Thursday, 2 December 2010

Pretty in PINK

Pink Stew by Charlotte x

A glamorous pink stew is what’s in order during this cold spell, which makes my nose feel like it’s going to drop off my face every time I leave the house. Tonight I have a dinner date with Jules, the lucky receiver of the pink stew…

I have carefully chosen pink or at least pinkish ingredients; the key vegetable is of course the beetroot, almost regal in colour. I love beetroot. I love everything about it; the way you stain your hands pink when peeling it and cutting it, the amazing sweet flavours it gives a stew or winter salad, the fact that it turns everything PINK, and, the immense delight I get from it when pickled! Pickled beetroot at Christmas is a must.

So, if you're in the mood for pink food, here’s what you need to do.


1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced thinly

Small bunch of spring onions or an onion, sliced thinly

400g braising beef, cut into chunks and coated in flour

2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunky pieces

4 beetroot, peeled and cut into chunky pieces

2 carrots, sliced into thick rounds

Red wine, a large glassful

300ml stock, I use Swiss Vegetable Bouillon

8 juniper berries, crushed with the side of a knife

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

Redcurrant jelly, about a tablespoon

Salt and pepper

Flour to thicken

Heat some olive oil and butter in a large casserole pan on the hob and throw in the onion and garlic. Sautee for a few minutes and then add the beef. Brown all over and add the red wine. Throw in the beetroot, sweet potato and carrot and cover with the stock.

Add the juniper berries, thyme, redcurrant jelly and season with salt and pepper. Put a lid on the pan and cook for about 35-40 minutes, stirring and tasting intermittently. With about 15 minutes to go mix 2 tablespoons of flour with COLD water and stir in to the stew, as it bubbles it should thicken.

Serve piping hot with crusty bread and you’ll be in for a treat!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Roast Duck with Plum and Russet Confit*

A visit by the parents for Sunday lunch is a potentially daunting experience. Especially if you have grown up with consistently delicious Sunday lunches produced in a seemingly effortless manner. So when the folks arrived for a weekend with their London-based sprogs, and treated us to a West End show, I knew I had to impress.

Error number one was assuming they would be late, and that I'd have time to nip to the butchers, before they arrived on Saturday. When the Ellis' broke with tradition and arrived on time, I was taken a back. Therefore I resorted to popping to the Co-op on Sunday morning to find, to my horror, that they'd run out of free range chickens. I threw caution to the wind and bought a freedom-food endorsed duck. Never cooked it before, and a wee bit pricey, so the pressure was on.

I discovered to my delight that a duck is such a fatty little blighter that you barely need to do anything to prepare it for a roasting. Just rub on a bit of salt, prick the skin to allow the fat to drain off, and ensure it is raised (either on a wrack or on top of some crumpled silver foil in a roasting tin) so that the fat can drip down.

It was a relatively quick roast** but still allowed time for the obligatory Ellis Family Run around Dulwich Park while it was cooking (we're not eccentric, we're just strange, as my Granny always used to say). About 3 times during the cooking you can drain the fat away and pour it over the roast potatoes - it makes the most deliciously crispy golden roasties in the world. I put the potatoes in the oven at the same time as the bird, so that had time to cook nice and slowly. I put a wee bit of oil on to start with, but then added the duck fat once the bird started cooking.

The other joy of this duck purchase was that it included giblets - wonderfully underrated organs that make the most delicious gravy. Just bring to the boil in some water with a carrot, an onion, black peppercorns and a bay leaf and simmer for at least an hour and a half. Then pour thorough a sieve into another pan and use as the basis for your gravy. I just added some duck fat, fried up some more carrot and onion and then liquidised.

Finally, I knew that duck works well with plum. We happened to have two rogue plums in the cupboard. We had also just bought some delicious English russet apples. So I peeled and chopped the fruit, and brought to the boil with a bit of water (approx 200ml), a splash of cider vinegar, a cinnamon stick, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger. I kept the plum stones in as I knew from my jam making experience that this would help it thicken and set. I simmered it for about 15-20 minutes until gorgeously sticky. I was especially pleased with this creation as I usually rely on recipe books. I decided that this concoction was probably a confit, although I realise this probably just means that I have been watching too much Masterchef.

