Friday, 14 November 2014

Sous vide by Victoria Glass

A couple of years ago my friend and fellow caterer gave herself the mammoth task of cooking the entire alphabet over the course of 12 months. Each supper club had a designated letter and every fortnight Vic and her partner invited a varied selection of like-minded gluttons into their home for bacchanalian feasts that sometimes had as many as 13 courses. Let's just say she likes to cook. She likes to feed people. She likes people to be happy.

So when I received an email stating that she was cooking an entire meal in the sous vide and would I like to attend I pretty much cleared my diary. As a chef I've cooked in a sous vide before but it's honestly not an instrument I've used a lot. Each item is carefully vacuum packed or wrapped and then submerged into the water bath to be cooked at a very precise temperature. The results are astounding. Vegetables taste as vibrant and fresh as if they were raw, meat cooks evenly from end to end and turns into an almost butter like texture, and the texture of fish changes completely until you get an almost cevicche texture with a piercing fresh flavour..

Now I'm going to be honest here, while I love the flavours and textures produced by the sous vide this is not a method of cooking that is ideal for the home due to a certain level of hassle.  As mentioned there's the wrapping and you still have to seal/brown the meat if you want it to have that lovely crisp texture on the outside. I think if you were cooking one element in the machine for a dinner party it would be fine, but the challenge here was to cook everything. And this led to time constraints that wouldn't be necessary under less contrived circumstances. That was fine for us guests through, we all got on famously and we had plenty of wine to get through and even had some indoor fireworks to play with, what with it being bonfire weekend.

It was a Sunday Lunch. Naturally I got home just before midnight!

The menu was divine.  Our hostess is a heavenly cook, and can match flavours better than anyone I know. She really outdid herself here. I think if there was any weak element for me it would be the starter, a game bird terrine that somehow lacked the coherent textures I was expecting. The ham that was used to line the terrine still retained an oddly raw texture as a result of the sous vide procedure. The flavours however were delicious.

The main course is where the fireworks really started. The most succulent piece of pork belly I've ever tasted was served with a toffee apple, liquid smoke fondant potato, smoked garlic and pumpkin puree and kale. All lightly covered with a pork and port gravy that looked like velvet and tasted like ambrosia.

And the finale? Well I'm just going to describe it you. I think the ingredients say it all. Bonfire toffee, rum and ginger creme caramel using the sous vide machine as a precise bain marie. Creme caramel is my favourite dessert in the world, and since I've now shamelessly stolen her recipe this is the one I shall make forever more.



Sous Vide Bonfire Menu

Milli Taylor's spinach, fennel and cumin ricotta cakes 
from her new book, Party-perfect Bites.

Game Bird Terrine: pheasant, pigeon, partridge and guinea fowl 
(Apparently James I couldn't be contacted immediately about 
the gunpowder plot because he was off on a shoot!)

Pork belly served with toffee apple, liquid smoke fondant potato, 
smoked garlic and pumpkin puree, kale and pork and port gravy

Bonfire toffee, rum and ginger creme caramel


Milli's lovely spinach, fennel and cumin ricotta cakes.
Served with a glass of sparkly, naturally.
Game bird terrine

Pork belly served with toffee apple, liquid smoke fondant potato,
smoked garlic and pumpkin puree,
kale and pork and port gravy

Bonfire toffee, rum and ginger creme caramel
with dessert wine


Thursday, 13 November 2014

Perk up juice



I used to juice regularly but I somehow got out of the habit. I think I just got into blended smoothies a little more. But right now I'm trying to be as healthy as I can so I've gone back to using my juicer as a snack machine. By this I simply mean that I eat as healthier as I can across every single meal but rather than reaching for carb based snacks I'll opt of a juice. 

They are of course naturally very high in sugar so you have to be careful of your intake, but as an alternative to a couple of slices of toast, a cliff bar or (heaven forfend) a snickers, these are a great way of staving off your hunger with something sweet between meals at the same time as counting towards your 5-10 a day.

My afternoon pick me up tends to be this juice. The beetroot and apple add vitamin C, among other things, while the lettuce and celery bring an abundance of dietary fibre and also Vitamins A,C and K. The beetroot and apple lends a sweetness that stave off my chocolate cravings but the earthy flavour of the lettuce and celery balance it out so after you've drunk it you almost feel like you've had a meal. 

I love this juice.

  • 1 x juicer
  • 1 x glass
  • 1 x beetroot
  • 1 x apple
  • 1 x stick celery
  • 1 x romaine heart 

  1. Juice
  2. Pour
  3. Drink





Wednesday, 12 November 2014

All hail kale!


