Category Archives: Vegetarian

Camping, with asparagus


Camping. The great divider. It’s a bit like liver, in that as many people hate it as love it (and it’s best not overdone). But either way, If you’re going to do it, then there’s really only one way to do it (apart from briefly) and that’s to steer totally clear of organised campsites, teepees, yurts and any other half-arsed modern equivalent of the form.
A tent, a fire, food and drink – that’s really all you need.

In la la land.

Sadly, in the real world and with three kids you need a car full of crap including, but not limited to, iPods, iPads, iPhones, chargers, crisps, chocolates, books, magazines, pillows, sleeping bags, bags full of clothes (enough for a week in my daughter’s case), a barbeque, coals, lighter fluid, torches, kitchen roll, about four plastic bags (the ones that take 1,000 years to decompose) of food from the supermarket, waterproofs and plenty of beer, wine and any other alcohol you can get your hands on to get you through hour upon hour of cold, dark nighttime.

And if that doesn’t put you off, and you still plan on doing it, at least make sure you eat well when you’re sitting in your fold-up chairs that you picked up at the service station and that will just about last the weekend if you’re lucky. Here are a few ideas that seemed to go down pretty well:

Char grilled asparagus

Get a bunch of asparagus, rub generously with salt, pepper and lots of olive oil. Stick it on the barbeque. Cook it.

Spicy chicken

Get a load of chicken pieces, rub generously with a mixture of the following (that you can make in advance and bring with you in a jar): three cardamom pods, two star anise, two tablespoons of cumin seeds, coriander seeds and sea salt, one tablespoon of peppercorns, fennel seeds, and half a cinnamon stick, all ground into a powder. Stick them on the barbeque. Cook them.

Grilled pineapple

Get a pineapple. Peel it and cut it into thick slices. Stick them on the barbeque. Cook them.

Eynsham Lock


Rhubarb compote

I have my father to thank for this one (and my ex wife who let me steal the rhubarb from her garden…)

It’s a great way to use up fruit and it makes a better breakfast than most (t’s also surprisingly good when you get back from the pub). And it means you can stick two fingers up at Pret a Manger who’ll try to charge you £3 for the same thing.

Rhubarb and Banana Compote

If this takes longer than eight minutes to prepare, you need help.

Cut up your rhubarb stalks into chunks and put in a large saucepan with a few tablespoons of caster sugar (vanilla caster sugar if you have some prepared). Throw in a few tablespoons of water and a star anise, then heat gently until the rhubarb starts to break down just a little, stirring regularly. Chuck in a sliced banana and continue to cook for just another minute and take off the heat. There should still be plenty of pieces of rhubarb just holding their form.

Let the whole lot cool down and stick it in a container in the fridge – it will do you for at least a week. Serve it with yoghurt and a little mint, and a couple of spoonfuls of granola if you’re feeling adventurous.

Thinking about it – it would be the perfect base for a rhubarb martini too – give it a try (maybe without the banana and yoghurt…)

Wheaty me

Fruit bread

It’s snowing.

It’s bloody March 23rd and it’s snowing.

I have a 270km bike race in four weeks and I’ve been on Old Red twice since Jan. And it’s snowing.

I know it’s an idiotic exercise to use this as evidence to attack the general understanding that the planet is warming up, but I’ve had enough – I’m going to write a puerile letter to the Daily Mail and have a rant. Along with the other idiots.

Anyway, while I enjoyed being wheat-free-me for a month, I found myself this morning with time on my hands (given the lack of other options, due the fact that it’s snowing) along with a jar full of dried fruit and a mind to experiment, so it was time to throw off the anti-gluten shackles.

Fruit loaf

I don’t really know if this is a real recipe, but it really worked for me, so I’d recommend it. Here’s how it goes:

Mix about 300g of good quality organic wholemeal flour with yeast, a few tablespoons of caster suger, milk and yoghurt, in quantities that will give a dough of good kneading consistency. then add a few handfuls of dried fruit and almonds – I used sultanas, rasins and dates. Once you have kneaded for ten minutes, put the dough back into the mixing bowl covered with cling-film and leave to prove in a warm place for at least three hours. Once proved, set the oven to maximum heat, reform the dough into your preferred loaf shape and place it on your baking sheet. Score the top, dust it with flour and cover it again with the cling-film. Once the oven has heated up, the bread will have completed its second prove. Chuck it in the oven along with a glass of boiling water (just throw the water into the bottom of the oven) and close the door quickly. After about 10 minutes, throw it another glass of boiling water, and after thirty five minutes, the bread should be perfect…

Best served toasted with lots of butter – it’s a bit like a cross between bread and pannetone. Bene.