I served the juicy duck with the crunchy potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli, the creamy gravy and sweet confit.

Empty plates all round, and a nod of approval from the Mother. Phew

Jules xx

*I have clearly been watching too much Masterchef

** Preheat the oven to 230C, cooking time is 1hour 50 mins for a 1.8kg duck. Leave to stand for 20 mins before carving.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

St. John Bread & Wine

St John Bread & Wine by Charlotte

Nose to tail eating. A concept that to some may seem rather unrefined, when really it is the best way to eat; you cook every part of the animal, indulging in dishes and cooking methods that are novel, inventive and definitely worth talking about.

A pig’s head - euugh! The imagination goes wild, a large blackened pig’s face looking at you as you daintily cut off his cheek and chew it down, while trying not to look him in the eye. In reality, St John Bread & Wine is an informal eatery (initially intended as a bakery to service the St John restaurant), with small tables and unassuming chairs, plain walls and chefs whizzing about in the background. You choose wine and dishes in a tapas fashion, sharing plates of gorgeous food as and when they arrive at your table. This is possibly my favourite way to eat, you can share and try lots of things, chat in depth about each mouthful and not get food envy!

So, on the night in question, we ate- pig’s head, which came as a light stew packed with incredibly tender meat and seasonal vegetables; ox heart with winter leaves and capers, a wicked dish which really got my taste buds dancing; mallard, big pink, meaty chunks of it, with tiny black elderberries; beetroot and goats curd salad, a creamy tasty compliment to our meat feast; and finally a dish of pork and sprout tops, an amazing slab of perfectly cooked pork with the biggest and greenest sprout leaves I have ever seen. For dessert we shared a gingerloaf pudding with a super sweet buttersc0tch sauce and a ball of vanilla ice-cream. And to drink we had some sparkling wine (it was a celebration after all).

The price is right, that is, it’s not too expensive, I will be going back soon and already have a list of different people that I’d like to share food with at St John.

The atmosphere is perfect for a lazy lunch or dinner, great for a group of friends. And if you really do want to eat a whole pig, you can! For a mere £330 (for 14-16 people) and provided you order a week in advance you and your pork loving chums can tuck into the whole hog!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Keston Kitchen Birthday Cake

This month is the one year anniversary of the Keston Kitchen blog! In order to celebrate our first birthday I decided to make a cake to mark the occasion.
If you have read Julia's previous post about the exciting calendar announcement you will have seen the fabulous new logo which has been created for us by Nick Ritchie. The logo was the obvious choice for the birthday cake design.
I knew it needed to be a fairly substantial cake to do the logo justice, so I turned to my friend Abbie in her capacity as the office baking expert and general wizard with icing for advice. Abbie suggested making a Madeira cake and text me the recipe her and her mum use for many of their cake creations.
Madeira was definitely the right choice as the result was a sturdy cake that was easy to cut in half to add a filling and it provided a nice flat surface for icing. Although solid, it was not too heavy and had a lovely subtle lemon flavour.

The ingredients below are for a 7 inch round or 6 inch square tin, I was filling a 9 inch square tin and so used 7 eggs instead of 3 and adjusted all the other quantities accordingly.

175g butter (room temperature)
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
225g self raising flour
pinch of salt
dribble of milk
grated zest of 1 lemon

Line a 7 inch round cake tin with greased baking parchment and pre-heat the oven to 170C.
Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest together with a fork, making sure the ingredients are fully combined and the mixture has a paler appearance than when you started.
Whisk in the eggs and then fold in the flour a bit at a time.
Finally add a little milk until the cake mixture is a soft drop consistency.
Scoop the mixture into the lined tin and make sure it is levelled off so it does not rise unevenly.
Place in the oven and cook for 1-1.25 hours until a skewer comes out of the centre of the cake clean (the larger cake took about 1.5 hour)

