Archives for November 2010

The ultimate recipe for golden turkey

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Stefan Gates Stefan Gates | 13:58 UK time, Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Yes, we really are going to cover a whole turkey in real gold...

Let’s face facts, lovely people: Christmas lunch is the most important single meal of the year for most Britons, but often it’s the most gruesome and predictable. If I eat one more dull overcooked turkey with obliterated Brussels sprouts I’ll...well...I’ll sit there miserable as sin, wondering why we eat turkey every year, like everyone else.This is why I’ve come up with a wondrous extravaganza of a dish that you and your family will NEVER forget...

 

Turkey gilded with gold leaf.

 

And the best bit of it all: there’s still turkey involved (I’m adventurous, not bonkers). The difference is my turkey is a) not overcooked and b) GOLDEN. Hoh, yes! Is it a wild extravagance to gild a turkey? Well, the gold costs about the same as a bottle of cheap Champagne. So, yes, it’s not cheap, but I think it’s a small price to pay for a Christmas lunch that you’ll never forget. Gold is perfectly safe to eat: it’s food additive E175 for anyone who was watching my last TV series! It passes straight through you and doesn’t taste of anything - other than pure magic.


For maximum effect it’s best to do this secretly and only reveal what you’ve done when the turkey hits the table.

So how hard is it to do? Well, the one in the photo took me about 15 minutes to gild using a combination of loose leaf and transfer leaf, although I have used gold leaf a fair bit, so it may take you longer. You need a booklet of gold at least 23ct or above, and you can get it cheaply from retail or online art shops - or expensively from edible gold leaf suppliers. It usually comes in booklets of 25 x 80x80mm leaves in either loose leaf (which works best) or transfer leaf (where the leaf sits on a piece of paper). One booklet is just enough to do a 4kg/8lb 11oz bird if you manage to do it without too much wastage. Keep any spare gold for knocking up golden sausages and mash another time.

What you’ll need

1 x 4kg/8lb 11oz turkey
25 small (80 x 80mm) sheets of 23ct (or higher) gold loose leaf (you can use transfer leaf too, but it’s harder to use). Use more for a larger bird.
2-3cm/1in wide paint brush (very dry and clean!)

How to do it

First, roast your turkey, but please don’t overcook it - all that stuff about turkey needing five hours to cook is utter rubbish, and is the reason why everyone thinks that turkey is dry and ‘orrible. A smallish unstuffed room-temperature 4kg turkey takes only two hours (really, it does) and a large 7-8kg/16-18lb one takes three hours. The 4kg one in the photo took two hours exactly at 180C/350F/Gas 4 and it was perfect. Roast it upside down for the first 1½ hours and turn it over for the last 30 minutes - this will keep it as succulent as possible.

Let the turkey rest for an hour – it won’t go cold, but will cool down enough for you to be able to gild it. Then sit yourself in a nice calm place without any wind, and take your gold out. Start with the breast of the turkey, and as long as you’ve done that thoroughly, the rest of the bird is a bonus!

If you’ve got loose gold leaf (that’s the best sort), the technique I’ve developed is to hold the booklet firmly so that the gold leaves don’t all slip out (it’s so thin that it floats away very easily, even on your own breath), then open each page gently and press the gold from the booklet straight onto the bird. Use a dry brush to dab it into place if you need to, around legs and crevices. It takes a couple of goes to get right, but then it’s dead easy. Just keep going until you’ve covered the whole bird.

Transfer gold leaf is great, but can give a slightly patchy effect, rather than the appearance of pure golden turkey. The transfer leaf is the easiest to use – you just need to press it against the slightly fatty skin and the gold should come away from the paper. It may need a little help with the back of a fingernail to help it, and if your gold is particularly sticky, you may need to dampen the skin of the turkey with an extra little bit of oil or a very light smear of butter. Once you’ve gilded the turkey as best you can, serve it with your favourite veg.

Are you going to fly in the face of austerity and give the Midas touch to your turkey? Or do you think that a golden turkey is an extravagance too far, even at Christmas? How will you be cooking your turkey this year?

Stefan Gates is a BBC presenter and food writer.

Have you ever eaten squirrel?