I'm having a bit of a love affair with kale at the moment. Those lovely thick, springy leaves offer so much in terms of health benefits, packed as they are with vitamins A, K and C, calcium, not to mention folic acid, magnesium and iron. And it's virtually fat free with a very low calorific content.

It's a powerhouse of a vegetable, it comes in many different forms, (curly, plain leaf, cavolo negro, purple, or spear) but the humble winter harvested brassica still has a bit of a bad rep. Despite all this good stuff it's too often associated with soggy, waterlogged leaves served in the deepest of winters, when everything else has given up the ghost. 

Such a shame, as it's just so versatile. Recently I've been using it raw in smoothies, or lightly blanched in salads but it can also be fried up all crispy with pork (think crispy seaweed), served with cream as a side dish, or added to dishes such as fish cakes, pies, risottos, curries, or omelettes. The irony tang goes exceptionally well with fish, bacon, goat's cheese, and pine nuts. 

This light salad is so quick and easy to prepare. I regularly roast a couple of chicken breasts to have with it or crisp up some pancetta to run through the salad. The dressing I use here is a very simple mix of shop bought mayonnaise, with a dash of white wine vinegar and sugar. It's also delicious with a homemade french vinaigrette or a caesar dressing. I'm a firm believer that there is a time and a place for hand made mayonnaise but a mid week, quick lunch is not one of them.

Cavolo negro, black bean and pine nut salad
  • 400g roughly shredded cavolo negro leaves
  • 150g black beans (ready to use not dry)
  • 50g pine nuts, toasted
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 stick celery, finely diced
  • 1 inch or cucumber, finely sliced
For the dressing
  • 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped dill

  1. Blanch the shredded kale in boiling water for approximately 5 minutes (until it has an al dente bite), drain and immediately plunge into ice cold water to stop it from cooking further. Then drain and squeeze any excess water out of the leaves.
  2. In a clean jam jar add all your dressing ingredients, screw on the lid and mix well by shaking the jar.
  3. Mix all the salad ingredients in a large bowl with the dressing.



Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Yorkshire parkin

It's Autumn, the leaves are falling, the smell of burning wood is in the air and you need some warming tlc. As a Yorkshirewoman this next recipe is very close to my heart. I remember eating it on a cold damp Bonfire Night. Tucking into it with a cup of tea at my Grandma's house, as a school dessert with custard and just as a general treat. But almost exclusively in November.

There are many different recipes around for this traditional cake. Some contain oats, some contain treacle. There's another recipe on this very blog for a parkin biscuit that is traditional in Yorkshire, but in other parts of the country might be referred to as ginger bread or ginger biscuit.



This is my Grandma's recipe that I've tweaked here and there over the years (sorry Grandma). I like to make this in a loaf and then use it as a treat after long runs through the hills. The fabulous thing about it is that it matures with age so you don't have to worry about eating it all within 2 days. Perfect if there isn't a huge family waiting to swarm over it the minute it is out of the oven. Just wrap it in greaseproof paper once it's cold and you'll find that after 3-4 days you have a lovely sticky ginger cake that acts as the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.
  • 220g/8oz self raising flour
  • 220g/8oz pale muscovado sugar
  • 85g/3oz unsalted butter
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 200ml/7fl oz milk
  • 60g/2oz golden syrup
  • 60g/2oz black treacle
  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Line a 2lb loaf tin
  2. Sift the flour, ginger, salt and bicarb into a large bowl
  3. Melt the butter, sugar, syrup and treacle in a small pan
  4. Beat the egg and milk together
  5. Pour the melted butter and syrup into the dry ingredients and slowly combine until smooth and thick
  6. Gently stir in the milk and egg mixture and pour the fully combined batter into the lined tin
  7. Bake for 1 hour or until the cake skewer is clean






Monday, 13 October 2014

Courgette, lemongrass and coconut soup


Back in September you may remember I had rather a lot of courgettes, thanks to the generosity of a close friend. Well, basically she waltzed off on holiday and promised em free veg in return for picking her allotment while she was away. Win! This beautiful creamy soup is a fabulous way of cooking courgettes. It's certainly not authentic thai but the fragrant lemongrass and coconut adds a lovely south east Asian taste. I serve it with lightly fried strips of very spicy red peppers but it's fair to say I do like my food to have a nice healthy kick. It's just as nice with a hunk of bread or lightly sautéed strips of fresh courgette to add texture.