By the time the cake had cooled last sunday, I'd run out of energy for the icing part (plus we had to fit in watching an episode of the Wire that evening) so the cake lived in a tin for a couple of days before completion.
I sliced the cake in half and filled it with strawberry jam and whipped cream. I then heated a bit more jam with a splash of water to make a glaze to help the icing stick to the cake.
I used a packet of white icing which comes ready to roll. I used a 1kg packet for this cake but if you are making a 7 inch round cake a 500g packet would do.
After covering the cake in a layer of icing a few mm thick I cut out the design from the remaining icing using a stencil I created from a print out of the logo. Abs advised me to paint the food colouring onto the icing rather than mixing it in to produce a more vivid colour.

I left the painted icing letters to dry before putting them on the cake (just using water as glue) and so finished it hastily in the morning before work. We had a quick candle ceremony before I chopped it up to distribute to the other Keston Kids and the office where I work.
I was concerned the it may not have been as enjoyable 3 days after it was baked but the Madeira cake was still yummy and by the end of wednesday at work there were only a few crumbs left as evidence.

Thanks for your help Abbie (and Mrs M)

Rachael x

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


A taster: November afternoon tea

************ PUBLIC ADDRESS **************

The Keston Kitchen has 2 very important announcements.

1. We have been branded! For those of you not on facebook, here it is:

(New-look blog coming soon)

Created for us by the amazing designer Nick Ritchie, who is also an awesome dude.

2. You may have noticed that there was less blog activity than usual during October. This is because the Keston Kids have been very busy with an exciting new project: The Keston Kitchen 2011 Calendar. Now, before you ask, this is not one of those calendars - we decided to break the trend and be photographed with our clothes on. (We know, there was great potential for strategically placed buns, but maybe next year). No, this calendar is all about the food…. and us, looking a wee bit silly, but with clothes on.

Each month will feature an original, seasonal recipe, and the calendar as a whole will reflect the variety of dishes conjured up in the Keston Kitchen. And, most importantly of all, all profits will go to a good cause! We get so much enjoyment from food, we wanted to put a wee bit back, and will be giving all proceeds to an awesome soup kitchen / shelter in Victoria, London:

All the photographs have been taken by the amazing Pierre Maelzer, who, like Nick, has given up hours of his time for free for the Keston Kitchen and our charity project. So if you are at a loss for what to buy loved ones at Christmas, or just can't get enough of the Keston Kitchen, order your copy today! They cost £10 each - not cheap but they will look amazing and we wanted to raise a good amount for The Passage. If you would like to order a copy, email to place your order. We will then reply with payment and delivery details.

Trust us, no Kitchen in 2011 will be complete without The Keston Kitchen Calendar hanging on the wall. Definitely the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
Jules, Ceri, Charl and Rach. xxx

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Perfect Pud for Autumn - Poached Pears in Red Wine.

Love pears - these ones were for Charl and Matt x

I made this as the dessert for Charlotte's birthday meal. After Rachael's deliciously rich and creamy garlic tart (our last post), I felt the need for a lighter pud. I have to say, this dessert surprised me - how can you make pears in red wine taste like anything other than pears in red wine? Well, by infusing them for hours in a sweet, spicy, warm liquid so that it soaks through the flesh and transforms the humble pear into a succulent, delicately flavoured morsel of delight - that's how!

It's a fairly easy pud to make. However, you do need to prepare the pears the night before - trust me, it's worth it as it means that the pears are entirely soaked through and also frees you up to make the main course/starter when it comes to the day.

One downside to this dessert - if you have a foodie who is somewhat impatient hanging around (aka Charlotte), they can become a bit whiney. Charlotte arrived home from her romantic birthday meal with Matt (at St John, no less - if you nag her she'll do a review), by which point the smell of mulling wine had transfused the house. Cue the whining. No Charlie, I know it's your birthday today but you really do have to wait until tomorrow. And then, after she had tasted the fruit, the whining intensified: Ju - leeeene! When are you going to make those pears again? When?