Jocelyn Frank Jocelyn Frank | 14:00 UK time, Sunday, 28 November 2010

This week across America, families celebrated Thanksgiving with feasts made up of dishes of all shapes, sizes and flavours. But did you know that squirrel sometimes makes it onto the Thanksgiving table?

On this week’s BBC Radio 4’s Americana presenter Matt Frei talked with outdoor enthusiast Wm. Hovey Smith about a not-always popular, though timeless American dish: squirrel stew. Smith walked us through all the steps involved in hunting, cleaning and transforming a North American grey squirrel into a delicious stew.

Wm. Hovey Smith lives on a property in rural central Georgia that has been in the family since the 1700s. Back then, the house was a cotton plantation but these days the large property is overgrown with brush and pine trees - the ideal hunting ground.

Indoors in his kitchen, with tools no more complex than a set of rubber gloves to keep away the “nasties”, game sheers and a three inch pocket knife, he proceeded to prepare the North American grey squirrel for cooking. He lopped off the head (though his mother used to love squirrel brains - “they have a nutty taste” he said deadpan) and the four limbs. He then skinned the rodent and washed it before declaring it ready to boil.

Smith prefers to season squirrel stew simply. He just uses salt and pepper, simmering the meat until it’s soft and separates the flesh from the bones. In a large pot he’ll cook the tender meat with onion, canned corn, tomatoes and capsicum. The cooking takes several hours because, as he explains, “nothing in this wild game business is done in a hurry if it’s gonna be anything like halfway good.”

Squirrel stew has a very distinctly sweet flavour and Smith describes it as quite a pleasant tasting dish that he would not hesitate to serve to the Queen of England - were she to invite him to prepare it.

“Y’all are overrun with squirrels in England. You need to eat some of them!” says Smith.

Indeed squirrel has been appearing on some British restaurant menus of late and even featured on The Hairy Biker's Cook Off last week, but would you, could you eat squirrel?

Could this be the way to manage the UK grey squirrel population? Have you cooked squirrel? Share your experiences...

Jocelyn Frank is a Producer on Radio 4's Americana.

Homemade Christmas present ideas

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Rachel Manley Rachel Manley | 16:44 UK time, Tuesday, 23 November 2010

If you’re stuck for ideas of what to get your nearest and dearest this year, you can’t go far wrong with some homemade treats.  We all know that the taste of something homemade is far superior to anything bought in a shop, plus it really is the thought (and time and effort) that counts.

Why not make them really look the part with our gorgeous labels? Simply print them off and stick onto jars or thread with ribbon.  For packaging, I save any pretty boxes, gift bags or bits of ribbon from presents I receive and wash and save jars when I’ve eaten the contents. Plain cellophane bags are also excellent for packaging up biscuits or sweets. Just tie them with some festive ribbon.

Download our food labels

Download our exclusive gift tags and labels for your edible gifts.

Gift labels

Christmas labels

Preparation is key: now is the time to spend a weekend afternoon cooking up quantities of chutney or marmalade. It’s worth baking a batch or two of Sophie Dahl’s wicked peanut butter fudge and stashing it in the freezer - my family can’t get enough of it and have already requested some for Christmas! If you want to go all out, macaroons are sure to impress, try colouring them pretty pastel shades for a rainbow effect. The macaroon shells can be frozen and filled a day or two before Christmas, they actually improve when left to chill in the fridge overnight.

Pretty pastel macaroons are sure to impress

Get the children involved by baking a batch of our easy Christmas biscuits and letting them loose with the icing - they’ll love helping out in the kitchen and grandparents and teachers will appreciate their ‘creations’. Our Christmas baking recipe collection is full of child-friendly recipes.

Our Christmas biscuits are really easy to bake with children

While cakes and biscuits are nearly always a winner, it’s worth thinking about the tastes of your recipients. For cheese lovers, how about a jar of onion marmalade or apple chutney? You can pair it with a wedge of cheese and some oatcakes, or even better, a loaf of homemade bread.

Make homemade chutney look extra special with some ribbon and one of our gift tags

If they enjoy a tipple, how about a mulled wine kit? Package a bottle of red wine, an orange studded with cloves and some cinnamon sticks with a handwritten recipe for mulled (or even better, this mulling syrup from BBC Good Food.)