Wheat-free me

Or fad at the weekend perhaps? I hope not…

Thanks for the photo Sally

Those of you who know me will be familiar with a florid range of rather unattractive nasal challenges that I seem to have to deal with on an almost daily basis. It’s always been like this, from waking up every morning as a teenager at school adorned with other people’s pillows, shoes, books, porn mags (in fact, anything to hand that they could throw at me in the middle of the night to curtail my incessant snorting), to (as I found out recently) whole swathes of staff and colleagues at EMI and News International over the last 10 years firmly believing I had a nasty habit (I don’t. I mean, I do have plenty of nasty habits, but none that make me sniff incessantly).

And without getting into too much detail, I have, from time to time over the course of my life, taken a variety steps to try to do something about this socially debilitating affliction but to no avail – making me slowly but surely come to the conclusion that I must accept my fate as a terminally snotty man.

So, while chatting to a friend of mine a few days ago and answering the question that I get asked on a pretty regular basis: “why do you seem to have a constant cold?”, it dawned on me that I really needed to sort this once and for all. And as luck would have it, it turned out that she had an approach that could indeed help me. Not with surgery or medication, but by removing certain things from my diet and making a few other simple life changes. Never one to shy away from a challenge I thought I’d give it a go – and as I journey through the process, I’m going to bore you lot with all the details – a problem shared and all that…

These are the instructions that she gave me:

1.       Nutrition – no grains, no wheat, no gluten, no dairy, no legumes, no sugar. So for 2 weeks your diet will be made up of good wholesome natural foods: meat, fish, eggs, veg, seeds, nuts and limited fruit (1 piece a day max) Make sure you have protein with every meal (protein shakes are a good snack) and try to get your carbs from green veg (kale is amazing as is broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts) Sweet potato is a great source of starchy carbs and as you’re burning lots of calories cycling you might want to make sure you add these to your diet.

2.       Probiotic – healing the gut is key to good health. Here’s one I recommend. Its great value.

There are other things I have to do, but they are less relevant to a food blog, and to be honest, they will probably put you off eating for a good day or two, so I shall omit them for now.

Day one started badly, as I nipped into the supermarket to grab some provisions for breakfast and lunch, and went to pick up things that I might normally grab for a quick bite at work:

  • porridge – nope
  • yoghurt – naha
  • bacon sarnie – nein
  • falafel wrap – non
  • pasta salad – no way
  • bean salad – no
  • croissant – no
  • bagel – no
  • cappucino – no

and on and on and on.

So I end up with a bag of apples, dried mango, fruit juice, a bag of nuts and a crappy salmon salad. Feels like I need more practice…(oh and it cost ten times as much as the croissant)

I had a better start this morning – a cup of coffee and half a smoked mackerel. Most painful though is that I baked this for the kids and can’t even have a mouthful – it’s a sight that I am going to see far less off for some time…

More to come (and I might even post some new recipes up here too – that would be novel).

Bread I'm not allowed to eat

Thanks to Caroline, who’s training to be a nutritionist and who pointed me in the right direction…
(and thanks for the photo Sally)

Bread. Perfected.

Jalapeno and olive bread

Ok – ignore any previous posts about how to make bread. I really do think I have it now. And if I’m honest, some of the advice I gave in the past is dubious, and should now be superseded by this latest and not to be beaten advice…

Olive and Jalapeno bread

So here’s how to make the perfect loaf: Start with about 500g of a really good flour – I use a mix of stoneground strong malted blend flour and standard organic wholemeal flour. Add a few table spoons of dried yeast, and a equal amount of good sea salt, then a few decent glugs of good olive or rapeseed oil and a couple of glasses of cold water. Mix it together adding water or flour as required to end up with a dough that is slightly sticky to the touch, but can still be kneaded for at least 10 minutes (I use use a mixer with a bread hook, but I expect it’s even better done by hand)

Now leave the bread in a large bowl covered in cling film (I realise now that you don’t need damp teatowels) in the oven at less than 50c for as long as you can bear – at least an hour and a half but two hours would be even better. This is your first proving – it should at least double in size.

Now roughly chop green olives and jalapenos and mix them well into the bread. Don’t worry that you’re knocking all the air out of the bread – it will come back. You can also add a good couple of handfuls of grated gruyere at this point if you like (in fact, do – it really works well – especially if you’re going to toast the bread).

Now set the oven to its hottest and form the bread into a loaf – I like a round boule, but really you can do whatever you like – just make sure that you put a few scores in the top, sprinkle over some flour, place it on top of the warming oven and cover again in cling film.

When the oven has reached its hottest temperature (usually after about 30 mins) your bread will have completed its second proving and will be ready to bake. Place it in the oven along with a glass full of boiling water, thrown into the oven shutting the door immediately (try to hold on to the glass).

After about 10 minutes, chuck in another glass of boiling water, and another after 20 mins. If you made a single large loaf, it will be ready after 35 mins. If you made smaller loaves then they will be ready faster.

That’s it. The best yet.
And no blabbing on about other things. A simple post about food. Who would have thought?