Well, it's lucky Charlotte's got such a pretty face. It just so happens I can't resist the English pears that are in the shops at the moment, and have some stowed away in the cupboard. Maybe if she's a good girl at the weekend…Jules xxx

This recipe below is based on a Heston Blumethal - but with unnecessary fancy bits taken out. It is the only Heston recipe I have ever made, as I generally consider him to be out of my culinary league… but do not fear, this one really is quite easy.

Pears poached in red wine

You will need a casserole large enough to fit the pears in one layer.

Serves 6-8

8-10 ripe pears (allow 1-2 pears per person depending on their size)

1 bottle red wine

200ml crème de cassis

(NB I didn't have any creme de casis, but I did find a random cherry liqueur in the cupboard that seemed to work very well! If you don't have any appropriate booze, use an extra 100g sugar)

200g sugar

1 cinnamon stick

6 cloves

1 star anise

zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon

Bring the wine to a boil, flame it to reduce some of its acidity and add all the other ingredients.

Meanwhile prepare the pears. Peel them and remove the core so that they will cook evenly the whole way through. To do this, insert the tip of a normal peeler into the base of the pear, just on the edge of the core, push it into the fruit and turning the peeler around the core, cut it out.

The liquid will have cooled down a little. Place the pears side by side and top with a disk of greaseproof paper, the diameter of the pan, with holes pierced in it. Press down slightly so that some of the poaching liquid comes through the holes made in the paper, keeping the pears submerged during the cooking. If the liquid does not cover the pears, add a little water until it does.

Place the casserole back on the heat and bring the liquid to a simmer. As soon as this happens, turn the heat down and cook at a very gentle simmer, just enough to form the odd bubble on the surface of the water.

Cook until the pears are done; you can test this by inserting a small pointed knife into the flesh. If it goes in with little resistance, they are ready. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool. When cold, carefully transfer the fruit to a sealable container. If you have added some extra water now reduce the liquid to the required consistency and taste.

Pour the liquid over the pears in their container and store in the fridge for at least one day. The pears will keep for a week in the poaching liquid. Serve hot or cold and adjust the consistency of the liquid as required.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Caramelised Garlic Tart with Chargrilled Asparagus and Courgette Salad

Last week there was a birthday in the Keston Kitchen. One of the gifts we bought for Charlotte was the new Ottlenghi book (Plenty) and so it was only fitting that the celebratory meal followed the Ottolenghi theme.

Some of the recipes from Plenty were published in a little booklet that came with the Observer a few months ago and a dish that we had not tried out yet was a tart of caramelised garlic and goats cheese. Julia suggested a delicious looking asparagus, courgette and manori salad to accompany it (minus the manori as this meal was not short on cheese already).

I blind baked the pastry crust and roasted the tomatoes for the salad the evening before but it still took quite a lot of preparation on the night, luckily Matt stepped up and chargrilled all the asparagus and courgettes and the hungry guests were tucking into Julia's wonderful starter of smoked salmon pate while the tart was cooking.

I also made a few individual tarts with spelt flour short crust pastry (low gluten) and although it didn't go quite as well with the flavours of the filling as the puff pastry, Becca, Charl's sister enjoyed it and the leftover spelt flour tarts were polished off by everyone else.

As with most Ottolenghi recipes it was time consuming to make but the extra effort was definitely worth it when it came to the results!

Caramalised Garlic Tart

This recipe says it serves 8 people but it is so good it could easily be finished off by 6 people in our household

375g all-butter puff pastry

3 whole heads of garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

220ml water

3/4 tbsp caster sugar

1tsp chopped thyme (plus a few whole sprigs to finish)

salt and black pepper

120g soft, creamy goats cheese

120g, hard, mature goats cheese

2 free range eggs

100ml double cream

100ml creme fraiche

Roll out the chilled pastry into a circle that will line the bottom and sides of a shallow, loose bottomed 28cm tart tin. Line the tin with pastry and then place a circle of greaseproof paper on the bottom and fill with baking beans. Leave to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Blind bake the case for 20 minutes, remove the beans and paper before baking for 5-10 minutes more, until golden. Set aside.