Or buy the ingredients for a favourite cocktail and wrap them up with a written recipe. (Check out our huge selection of cocktail recipes for inspiration.) Top of my list this year is a batch of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s blackcurrant liqueur (view the recipe here). I’ve successfully made this into a rather delicious blackberry liqueur and now that my stash is gone, I’ll be making it with frozen supermarket fruit (try a summer fruits or fruits of the forest mixture). It makes a lovely fizzy cocktail, so you could pair it with a bottle of champagne for an extra-special present.

For more inspiration, view our collection of homemade Christmas present recipes.

What will you be making this year and which homemade Christmas presents go down a treat in your house?

Rachel Manley works on the BBC Food website and loves giving homemade Christmas presents.

What did Ready Steady Cook mean to you?

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Nicky Evans Nicky Evans | 15:22 UK time, Monday, 22 November 2010

They say all good things must come to an end, and Ready Steady Cook is no exception. Ainsley and the team have finally bowed out after 15 years on air, 21 series and more than 2000 shows. We asked some of the chefs, presenters and behind-the-scenes team to dish the dirt on each other, relive their on-screen rivalries – and romances – and share fond memories of the programme.

Antony Worrall Thompson (RSC chef 1994-2007)

"I was in the show for 13 years and it was great fun. I loved beating Brian Turner the best – he was an old, classically trained chef fixed in his northern ways. Not that any of us were counting of course…

"I remember once I whacked Fern across the face with a squid. She hates fish and squid particularly. This one had very long tentacles and I didn’t see her behind me... I don’t think she ever forgave me for that!"

Brian Turner (RSC chef 1994-2010)

"My great rival was Antony Worrall Thompson – I always liked playing against half-sized people. I remember Antony would try every way to get the audience on his side. Once on the roadshow he brought his newborn child on stage just before they counted up the votes – and of course he won hands down.

"At the old studio and at the live shows we would all march up and down backstage singing along as loud as we could to the classical music they played before the show, to get rid of our nerves. It was lovely and I’ll never forget it."

Fern Britton, Phil Vickery and Brian Turner with guests.

Fern Britton (RSC presenter 1994-2000)

"Up until Ready Steady Cook came along I had been a current affairs person and was very surprised to be given the job. There were two other younger and more attractive female presenters auditioned for the job. As I had little interest in cooking I had ruled myself out!

"However fate stepped in and I got a job that I grew to love very quickly. Without it I would not have had a new lease of life both professionally and personally in the shape of my dear husband Phil Vickery. We would never have met if it hadn't been for the show and I am very, very happy that we did."

James Winter (RSC researcher 1994-1997, now series producer of Saturday Kitchen)

"RSC was my first job in TV; I was a contestant researcher. Our job was to audition the people who would like to be on the show, and we also came up with the titles for the dishes – apart from Ainsley’s recipes, which he insisted on naming himself. Some have stuck with me, such as ‘Goosey goosey gammon traffic lights 123’ – I still don’t know where he got that one from or what it means!

"James was the bandana-wearing, sports car-driving man he is now. He always won with the spun sugar strands – unless he was against Ainsley. When he heard the minute count, that’s when he put his sugar in the pan. He knew he could always finish with a flourish of spun sugar on the top and win."

James Martin and Antony Worrall Thompson with Fern Britton and guests.

James Martin (RSC chef 1996-2005)

"Ready Steady Cook was my first regular TV slot, with the old bandana and the old spun sugar. The bandana was never a gimmick – I’m 6’3’’ and I couldn’t wear a chefs’ hat because they made me too tall. I ended up painting my own bandanas and designing my own jackets for the show – I had one with green peppers on one sleeve and red tomatoes on the other that I got people to sign.

"I built up my knowledge of TV from RSC so I owe it a lot. In its heyday – with the roadshows – it was like a rock-and-roll tour. The chefs took it really seriously; you didn’t want to lose. You could tell whether you had a good chance of winning by the age of the audience – if the audience was into bingo then Brian or Antony had a chance!"

Ainsley Harriott (RSC chef 1994-2000; presenter 2000-2010)

"The great thing about RSC was that it came along at a time when we were still a bit naïve about cooking in this country. It changed people’s attitudes towards food. Suddenly we were looking at these professional guys doing something very spontaneous that only cost a certain amount of money. Viewers could see products that they had never seen before and understand what was a 'reduction' or a 'jus' or a 'mirepoix' – all those culinary terms.

