Monthly Archives: July 2010

Dinner menu w/c 2nd August


Mildly spiced turkey fillets baked with cherry tomatoes, black olives and couscous


Baked lamb koftas, balsamic roast tomatoes, tzatziki and bulghur wheat


Lime and mint fish fillets with cucumber basmati rice, edamame beans and toasted sesame seeds


Greek style chicken fillets with a zesty Feta topping, green beans and new potatoes


Veal, sage and lemon cannelloni with a chunky tomato sauce, rocket salad


Oven baked chestnut mushroom, porcini and pea risotto, poached egg and Parmesan


Summer squash, spinach and tomato curry, wholegrain basmati rice and toasted almonds


Glut cooking

One way of  being able to eat good quality food every day, is by being savvy about what you buy and when  to make the most of seasonally abundant vegetables.

For me, it is partly the excitement of getting a really good deal as well as the knowledge that an hour or so of pleasant work in the kitchen is going to produce something useful and delicious to enjoy over the coming weeks or months.

Every month of the year the shops and markets are flooded with certain varieties of fruit and vegetables, but perhaps never as abundant as this month.

Where to buy “gluts”?

  • (farmers’) markets – growers will be selling what’s in season and some, keen not to have to take produce back with them, will reduce prices towards the end of the market and
  • pick-your-own farms – a fun way to spend time with your kids or a friend and a way to buy food at prices which have not been inflated by a middleman
  • box schemes – can be a good source of seasonal fruit & veg, although some are (no longer) very local. Check out if you live in North London.
  • wild food – help yourself from the public larder! Many parks are a great source of blackberries in August/September and I picked masses of wild garlic earlier this year.
  • ethnic greengrocers – can be an excellent source of boxes of tomatoes, mangoes and fresh herbs. They are also worth checking out for good deals on large bags of grains, rice and pulses as well as spices.

Here are a few recipes/ideas for my personal favourites. Some of which lend themselves to the concept of taking time out in the kitchen now to enjoy the fruits of your labour later.

And remember, when an ingredient is in season there is nothing wrong with eating it a couple of times a week or even every day: purple sprouting broccoli, blood oranges, new potatoes, wild garlic, asparagus, samphire, elderflowers, strawberries, cherries, quinces …

Beautiful toms!

Tomato sauce

This is what you need

4kg ripe tomatoes (it doesn’t matter if they are overripe)

10 onions, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

25oml olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

This is what you do:

  1. heat the oil in a pan large enough to take all the tomatoes (or divide the tomatoes + other ingredients equally over a couple of pans)
  2. add the onions and garlic and soften (but not brown) over low heat
  3. add the tomatoes and simmer, partially covered with a lid, for at least one hour until the tomatoes are very soft
  4. stir the mixture now and then to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan
  5. some of the liquid will evaporate but that is a good thing and will concentrate the flavour
  6. taste the sauce: it should be sweet once it has cooked down
  7. season with salt and pepper and decide if you need to add sugar
  8. at this point you can let the mixture cool before storing in the fridge as it is 
  9. or put the tomatoes through a passevite (mouli-legumes) if you prefer a smoother sauce without tomato skins + pips
  10. you could also split the mixture and to make half a batch of smooth and half with more texture

You’ll notice that I don’t add any herbs; that is because this way you can use the tomato sauce in a wide range of dishes from soups, to stews to pasta and red Thai curry.

The tomato sauce will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Alternatively, freeze in small quantities in strong, properly sealed, freezer bags.

Oven dried tomatoes

This is what you need:

25 ripe tomatoes

olive oil

dried oregano (or thyme or both)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

This is what you do:

  1. pre-heat the oven to 100C
  2. cut the tomatoes in half lengthways; I don’t bother scooping out the seeds but you can if you wish
  3. pat the cut surface of the tomatoes dry with paper kitchen towel
  4. sprinkle with dried herbs, salt + pepper
  5. drizzle with olive oil
  6. bake for 4 – 6 hours
  7. the tomatoes should be shrivelled like a raisin, not too brown
  8. you may need to adjust the oven temperature as ovens vary
  9. if you want to keep the tomatoes for a while, put into a sterilised jar and cover with olive oil or store in a container in the fridge “au naturel”

Great piled onto toast, in a frittata, mixed through pasta or eaten straight from the jar!

