets.
Poach for 4 and half minutes MAX or until the fish feels soft and crumbly. Remove from the milk and cover with foil. Leave to one side…


Heat some olive oil in another large frying pan on high (I used a wok). Add the pine nuts and vegetables, reduce to medium heat, season well, and cook for 10 minutes.

In the mean time, add a vegetable stock cube to a pint of boiling water in another pan, and keep it simmering on low-medium heat.

Back to the vegetables. Pour in about a fifth of a bottle of the dry white wine and reduce for 6-7 minutes on medium-high.

Add about 1/2 a normal sized mug of the rice. Add the parsley and thyme.


Stir well and keep on medium heat for 2 more minutes. At this point you can start adding the stock gradually using a ladle. Keep on medium-high, and as each batch of stock gets absorbed by the rice, add more until the rice softens. You’re looking at about 15-20 minutes.

When you’re happy with the rice you can crumble the fish into it along with with the chives and lemon zest.


Season well and stir in a table spoon of crème fraîche.

Serve with a poached egg if you fancy.




Winding down for Christmas

With your fridge stocked and presents wrapped, here’s a few sounds to wind down to before the big day.

Their album is a treat, I’d fully recommend the purchase.

I hope you all enjoy the food eaten and the time spent with your families.

Not long until the pigs in blankets make an appearance…

Merry Christmas!!


Treat City Vol. 1

A crumble has to be one of the most delicious treats out there. It’s also one of the easiest to make, with half the ingredients probably hiding away in your kitchen cupboards.

This is a Raspberry and Pear Crumble that I’ve been making for a few months now. It’s a good treat to have in the oven while you have dinner, ready to eat when you’re done with mains.

Or just make it when you decide it’s treat time


Here’s your checklist:
Frozen or Fresh Raspberries (350g), 1 and a half ripe pears, 3 teaspoons of granulated sugar
Golden caster sugar (60g), plain flour (110g), butter (60g), a good handful of oats

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius  Chop your pears up into sixths. Remove the pips and stalk. Add to a saucepan on a low heat with the raspberries.

(Tip: If your pears aren’t ripe, I would advise you cook them on their own before you add the raspberries. Do this for about 10 minutes on low-medium, with a splash of water, until they begin to soften ever so slightly)

Gradually increase the heat to medium as more liquid starts to form at the bottom, don’t let them burn! Add the three teaspoons of granulated sugar.

IMG_2341 copy

At this point you can weigh your other ingredients for the crumble. Add them all in a large bowl and begin to mix with the tip of your fingers to create a crumble texture. Leave that to one side.

You need to carry on cooking the fruit for around another 15 minutes on medium-high, until the pears are reasonably soft, but not squishy. As it bubbles away it should be smelling very decent.

Add the fruit to a suitable dish.


Using a spoon, cover the top evenly with the crumble mixture.


Leave in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

IMG_2364 IMG_2363

Serve with a healthy portion of double cream.