"I just loved it – as a chef it was a real discipline for me. Even when I was presenter, every time they tipped the contents out of the bag I was thinking, ‘What would I do with that?’ I was thrilled to become the presenter, but nervous as anything. It’s almost like being a football player and then becoming the manager of the football team!

Ainsley Harriott

"I remember the faces of the chefs when they got liver or anything remotely offal. ‘Awful offal’ they used to call it. I think me and James Martin were the few who were able to win with liver or kidneys. Similarly when squid was in the bag and the chef was cleaning it in front of everybody, I’m watching the audience’s faces and I’m thinking to myself, ‘You’ve got no chance!’"

Nick Nairn (RSC chef 1995-2010)

"For me RSC was a life-changing experience: it was where I met my wife, Holly [who worked on the show].

"In the early days they went through a phase of giving us bags with one thing in them. Antony got a bar of chocolate; I had a tin of ham. There was always enough in the larder, so the secret was to know the larder. From flour and eggs you could make pasta or pastry, and there was always something you could use to make a soup.

"I’ll always remember the social aspect of it. There was a huge amount of mutual respect between us and a real sense of camaraderie. I think at one point they stopped me and Paul Rankin from cooking together because we were never quite as competitive on the second day of filming! Antony was über competitive – we all were. If you had a bad run, it really affected you. I lost seven in a row once and I was about to chuck it all in! But I absolutely loved it and was proud to be part of it."

Paul Rankin, Nick Nairn and Fern Britton with guests.

Did Ready Steady Cook spark your interest in cooking? Has it left you with any favourite memories or fail-safe dishes? Who was your favourite RSC personality? 

Read another blog post reminiscing about some of RSC’s most "out-there" recipes.

Nicky Evans works on the BBC Food website.

Stir-up Sunday: Cakes and puddings for Christmas

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Dan Lepard Dan Lepard | 09:30 UK time, Thursday, 18 November 2010

Though Stir-up Sunday is traditionally the day to mix your mincemeat and plum pudding, I’ll be making our Christmas cake on that day as well. Very dark, with a sticky treacle-rich crumb, and a flavour that combines a mix of dried fruit and spices with orange zest and rum. My recipe for this year isn’t final yet, but I’m sure it’ll include prunes, raisins and home candied orange peel, the latter much easier than you’d think.

Feeding a Christmas cake brandy

 

The stirring-up of mincemeat, puddings and more recently cakes, is associated with the last Sunday before the Christian season of Advent, the run up to Christmas. It very irreverently took the first words from what was once that day’s reading from the Book of Common Prayer, words every vicar would have spoken that morning in church - “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord” - as a call to get cracking in your kitchen with fruit, suet, and brandy.

From the moment it was stirred-up and in the weeks that followed, the fruit in the mincemeat subtly plumps and absorbs moisture and spice flavour while the maturing mellows the sharp alcoholic bite of the brandy. The pudding, even though sealed tightly, would lose some moisture in the way that a cellophane-covered jar of home-made jam or pickle does: the flavour intensifies and the crumb gets darker and more compact. Both develop a richly complex texture and an aroma ready to burst out when eaten.

The modern British Christmas cake tradition evolved relatively quickly from very plain rye cakes, Yule cakes and kichel, that were symbolic bread-like loaves commonly baked in homes until the early 1800s - through to the magnificent iced ‘plum’ cakes that became popular from that point onward. This change was driven by the accessibility and cheapness of the fruit, sugar, nuts and spices that Victorian traders made available to working people. Some historians have suggested that today’s cake is a hybrid of the much older plum pudding and the venerable Twelfth Night cake.

This basic fruitcake recipe evolved as other cultures influenced the flavour and ingredients. The Trinidad black cake has a heady pudding-like texture soaked in a combination of rum and other spirits, so good that it inspired me to make a Black Christmas cake with stout one year. In Australia when I was growing up, we’d used candied tropical fruit, like pineapple and mango, and macadamia nuts. Looking back at old recipes I have from America from the 1930s, it’s the generosity of fruit and sweetness that sets those recipes apart from British recipes from that era. Today, if you want a classic Christmas cake you’ll be in good company if you turn to Delia.