I got this recipe originally from my old head chef and it's fair to say he'd be utterly mortified about the addition of coconut milk. But hey, my adaptation, The fact that it is coconut milk means that despite the extreme creamy texture it's also vegan and non-dairy.

  • 500g courgette, roughly chopped
  • 200g runner beans, roughly chopped
  • 3 sticks lemon grass, roughly chopped
  • 400g can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1tblsp ground nut oil
  • salt to taste
  1. In a large deep pan sauté the courgettes, lemongrass and runner beans until softened and just starting to turn golden
  2. Add the whole can of coconut milk to the pan, mix in and then lightly simmer on a low heat for approximately 15-20 mins until the vegetables are completely soft. Leave to cool for 10-15 mins then blitz (in either a jug liquidiser or food processor) until completely smooth
  3. Pass the smooth liquid through a fine sieve to get rid of any fibrous and woody bits of lemon grass then bring to a slow simmer on a low heat. Serve as desired.


Thursday, 2 October 2014

Lemon drizzle cake


Is there anything finer than a really rich, moist lemon cake? This is the perfect place to start if you are not a confident baker. A straight forward sponge cake with the heady aroma of lemons that can't fail. The recipe below suggests a loaf tin but it is just as lovely as a square or round cake or as little fairy cakes.


  • 110g/4oz butter
  • 170g/6oz caster sugar
  • 170g, 6oz self raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 80ml milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 110g/4oz icing sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/gas 4 and line a 2lb / 900g loaf tin
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy
  3. Add eggs one by one and beat until completely incorporated and smooth. In between each egg beat in a tablespoon or so of flour. This just prevents the mixture from splitting and you'll get a smoother batter
  4. Slowly fold in the rest of the flour, baking powder and the lemon zest and again, beat until smooth and fluffy looking.  
  5. Carefully stir in the milk and once smooth pour the batter into the lined tin. Bake for 35-40 mins or until the cake skewer is clean
  6. Sift the icing sugar into the pan and stir in the lemon juice over a medium heat until you have a smooth syrup
  7. Once cooked remove the cake from the oven but leave it in it's tin. Pierce the top all over and pour the lemon syrup until it covers the top. Leave the cake in the tin to cool.










Friday, 26 September 2014

Southern Fried Chicken

Got any weekend plans? Well here at Really Hungry we like to relax on a Friday evening. And our favourite way is with chicken. Normally chicken wings, chips, ketchup and a cup of tea but occasionally we go a bundle and treat ourselves to something new.

Now this next recipe is pretty much the finest chicken I've ever made. I think the original recipe came from a book my old head chef used by a gentleman called Kenny McGovern. Mr McGovern suffers/suffered from agoraphobia. I think. Anyway the point is it wasn't my book and I glanced at it once last year but this chap had gone out of his way to recreate all his favourite fast food treats from the comfort of his internet shopping and his own kitchen. I never wrote down the recipe so this is my best recollection. I've had to tweak it a couple of times but, man alive, I've nailed it now. What can I say, sometimes the best things come to those who play things fast and loose.

So here's a quick and dirty blog, of some quick and dirty chicken. Pop yourself some chips in, get a couple of chilled bottles of beer in your fridge and settle down to some Friday night telly. It's the weekend. Enjoy!



  • 200ml full fat milk
  • 1 egg
  • 10 chicken drumsticks
  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 tsp fenugreek
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 good quality chicken drumsticks
  • 1l sunflower oil


  1. Whisk the egg and the milk together in a large bowl, In a separate large bowl mix together all the dried ingredients
  2. In a large chip pan or a fat fryer heat the oil until it is hot enough to seal the chicken
  3. Now individually coat the drumsticks completely in the egg mix then drop into the dried flour mix and make sure they are completely coated. Place the floured drumstick on a plate and continue until all of them are finished,
  4. Carefully lower the drumsticks into the hot oil one at a time. My pan is big enough to take four pieces comfortably so you need to judge that they aren't too squashed in. Better to do less then too many. Turn the oil right down now and leave to fry for 15 minutes, gradually turning as they fry. If the crumb starts to get too dark the fat is too hot so tweak the temperature dial accordingly. If you have a temperature probe the chicken is cooked when it is golden brown on the outside and 75C on the inside. If you have no probe just remove the chicken and drain on a rack and gently slice to the bone with a knife to make sure the chicken inside is no longer pink.
  5. These drumsticks will hold in an oven of approximately 120C until the remaining chicken is fried.
  6. Serve with chips, ketchup and ice cold beer. Then have ice cream.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Autumn muffins


We are still on the allotment theme today and I've been looking forward to this one a lot. Autumn fruit is one of my favourite things and this year I've got my floured covered mitts on the sweetest allotment grown raspberries you can imagine along with the most perfectly tender little blackberries I think I've ever seen. There are significantly less of them than there were when I picked them a couple of days ago as I've been gorging on them every time I've opened the fridge, but the ones that remain are being put to good use in these muffins with a couple of bramley apples from my friend Tammy's garden.