Meanwhile, make the caramalised garlic. Separate and peel all the cloves, put them in a small pan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer, blanch for 3 minutes and drain. Dry the pan, return the garlic to it along with the oil and fry on a high heat for 2 minutes. Add the vinegar and water, bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, chopped herbs and 1/4 tsp salt, and simmer for 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the cloves are coated in dark syrup.

Break the goats cheese into pieces and scatter in the tart case. Spoon the garlic and syrup evenly over the cheese. Whisk the eggs, creams, half a tsp of salt and some black pepper, then pour over the garlic mix, filling any gaps and making sure the garlic and cheese peep over the top.

Turn the oven to 160C/gas mark 3 and bake the tart for 35-45 minutes, until the filling has set and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little. Take the tart out of its tin and lay a few sprigs of thyme on the top before serving.

Chargrilled Asparagus and Courgette Salad

The below ingredients serve 4-6 people


350g cherry tomatoes, halved

140ml olive oil

24 asparagus spears

2 courgettes

25g rocket

Course sea salt and black pepper

Basil Oil:

75ml olive oil

1 garlic clove, chopped

25g basil leaves

a pinch of salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Start by preparing the tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. Mix the tomatoes with 3 tbsp of olive oil and season with some salt and pepper. Spread the out on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, skin side down. Roast in the oven for 50 minutes or until semi-dried. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Trim the woody base of the asparagus and blanch for 4 minutes in plenty of boiling water. Drain and refresh under cold water, making sure the spears are completely cold. Drain well again, then transfer to a mixing bowl and toss with 2 tbsp of the remaining oil and some salt and pepper.

Slice the courgettes very thinly lengthwise, using a mandolin or vegetable peeler. Mix with 1 tsbp of the olive oil and some salt and pepper.

Place a ridged griddle pan on a high heat and leave there for a few minutes. It should be very hot. grill the courgettes and asparagus, turning them over after about a minute. You want to get nice char marks on all sides. Remove and leave to cool.

To make the basil oil, blitz all the ingredients in a blender until smooth.

To assemble, arrange the rocket, vegetables and cheese in layers on a flat serving plate. Build the salad up whilst showing all the individual components. Drizzle with as much basil oil as you like and serve.

Best enjoyed around halloween - with all the garlic it is guaranteed to keep any vampires at bay!

Happy Birthday Charlotte

Rachael x

Monday, 25 October 2010

Sweet Autumn Fennel

Sweet Autumn Fennel by Charlotte

Fennel is a top ingredient that should not be confused with celery (for those of you who are strongly against the long stringy stuff). The first time I tried fennel was in Italy, eaten raw and dipped in oil with salt and pepper, which I highly recommend. Last year we had a spate of making a roasted fennel and chestnut side dish - this is also a great dish and in season right now. Maybe go for peeled chestnuts as peeling lots can really test your willpower.

This recipe is taken and adapted from the first Ottolenghi cookbook and has been made twice and tried and tested by lots of friends, who expect a good spread when they come round. Instead of making it in one large baking dish I opted for small ramekins as both occasions were a wee bit special and I decided individual pots were in order. 

Serves 10
4 fennel bulbs
3 tbsp olive oil
Sprigs of thyme, about 6
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp black pepper
200ml whipping cream
100g Parmesan, grated
300g cherry tomatoes, tasty ones
Crumble top:
100g plain flour
2 heaped tbsp golden caster sugar
65g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

- Mix the flour and sugar and rub in the butter to make a crumble topping.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Trim the fennel and slice into  small pieces, place in a bowl with the olive oil thyme leaves, garlic, salt and pepper and mix together.
- Put a small amount in each ramekin, divide the cream and pour over the fennel in the 10 ramekins.
- Mix the crumble topping with the grated Parmesan and sprinkle over the fennel.
- Cover each ramekin with foil and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes.
- Remove the foil, arrange 3-4 tomatoes on the top of each ramekin and bake for a further 15 minutes. 