If you want to keep your cake simpler, think about a barm cake like this one by Helen Jerome from 1932. Related to the Yule cake, it was once made with a piece of bread dough that had sugar, fat, spices and fruit kneaded through after it had it’s first rise, but once baking powder became available that became the preferred method. By contrast, Mrs. Beeton’s Christmas cake is a type of light fruited gingerbread, rich with treacle. For a modern take, try Nigel Slater’s Double ginger cake and replace the sultanas with 150g dark raisins.

Stollen has fast become a favourite Christmas cake in Britain, and homebaker Nils has both quick or complex recipes on his blog, depending on the sort of baking adventure you’re after. Panettone, an outrageously complex sweet bun from Italy is usually best bought from a shop. Having said that you could make small teacakes like these as a trial. Bûche de noël, the Christmas chocolate cake from France that resembles a cut tree log, has its fans too, and there’s even a gluten-free version from food writer Béa that looks as good as the wheat version.

Buche de noel

 

Christmas baking is integral to the festivities, so what are you planning this year? And if you have any festive baking-related questions, post them here and I’ll try to help.


Dan Lepard is a food writer for the Guardian and a baking expert.

What's the nation's favourite cake?

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Ramona Andrews Ramona Andrews | 13:15 UK time, Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A recent BBC survey has revealed the nation’s favourite cake. And guess what? It isn’t Victoria sponge, lemon drizzle, carrot cake or even Christmas cake: all guesses by baking aficionados on the Get Baking Facebook page. It seems that fans of afternoon tea and elevenses love to lap up that winning combination of melt-in-your-mouth chocolate slathered over and between rich cocoa sponge. I want a slice just writing about it...

 

Chocolate cake decorated in sweets.

 

27% of those surveyed named chocolate as their greatest gâteaux – with more women than men tending to favour it. So to celebrate (any excuse to Get Baking), we asked Great British Bake Off winner Edd Kimber to demonstrate how to make and decorate a simple chocolate cake. Follow this simple recipe and, once you've mastered the basics, find out how to take decorating to another layer using chocolate transfers.

We went to expert Chantal Coady to stir up some thoughts about what makes chocolate cake so tempting. Chocolate has long been valuable, priced stuff. Indeed Chantal told us that the ancient Mayans believed that cocoa was so sacred that they drank it from solid gold goblets. We’re regularly told that it’s good for us and it seems that our appetite for chocolate is forcing prices up – a single bar might cost £7 in the future. We can’t get enough of the stuff.

So when you combine rich, dreamy chocolate with homemade sponge cake. Well, that’s when the magic begins... If this isn't enough to make you reach for the nearest chocolate treat, enjoy our video homage to the chocolate cake, guaranteed to make your mouth water...

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So, over to you, is chocolate really a superior sponge? What's your all-time favourite cake?

Get Baking for Children in Need!  The BBC’s Get Baking campaign aims to inspire and encourage all those who are new to baking to roll their sleeves up and discover their flour power – with the added incentive of raising money for Children in Need.

I Can Cook: Getting very young children to cook

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Katy Ashworth Katy Ashworth | 12:28 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010

As presenter of CBeebies' I Can Cook, I’m no expert chef. I’m just a big kid who knows how to make cooking fun and who has the amazing opportunity to present a TV show that proves you can get any child eating healthily. Cooking with kids doesn’t have to always be gingerbread men and fairy cakes does it? In fact, cooking a healthy meal - I have discovered - has so many more exciting elements to it.

Encouraging children to get involved and allowing them to do the discovery work for themselves gives them an amazing sense of achievement at a young age.  Making the programme, I saw this all the time, especially when we were in the I Can Cook garden on our ‘vegetable hunt’. Once a kid has got a muddy carrot in their hands they’ll be flying back to the kitchen to cook our Carrot and courgette muffins recipe.  And of course, growing veg and herbs doesn’t always require a garden – having pots on the windowsill is enough.