These are so simple to make and you can substitute pretty much any fruit as long as you use the same weight quantity. But remember to squeeze the grated apple to get rid of all the excess water. I normally just drink it while I'm baking, but have also been known to use it in smoothies.


  •  200g plain flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 150g demerara sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 75g melted butter
  • 1 dash vanilla extract
  • 150g grated apple
  • 80g raspberries
  • 80g blackberries
  • 150ml milk
  • pinch of salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 180C and line a muffin tray with 12 muffin cups
  2. Sift all the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the sugar and mix
  3. Beat the egg, milk and vanilla extract together and fold into the dry mix with the melted butter until you have a smooth, airy cake batter
  4. Carefully fold in the fruit making sure it is well incorporated but not too squashed or broken up
  5. Divide the batter evenly over the 12 muffin cups and bake on 180C for 30-35mins. or until cooked through and lightly golden on top
  6. Cool on a rack






Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Courgette fritters

As a result of overwhelming popular request (1 person asked on Twitter) here's a short photo blog about courgette fritters. Everyone has their own favourite method, this is mine.

Guess who just had courgette fritters for lunch!




1. Slice courgette into strips or discs of even width, season with salt and leave for 5-10 mins




2. Dab away release moisture with a paper towel and season with a sprinkling of cracked black pepper




3. Coat courgette discs in plain flour, then dip in egg, then back into the flour




4. Shallow fry the discs in hot groundnut oil until golden brown. If the discs brown or burn too quickly
just adjust the temperature to allow a slower cook, so the inside of the courgette has time to get tender.




5. Serve sprinkled with salt.


Monday, 15 September 2014

Torta verde

As a result of my recent fortuitous harvest I've been planning meals around courgettes and runner beans. There's a limit to the number of courgette fritters one can consume, although my husband politely asks me to point out that he has not yet found that limit. But this lovely little recipe provides an alternative option that can be served in any number of ways: as either a main course, with a salad; a snack; as a picnic dish or even as delicate little individual tartlettes as a starter.



As I've been picking my friend's allotment for her while she's away I happen to have courgette and beans handy, but this works remarkably well with pretty much any green veg including chard, spinach, brocolli and fennel. 

This is based on a tradtional Ligurian savoury tart, reminiscent of spanakopita. Unlike their Greek cousins the Ligurian version uses an olive pastry in lieu of filo.  This marvelous dough must be about the simplest pastry in the world to make and handle. Try it with whatever you have in your veg garden/salad box/fridge.


Olive pastry
  • 400g/4oz strong flour
  • pinch salt
  • 6tblsp olive oil
  1. Combine everything in a bowl and gradually add a splash of water until all the flour is combined into smooth, firm dough, Cling wrap and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

 For the filling
  • 350g courgette, sliced evenly
  • 150g runner beans, chopped
  • 1 bulb fennel, chopped
  • 50g frozen peas
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • medium bunch basil, chopped
  • 60g arborio rice
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 80g feta cheese, grated
  • 80g parmesan, grated
  1. In a large pan sauté the courgette, fennel, beans, peas, garlic and basil in a splash of olive oil until soft, then roughly blitz in a food processor. Season to taste.
  2. Cut your olive dough in two and thinly roll out half to line a pre-oiled tart tin (ideally one with a removable base). Leave a collar of at least 1cm of pastry round the edge of the tin. Now roll the second half of the pastry out thinly and leave to be used as the lid.
  3. Into your veg mix add your beaten egg, the cheese, the rice and any salt and pepper required to taste. Remember that your cheese is salty, so add this and taste before adding any further seasoning.
  4. Now place the second piece of rolled out pastry over the pie and trim the edges to leave only 1cm of collar round the edge,  Roll this collar in (as on the picture below) and then use your thumb and forefinger to make a crimped edge.
  5. Brush olive oil onto the top of the pie and make 3 small cuts in the top to release the steam and prevent the lid from getting soggy.
  6. Bake on 180C for between 40-50 minutes, until golden brown. To check if it is ready insert a knife into one of the holes to test the rice isn't still too hard.