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

On location: Sicily

What's Sicily eating? by Charlotte

A comprehensive list of food eaten (by two) in Sicily over two weeks. 

Round focaccia with lard, innards, ricotta and Parmesan - a little greasy  for some.
Round focaccia with ricotta and Parmesan - delightfully light ricotta.
Mixed plate of caponata, fried cheese, good olives, cheese, bread - caponata is the best thing.
Le sarde - fried sardines with curry sauce - unexpected liking for curry.
Seabass rolled (rotolini) and stuffed with tomatoes, basil and capers - real good.
Fig semifreddo - ice cream cake slice with sponge base and caramelised fig sauce - yes yes yes.
Menu del giorno lunch (after much walking and viewing of catacombs, i.e. very hungry)
Ragu al miale, aka pork bolognese - tasty and plentiful.
Pasta with anchovies - salty fish and pasta al dente feast.
Veal and chips - top dog.
Salty pork meatballs - they like salt. 
Insalata verde, green salad, literally sliced iceberg - an unexpectedly popular lettuce in the city of Palermo.
Caponata - best I've had.
Brik, a pancake starter stuffed with tuna and capers and then deep fried - a bit try hard...
Calamari with sweet chilli sauce - not chewy, just perfect.
8 gamberone rossi (large red prawns) - truly meaty seafood, could have eaten 16.
Sicilian blancmange - pannacotta wins over this.

Beach lunch
Hot piadine filled with prosciutto crudo and mozzarella.
Mixed salad, mainly tuna - it was late, suspect they were low on other ingredients, Omega oils for the whole trip obtained.
Menu Turistica (dinner)
Casserecci pasta - extruded 's' shape, al dente and superb.
Fritto misto - always good.
La Botte in Parco delle Madonie (hills behind Cefalù) (lunch)
Insalata snob, salad with olives, artichoke, tomatoes, lettuce, fat parmesan shavings, mushrooms - anything with artichoke is good.
La Botte sandwich of cheese, prosciutto and rocket.
Dinner in Cefalù
Pizza Norma, with aubergine - ok, nothing to shout about.
Pizza Rustica, with anchovies - ditto.
Train lunch
Sandwich of cheese and prosciutto - cheese was squeaky like halloumi.

Aubergine rolls, mushrooms stuffed with spinach and cheese, patatas bravas, tortilla.
Piatto del mare - gamberone rossi, muscles, calamari, battered fish, salmon pate - great bar/restaurant, Lola writes a blog too - Sicilian Diary
Breakfast on boat to the Eolian islands
Pan ciok, large croissant pastry packed with chocolate pieces.

Beach lunch
Arancini - street food, deep fried rice balls stuffed with aubergine, spinach, bolognese, cheese etc. - Matt wasn't a fan. I am.
Bar Ingrid (breakfast & drinks)
With beautiful views, good coffee and delicious pastries (large gooey fig centered biscuit pastry yes please), necessary after a volcanic hike.

Il Trocadero (dinner)
Rustica platter of local cheeses, meats and olives.
Piglia e fieno, pasta with prosciutto, mushrooms and cream - nice.
Napolitana pizza - in Matt's words - sloppy.
Beach lunch 
Grilled vegetables - top dollar.
Evening drink - latte di mandorla (on all bar/gelateria signs) - sweet! too sweet!
Three types of olive oil; light from Catania; medium from Etna; strong from Ragusa - all good, think the light was preferred although the waiter misunderstood and only left the strong.
Spaghetti with tuna, bottarga and cherry tomatoes.
Calamari, mushrooms and pigs cheek cooked in masala wine - on my goodness, amazing.
Salad of fennel, orange, olives, red onion - best salad ever? I think yes.
Train station (lunch) 
Italian Ginsters lunch of pastry filled with mozzarella, prosciutto, tomatoes and olives - pretty good for a train station.