Katy Ashworth from I Can Cook

 

All cooking can be great fun. There’s so much to discover and try out; it’s all about looking at it from a four-year-old’s perspective. There are many games you can play to introduce the young chefs to a wide range of fresh ingredients. Every fruit and veg is a potential funny ‘face’ to mimic. We love doing the ‘raisin face’ and ‘potato face’ - though the ‘cauliflower face’ proves a bit trickier to do!

A spring onion may not look exciting, but it can spark off a ‘springing’ bounce around the kitchen and then be turned over to get its ‘hair' cut: the roots are trimmed, and the stalks are cut with scissors.

When we encourage our young cooks to turn vegetables and fruit into things, be prepared for their imaginations to run wild. Once we had to actually stop filming because one child went into great detail about how the runner beans resembled a mysterious creature called a “fragglewop” that lived in a “wogglemeer” and drove an eight-legged purple car!  Children are brilliantly amusing, and cooking is such a great channel for their imaginations.

Katy Ashworth with children from I Can Cook

Our challenge is to get children actively involved in the kitchen and to enjoy knowing more about where our ingredients actually come from - not just from a plastic supermarket bag.

What I have learnt cooking with 240 different children is that a child is far more likely to eat something if they've made it. This is the magic of cooking. It’s such a brilliant life skill too and the more they do it the more they’ll discover. On I Can Cook, we have produced more than 50 recipes specifically designed for young children to cook.

Personally, turning a piece of broccoli into a tree was enough to get me eating my five-a-day when I was little. How about you? How do you get your children interested in healthy food?

Katy Ashworth is presenter of CBeebies' I Can Cook. Katy also asks: if flour + sugar + children = mess, why let them bake? for the BBC News magazine.

Get Baking for Children in Need! The BBC’s Get Baking campaign aims to inspire and encourage all those who are new to baking to roll their sleeves up and discover their flour power – with the added incentive of raising money for Children in Need. Read a blog post by a member of the BBC Parent Panel on the BBC Parenting blog about baking with kids.

Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers: Making things go further

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Jennifer Fazey Jennifer Fazey | 09:28 UK time, Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Producing Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers, I find the only downside of working with Nigel Slater is that you spend your days constantly feeling hungry. We tend to film three recipes a day and the smells that waft around the kitchen leave all the crew salivating.

Nigel Slater from Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers

 

Even just watching Nigel cook and seeing the end result is enough to make you want to dash home and rustle up what he’s just made. I love his simplicity and the fact that Nigel’s dishes rarely involve fancy ingredients that you don’t have, or that you bought once three years ago and went off soon after.

I particularly love Nigel’s knack of coming up with delicious suppers from seemingly very little. I remember Nigel saying that for him, it’s this kind of cooking – making things go further – that most excites him.

Nigel has some ingenious ideas to make a little go a long way, whether it’s a leftover bit of salmon or a few berries from the garden. His lamb and bulgur wheat patties are a classic example. I’d never have thought to add shredded beetroot and bulgur wheat to lamb mince. But not only does it up the quantities, I thought the extra ingredients made the rustic burgers taste better than if they were made of just pure lamb. You get a more interesting texture too.

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Outside of the kitchen we spent many a happy hour filming Nigel in his back garden where he’s grown his own veg and fruit for the last ten years. One of his big delights this season were peas, but even Nigel would admit they weren’t exactly a bountiful harvest. So the challenge was on to turn a precious handful into a filling supper. The result, as you’ll see in the show, was a fabulous peas, pasta and parmesan dish than could have easily fed two or more. Genius!

So what was my favourite recipe in this week’s show? I think because of these chilly nights it’s got to be Nigel’s sausage and bean soup. It’s so useful to have charcuterie knocking around in the kitchen to add a burst of flavour to casseroles or soups. Yes it’s a bit pricey, but a little spicy chorizo lasts ages and because the flavour is so intense, you don’t need to add much. A little definitely goes a long way and I for one have now made it a storecupboard essential.

How do you like to make your ingredients go further? Do you like to bulk out dishes with beans or use leftover meat to make hearty soups? Share your suggestions here or read food writer Diana Henry's tips for eating good food on a budget.

Jennifer Fazey is the producer of BBC One’s Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers.