Courgettes, some with the flowers still attached

Courgette fritters with spicy tomato sauce (serves 6)

This is what you need:


750g courgettes, coarsely grated

200g gram (chickpea) flour

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground paprika

2 tbsp finely shredded fresh mint

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for frying


500g tomatoes, finely chopped

1/4 onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tbsp finely chopped flatleaf parsley

This is what you do:

  1. for the salsa, mix all the ingredients, check for seasoning, cover and set aside in the fridge to chill
  2. for the fritters, put the courgettes in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain for 20 minutes
  3. sieve the flour in a large bowl, add the spices, salt and pepper and 200ml of cold water
  4. mix until you have a smooth batter, then add the olive oil and mint
  5. squeeze the moisture from the courgettes, then stir into the batter
  6. heat 1/2 tbsp olive oil to a non-stick frying pan
  7. add a large tbsp of batter to the frying pan taking care not to overcrowd the pan; you are aiming to make about 18 fritters
  8. press the batter down lightly and fry over medium heat for 2/3 minutes then flip over with a non-scratch spatula
  9. fry for another 2/3 minutes then move to a plate and keep warm
  10. serve warm with the cold salsa

Another idea for “glut cooking” with tomatoes and courgettes is Moro’s gazpacho recipe from last week. And later in the year, perhaps have a go at making quince meat …

Happy savvy shopping & cooking!



LookLocal challenge: week 3

Spanking fresh courgettes, flowers still attached

For one reason and another, I have not quite managed to document my “LookLocal” challenge in as detailed a manner as I intended to.

I meant to take a closer look at provenance (does “local” always mean just that, or does it mean “British”, can you ever just assume provenance) of the foods sold at markets/independents and supermarkets.

In terms of the cost of shopping locally, it is difficult to say if shopping this way would cost you more or less than shopping at the supermarket. It all depends on your current shopping (and cooking and eating) habits I guess and how much food you throw away.

Prices at farmers’ markets particularly can seem high; then again, good food normally does cost more than that of a lower specification/lesser quality and cheap does not necessarily mean good value.

Like with everything else in life, it is a lot about priorities, what you care about and how you choose to spend your money.

But, “LookLocal” has been an education!

There is much to take in and consider and I quite understand that many of you feel overwhelmed by the very thought of reducing your reliance on the (let’s face it) convenience of the supermarket.

The commitment needed to shop locally does mean sacrifice (with a small “s”) and that you take on more responsibility.

In fact, confronting and thinking about some of the issues around local food such as provenance, cost, quality and consistency add to the challenge.

The idea is simple enough and provided that you don’t live in a “food desert” the process of shopping locally is not difficult, but on balance is doesn’t make life easier if that’s what you are after.

A lot I have found depends on whether you have easy access to good, independent retailers and whether or not the local (farmers’) market takes place weekly or only monthly.

Products which I have found difficult to buy are yoghurt, staples such as tinned sardines, pasta, grains and flour to name but a few.

Fruit & veg by and large are more interesting at markets: fresher, strictly seasonal and you can find produce that is simply not popular enough to justify a place on the supermarket shelf.

On Sunday I spotted purple kohl rabi at our local farmers’ market, alongside chard, summer squash, red & white currants and tiny courgettes with the flowers still attached.

Shopping at your local (farmers’) market also offers to opportunity to make the most of seasonal gluts: right now, courgettes, tomatoes, squash and cherries to name a few.

If you can, buying into gluts (when produce is at its peak and prices low), then tucking in at once and preparing some of the produce for storage is a very satisfying way to shop and eat. It firmly keeps you connected to the seasons and although it takes a bit of planning + organisation at the time, it buys you free time later on when you can dip into a well stocked cupboard/fridge/freezer for a quick & easy meal.

Seasonal gluts don’t impact on supermarket products and prices to quite the same extent as they do on markets; seasonal factors are simply less important to supermarkets who buy fruit & veg from around the globe all year round.

There is an upside though to shopping locally and below I have tried to summarize why it’s definitely worthwhile to try and “LookLocal” most of the time.

And remember, buying local food does not need to mean a wholesale change in philisophy or approach. More likely, it will be a journey of many small steps, taken one product (for example meat, or fish or fruit & vegetables) at a time.

So here’s the upside of “LookLocal”:

1. it helps raise the importance of good food

2. it connects you with your local community

3. buying local = voting with your money = supporting independent retailers, small producers and British farmers

4. it offers an opportunity to re-connect with food, the seasons and the food chain

5. buying seasonally can (re)inspire your cooking

6. shopping locally feels like giving food (and shopping and cooking) back its integrity

I plan to investigate the issue of “provenance” more and give you some price comparisons next week, along with some recipes + simple ideas on how break the supermarket habit.

Let me know how you are faring in your “LookLocal” challenge: I do value your comments and observations.



Grandad Bob’s horseradish vodka recipe

I love receiving people’s own recipes and tried and tested family recipes.

The whole idea of sharing knowledge, passing on wisdom, provenance and tradition is what really appeals to me.

This recipe, provided by Leonid from the glamorous BobBobRicard “diner deluxe”, is no exception.