Trattoria Caico (in San Leone) (dinner)
Fillet of beef with Nero d'avola sauce - it had the look of Satan's dinner (it was basically black in colour).
Swordfish, grilled and served with lime - meaty and satisfying.
Breakfast - croissants with a light cream filling, sweet and delicious.
Best find in Agrigento serving food with a hint of north Africa.
Spaghetti with sardines, spices and sultanas - really tasty and lots of it.
Pennette with sausage and broccoli, a typical dish but with spices and sultanas - a favourite of the trip.
Pastries from Santo Spirito - made by the nuns(!) A mix of mini pastries and biscuits made with almonds, marzipan and pistachio nuts. 

Divino Rosso (dinner)
Pizza + chips + beer - best pizza we found in Sicily.
Danzibar Pasticceria (breakfast)
An 'Iris', a crispy, sugar coated doughnut stuffed with warm ricotta and chocolate - a succulent treat with hints of a cheesecake...
L'antica de Gaetano (lunch)
Chicken meatballs with a caper and tomato salsa - just perfect.
Orechiette pasta with prosciutto, mushrooms and cream - a brilliant pasta with interesting markings.
Street food snack - chestnuts smoked and salted - yum!
Brilliant local wines and bar treats, including pesto Trapanese (tomato, basil and almonds); small fish; pistachio pesto; tuna and orange pate; sun dried tomato pate.
Trattoria Garibaldi (dinner)
Fritto misto - not the best.
Red mullet - a little fishy...
Putanesca salad of potatoes, tomatoes, onion, capers and oregano - top salad.
Danzibar Pasticceria (breakfast)
Chocolate croissant - the last of many.
Sweet bread like brioche with a sausage inside - woo!

Monday, 27 September 2010

1 Carrot, 3 Ways

By Ceri x

1 Carrot, 3 ways began when my friend, Paul came to see me earlier this month. He appeared at my door with a somewhat theatrical flourish (he is an actor, so to be expected) announcing 'Wade, I have brought you a Carrot!'. As I turned around to see quite what he was talking about I realised he really wasn't kidding.

What followed was immense excitement in the Keston Kitchen household, as Paul had brought me literally the biggest Carrot I have EVER seen in my life and probably ever will again. He had been round to visit his friend Mark who lives close to us in London. Mark's Father is a prize winning vegetable grower so he had a lot of the left over vegetables just knocking around the house. He kindly donated a couple of items to Paul who knew that one way to impress the Keston ladies would be to bring us prize winning giant vegetables- it worked! I literally ran around to Jules' and Charlotte's rooms brandishing the giant Carrot, much to their delight.

That weekend was the first one I had been free just to potter around the kitchen since June. As much as I love them, the festivals of the Summer had kept me away from any culinary adventures (bar the crew food, which is often a different type of adventure!), so I decided to make the most of it. Saturday was spent on the first 2 recipes and Sunday was spent cooking a 2 bird uber roast (the first of a long roasting season) for 9 other South East London based friends and roast dinner fans. I had a brilliant weekend!

After peeling and top and tailing, I got 600 g of Carrot so I wanted to put it to as many uses as I could. The first of which is the tried and tested Carrot Cake recipe by Delia. It is one of my favourites and one of the most deliciously moist carrot cakes going. This is partially down to the inclusion of the sunflower oil instead of the use of butter, which means it's good if you are watching your waistline too.

Delia's Low Fat and Incredibly Moist Carrot Cake


6 oz (175 g) dark brown soft sugar, sifted

2 Large eggs at room temperature

4 fl oz (120 ml) sunflower oil)

7 oz (200 g) wholemeal self-raising flour

1½ level teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

3 rounded teaspoons mixed spice

Grated zest 1 orange

7 oz (200 g, I actually used 300g just because I could) carrots, peeled and coarsely grated

6 oz (175 g) sultanas

For the topping:

9 oz (250 g) Quark (skimmed-milk soft cheese- philadelphia or own brand works just as well, just make sure you don't buy the garlic and herb version!)