 

 

The best and worst half-baked recipes from Ready Steady Cook

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Ramona Andrews Ramona Andrews | 15:45 UK time, Friday, 5 November 2010

On the BBC Food website, a large of portion of our day involves transforming chefs' recipes into a linguistically palatable form. So it's with some sadness that we announce our favourite programme for bonkers ingredient combinations and insane dish structures, Ready Steady Cook, is getting the chop. Though we moaned about the weird ‘carpaccios’, sweet couscous ‘cakes’ and all the bacon sandwiches and tempura of anything you care to mention, today we're lamenting our former daily diet of ‘you can’t be serious’ and ‘no, not again’ recipes. So we’ve been trying to find the craziest Ready Steady Cook recipe that’s ever been cooked up on the show.

Ainsley Harriott in Ready Steady Cook

What is he like?!

There are some serious contenders. Deep-fried Stilton pizza springs to mind. If deep-frying baked goods appeals, there was a rumour of a deep-fried baked beans Ready Steady Cook recipe, but seeing as I can’t find it in our recipe database it may just be a recipe editors’ myth. And it's not just main courses that have had the fat fryer treatment, take a look at deep-fried strawberries and ice cream.

And did we even mention those ‘risottos’, ‘caviars’, ‘tarts’ and even ‘cappuccinos’? Not exactly what they say on the tin.

To give the 'red tomatoes' and 'green peppers' their dues, there have been some speedy yet impressive dessert dishes that made regular appearances on the Ready Steady Cook menu, such as floating islands, crème brûlée and Baked Alaska. James Tanner certainly stirred things up with his Baked Alaska with orange and Boursin four series ago – we had to call the recipe Baked Alaska with garlic and herb cheese, but it still sounds like an accident with the dessert trolley and the cheese course.

If all that isn’t enough to get you going, how about Brian Turner’s Big Cook, Little Cook-sounding 'Mr Carrot' on creamed carrot? A boiled whole carrot plonked atop a bed of puréed carrot.

However, despite all this, Ready Steady Cook has a place in my heart, even if some of the recipes don’t have a place at my table. Watching as a student, the programme first got me interested in food and inspired me to have the confidence to try out new combinations of ingredients. With 21 series, 40 episodes a series and 10-15 recipes a show, of course not all the recipes will be to everyone’s taste.

The other thing is that all the many combinations of ingredients have been great for our recipe database. Type three random ingredients into the search box and chances are you’ll find something you like. Let’s see... tonight I fancy sweet potato, thyme and venison...

So tell us, what’s the most ‘out-there’ Ready Steady Cook recipe you’ve come across? Is there is anything that we've missed off our list?

Ramona Andrews is the host of the BBC Food blog and messageboard.

Nigel Slater's new tricks: Do you have a clever twist on a classic dish?

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Jennifer Fazey Jennifer Fazey | 16:45 UK time, Wednesday, 3 November 2010

As producer of Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers, I couldn’t wait to see what recipe ideas Nigel Slater would come up with for the start of this new series. So when he suggested taking some British classics and giving them a simple new spin, we all thought it was inspired. Surely we’re all guilty of cooking our favourite suppers time and again and wouldn’t mind a bit of a change, without saying goodbye to them altogether?

 

Nigel Slater from Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers

 

The great thing about watching Nigel cook - off and on screen - is how it makes you think about why a recipes ‘works’. It might sound a bit weird but I think sometimes we just cook and eat on autopilot - especially when we’re following a recipe. But if you stop and think about what it actually is you like and why, it can be a bit of a revelation.

Like Nigel says, the reason we all love the classic cottage pie is simple - it has a single winning combination.  Something warm, meaty and rich on the bottom and something fluffy and soft on top. It’s more about textures than tastes. So using turkey mince instead of the traditional lamb, and squash mash instead of potato for this new version, suddenly makes total sense.

We’re lucky enough on the production team to try all of Nigel’s food as soon as we’ve got all the shots we need. A great perk of the job! Of course everyone asks ‘what’s your favourite?’ and I can honestly say I loved them all. But on this programme there was one recipe that stuck in my mind.

Nigel Slater's watercress and basil pesto.

 

Nigel’s hand-made pesto ticked all the boxes for me and made me promise I’ll never buy the stuff in the jar again. His twist is the addition of watercress and I hadn’t realised how easy pesto is to make. Nigel told us that he was genuinely chuffed to successfully grow basil for the first time in his life. His previous attempts had always failed, which is why the home-made pesto we see him making in the show was the ultimate reward and a fitting end for all his patience and hard work. I made some after filming and it really was as easy as he’d made it look (and it freezes well too).