It looks lethal, and in large quantities I am sure it is, but I urge you to give it a try: I have and the flavour is amazing!

If you can find the right bottle, it would make a great (housewarming?) gift too.

Grandad Bob’s horseradish vodka

This is what you need:

1 litre Russian vodka (40% alcohol)

300g fresh horseradish roots, peeled and cut into 4 lengthways

1 clove

1 black pepper corn

1 allspice pepper corn

1.5cm chunk of cinnamon bark

1/3 tsp wild honey

This is what you do:

  1. dry the horseradish root pieces with a piece of paper kitchen towel
  2. crush the clove, peppercorns and piece of cinnamon bark
  3. put everything into a glass bottle and top up with the vodka
  4. don’t use more honey than indicated or the vodka will go cloudy
  5. let the vodka infuse for 5 days, tasting to check on progress on day 3
  6. much will depend on the strength of the horseradish roots
  7. don’t over-infuse as the vodka will start to taste bitter and harsh
  8. strain the vodka into a clean bottle

For a more leisurely method, scrub the roots clean but do not peel and don’t crush the spices. Add everything to a glass bottle, pour the vodka over the spices and infuse at room temperature for at least 3 months. Store without removing the spices.

According to Leonid, this is brilliant with crunchy, tangy malosol cucumbers (on the menu at BobBobRicard and recipe below if you fancy pickling your own). 

Not sure why pickled cucumbers are mentioned on the same page as tips on how to lose weight?



Dinner menu w/c 26th of July


Crab cakes with red pepper dressing, Charlotte potatoes and a watercress salad


Sticky lemon & ginger chicken, basmati rice and stringless green beans


Spiced lamb meatballs, coconut rice ‘n beans, pilli-pilli sauce


Courgette, sweetcorn & gram flour fritters with a tangy tomato sauce, wholegrain rice


Baked salmon fillets, spiced lentils with wilted spinach, minted yoghurt

More pictures of The Big Treat

Another glimpse of the event, this time captured by a professional …    

Spot the difference!    

Welcome to The Big Treat!


The Big Treat launch party


Crussh & Courvoisier cocktails


The Hugging Wall in action


Savvy treat


MindApples: what are your five a day?


The MindApples tree in fruit


The green green grass of ... The Big Treat


The Head Gardener & his glamorous assistant


All pictures by    

the fabulously talented Natalie Sternberg from Natalie Sternberg Photography



The Big Treat & SavvyCook’s cupboard

Andy Puddicombe from HeadSpace talking about meditation


If you did not get the chance to come to The Big Treat, here’s a glimpse of the event. 

Thank you to all the lovely peeps and Tweeps, new faces and old friends, who visited!   

I was great to see you: I hope you enjoyed it and got something out of it.   

SavvyCook's cupboard


I also want to thank the lovely people at Sainsbury’s, in particular Tracey Anderson in Judith Batchelar’s team and Verity Bradley, Home Economist at the Food & Innovation Centre, who kindly supplied the ingredients for SavvyCook’s cupboard.   

Despite feeling pretty knackered when I woke up on Sunday (and whilst getting ready for The Big Lunch) I am really glad that SavvyCook was involved.   

The event gave me new insights into what stops people from cooking and judging by the e-mails I have received so far the first chapter of SavvyCook’s “Learn to Love your Kitchen” guide has been very well received.   

Thanks to Andy Gibson, Head Gardener at MindApples  (who along with myself is a founding member of The Future 500’s Future Health Group – a collaboration between CVFT500 members) for taking the bull by the horns and putting MindApples forward to be the event organisers.   

We’d had been talking  for a while (more like 18 months probably!) about creating a platform to share our views of what it means to be (and keep) healthy by looking after our bodies as well as our minds.   

The Future Health Group’s vision for the future   

“Health will be based on science, but shaped by arts; health will be about the health of society and the environment, not just individuals. It will be more about prevention and offered by a wider range of agents.”   

It wasn’t until Delphine Reynaud, the network Director at Courvoisier, suggested Future Health take part in their summer event, that the idea for The Big Treat, an event to encourage people to treat themselves better, began to take root properly.   

So thank you to Andy and particularly Hege Saebjornsen (Andy’s colleague at MindApples) for pulling it and us all together!   

Savvy treats


You can picnic under the MindApples tree and meet the MindApples team later this week at The Secret Garden Party 22-25th of July.   

SavvyCook’s tips, lists and thoughts on   

how to keep a well-stocked larder, fridge and freezer, and    

how to choose fresh ingredients for delicious, no-fuss meals cooked from scratch   

can be down-loaded from last week’s blog post “how to be a savvy shopper & a clever cook“.   

Time, we’ve got so little of it. It makes sense to make clever use if it! And cooking fresh meals from scratch does not need to be time-consuming or complicated.