¾ oz (20 g) caster sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus a little extra for dusting

For the syrup glaze: juice ½ small orange

1 dessertspoon lemon juice

1½ oz (40 g) dark brown soft sugar

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C).


You will also need a non-stick oblong cake tin measuring 6½ x 10 inches (16 x 25.5 cm), top measurement 7 x 10½ inches (18 x 26.5 cm),1½ inches (4 cm) deep, the base lined with silicone paper (parchment).


Begin by whisking the 6 oz (175 g) sugar, eggs and oil together in a bowl using an electric hand whisk for 2-3 minutes.

Then sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and the mixed spice into the bowl, tipping in all the bits of bran that are left in the sieve.

Now stir all this together, then fold in the orange zest, carrots and sultanas. After that pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 35-40 minutes, until it is well risen and feels firm and springy to the touch when lightly pressed in the centre.

While the cake is cooking, make the topping by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl until light and fluffy, then cover with clingfilm and chill for 1-2 hours or until needed. Now you need to make the syrup glaze, and to do this whisk together the fruit juices and sugar in a bowl.

Then, when the cake comes out of the oven, stab it all over with a skewer and quickly spoon the syrup over as evenly as possible. Now leave the cake on one side to cool in the tin, during which time the syrup will be absorbed.

Then, when the cake is completely cold, remove it from the tin, spread the topping over, cut it into 12 squares and dust with a little more cinnamon.

The results are usually very well recieved, delicious and tasty. Here is my version which I served up after the Sunday Roast.

A Spiced and Spicy Carrot, Apple and Tomato Chutney

The second idea I had for a recipe also incorporated the other present Paul bought me that day which was a bag of ripe and fast over- ripening tomatoes, also from the prize winning vegetable grower. Autumn in the Keston Kitchen is often a Chutney making affair. In fact, one of the plus points to the other girls for me moving in around 18 months ago was the fact that I was bringing my very large pan that is perfect for such events. I couldn't agree more and thought it was time to have a proper go at this and tomatoes that needed using quickly lent themselves very appropriately to the cause. I couldn't find a good recipe for Carrot and Tomato Chutney, so I did what I enjoy doing most which was looking at a few recipes and having a go at freestyling. My base recipe was from Rachel Allen on the Good Food website (which is a fantastic resource for a quick search for recipe ideas). It appealed to me as it was simple and looked tasty. I came up with the following based on that.


  • 1 kg ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 200 g onions, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 300 g roughly grated carrot
  • 1 large red chilli
  • 100 g raisins or sultanas
  • 250 g cooking apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 300 g sugar
  • 225 ml vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper


1. Place all the ingredients in a large stainless steel saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved completely.

2. Bring to the boil, stirring, then simmer on a low heat, stirring regularly (to make sure the mixture does not burn on the bottom of the pan) for about 1 - 2 hours or until thick and pulpy. The chutney is cooked properly when you can draw your wooden spatula across the bottom of the pan and the two sides created take a short time to come back together.

3. Pour into hot sterilised jars and cover. To sterilise, you need to boil the jars for approx 10 mins and then dry in a heated oven.

4. The Chutney is best left to mature for 4-8 weeks before eating if possible. And in which event, I am yet to taste my Chutney, but I will report back once I have done so. You can guarantee I will be using it to it's best effect with some West Country cheddar and some crusty granary bread with a nice glass of red wine :)

Carrot + Paul

So what of the 3rd way? Well after a cake for 12 people and 5 jars of Chutney, The Carrot had given as much as it could give. I made honey boiled Chantenay carrots with butter and black pepper to serve with the Roast dinner, which I know is a little bit of a cheat, but I really don't mind, so I hope you don't either. Thanks to Paul for genuinely one of my favourite culinary presents I have ever recieved and to all my carrot tasting friends, which has so far involved 10 of us in total, and potentially a lot more once the Chutney has been dished out. I have to say, I enjoyed getting back in the kitchen and working out my carrot based kitchen endeavours. This post has been fun! I'm definitely embracing the Autumn.