 

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Do you have your own twist on a classic dish? Perhaps something you discovered when the shops ran out of a particular ingredient or when you’ve cooked for someone with a special diet? Let us know.


Jennifer Fazey is the Producer of BBC One’s Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers.


Cyrus Todiwala: Sweet treats for Diwali

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Cyrus Todiwala Cyrus Todiwala | 14:57 UK time, Monday, 1 November 2010

The Diwali celebration of happiness and freedom is, besides the fun and frolics, best demonstrated by the great food that’s made in homes across India. Our own family is not Hindu (we are Zoroastrian), so we do not celebrate Diwali as a religious festival. For us, Diwali (or Deepvali) is a time for greeting visitors who drop in for tea and whatever you can put on the table - everyone is in the mood for sharing sweets and sweetmeats as a gesture of happiness.

But first, a little background: Diwali represents the return of The Lord Rama from exile by Ravana who could change form at will. Different ceremonies take place in different parts of the nation and each has its own angle, zest, excitement and pizzazz. The joy of Rama returning to his kingdom is celebrated by lighting oil lamps called Diyas to welcome him back to Ayodhya.

Indian sweets

 

My childhood memories of Diwali are of awaiting masses of gifts and sweets. Baskets of stuff would arrive: fruits, dried fruits, nuts, biscuits and rich sweetmeats made with condensed or reduced milk. I remember Bombay streets and alleyways at full blast with Petromax lamps pumped to give the brightest light to the massive array of sweets and goodies being hawked and sold all night long.

For visitors, tea - as always - is the best and warmest welcome you can give, served with delicacies such as puran poli. This chapatti-type bread is filled with sweetened ground lentils, then pressed and griddled. It can be eaten on its own, dunked into tea (as I love it) or dried and eaten in crunchy bits. For me, the Mahrashtrian community make the best puran poli in India.

Karanji (also called karanjia, neorio or gujiya in different parts of the country) is a semi-circular pastry filled with a variety of fillings from sweetened semolina to ground rice, or sweetened grated coconut. It is deep-fried - true masters’ pastry retains no oil and comes out clean and dry. Amateurs (like me) will produce pastry that looks and feels greasy. Karanji is one of the main sweets you would distribute to neighbours on festive occasions and, as I write this, women across the country must be toiling now to make them. My favourite are the moist coconut ones, though they do not keep very well.

Chiwada are made widely across the nation in different forms, but the prime ingredient is flattened rice. This is soaked, then slow-cooked in a karahi with things like peanuts, cashew nuts, chillies, salt, roasted chickpeas, roasted green peas, tiny bits of chickpea vermicelli, sugar, salt and fine potato strips. This is generally served with a spoon so people can take spoonfuls in the cup of their palms to eat.
 
Laddoos come in many forms. My favourites are the crunchy, brittle type made with sesame seeds or peanuts or a combination of nuts. However traditional Diwali laddoos are made with deep-fried chickpeas dipped in coloured, flavoured syrup and then rolled into balls. Gujarati laddoos are wonderful, but, as the saying goes in India, if you eat too many 'you become like a laddoo yourself' - that is to say, rotund.

Badaam paak is a seriously rich and sinful almond fudge made by painstakingly reducing milk with ground almonds for hours. This is Parsee-style fudge, but there is a multitude of other styles. In the north, Diwali fudge would be made with almonds, which are perhaps not as sinful.

During the festive season, women work hard to prepare the best fare for their families and friends. To me, the most skilled women in India are the Guajarati women - the variety of food is mind-boggling. Chefs like me can only envy them and be amazed at what their mothers taught them and how well they carry out their traditions. This is not to say that other Hindu women, or other communities including mine, are not skilled. To my mind the secrets and the many hidden gems of our great nation’s cuisine lie in the hands of women.

If you regularly celebrate this happy event, tell us what you like to make. Have you cooked Indian sweets before and can you share any tips?
 
Cyrus Todiwala is a regular guest chef on BBC One's Saturday Kitchen.

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