Tag Archives: James Ramsden

Stolen items from restaurants…

James Ramsden’s article on The Guardian on Tuesday was pretty interesting, and the topic also made it on BBC Breakfast. Items range from the basic napkin to toilet flushers! One of the obvious questions would be: what exactly are you going to do with a toilet flusher? Fixing your loo at home I guess! Apparently people tweet about stealing stuff too. Amazing. This can go under #notonlyinMalta on Twitter. If you’re interested, you can find the article here. To read Jamie’s interview to the Radio Times click here.

Rob x

Summer companions.

Feta-Chickpea-and-Spinach-Salad-(5965)Just before the summer months, here in the UK a.k.a. the non-existent one, I tweeted that I would have two constants in my kitchen: James Ramsden’s Small Adventures in Cooking (review found here) and Niamh Shields’ Comfort and Spice. And I really did. They are two different books with different styles of cooking but equally delightful, as are the two young people who wrote them.

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During one very rainy morning, where J was working from home, I wanted something quick to prepare for lunch, with minimum dishes, plates and so on to wash. There was only one condition: I had some chickpeas in the pantry to use up. Armed with a pencil (just because I always have to write notes) and my trusty companions I found two easy recipes which I have to say went down very well. Lunch and dinner sorted: James’ spinach and chickpea curry and Niamh’s spiced chickpea, spinach and feta salad. Niamh’s recipe was great simply served on toast (not the usual beans I tell ya). I changed a few things here and there *not* because the recipe needed it. By all means, definitely not! (I just had to clear that up.) I had to adapt according to the ingredients I had, even though I still had to make a trip to my local store. I’m sure Niamh doesn’t mind. The list may be a bit long but you will end up with something very very tasty. Add turmeric, garam masala and chilli flakes to some toasted coriander and cumin seeds (which you place in a dry pan for a minute or so, and grind). In a pan, fry a finely chopped onion (and also some celery if you have) and add the spices. Then add around three cubes of finely chopped crystallized ginger and garlic in the same pan. Tip in fresh plum tomatoes (quartered) and cook for a few minutes, but don’t let the tomatoes get too squishy. Add the chickpeas (from a large tin if you don’t have the dried ones which you have already cooked) and spinach, and let this wilt. All you need now is fresh coriander and feta, cut into small cubes, lemon juice and perhaps a sprinkling of salt. You don’t need pepper if you added the chilli. Love it.

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All James’ curry needed is rice and some pita to mop everything up with. Watch him here make a version of this on his website. You need an onion, garlic, curry powder, salt and pepper, chickpeas, spinach, coconut milk, tomato purée, some lemon juice and things to serve it with. And if you want to add some chicken to it, you always could, but I liked it as is. It is a simple meal and on paper it may not seem much, as he points out, but it works. It really does and it will make your life easier when you just cannot or will not spend any more than a chunk of minutes in the kitchen after work. So make this, serve in a bowl, relax, feet up on the coffee table and enjoy. I certainly did.

You can read all about Niamh’s food here (eatlikeagirl.com) and James’ adventures here (jamesramsden.com). Both are on Twitter: @eatlikeagirl and @jteramsden. They will answer any kitchen query. I told you – they are lovely.

Enjoy the books!

Rob x

Some of my favourite cookbooks and what I’m reading now #1

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I love cookbooks and I use them often. I also review them. I’m no food expert, which is something that I say again and again, but I love to try out new recipes whenever I can. Recently I received messages from quite a number of people asking me about my favourite books/chefs/authors/food writers and though you can get a pretty good idea if you look through my links page, I’ll gladly post some right here. This is obviously not a comprehensive list, because I don’t own every cookbook ever published. (For more inspiration you can see the one Stylist compiled here. It was a good list, but they did leave out the classic stuff, e.g. Escoffier.) The following are my current favourites, old ones and very new ones but it’s all good. Please note that this is just the first part. I don’t want to make one long post – it would be too tedious. And no book will be numbered (as in order of preference.)

How to Eat by Nigella Lawson (1999, Chatto & Windus). I know what you’re thinking. She has to mention Nigella, doesn’t she? Yes, of course I do (and there’s another one coming a bit later). I have to start with this though. It covers everything, from the basic sauces to pastry in the first chapter, to feeding children. It’s such a good introduction to Nigella’s cooking, well shall I dare say to cooking in general? Nigel Slater described this as his “book of the decade”. How to Eat is like an encyclopaedia, but refreshingly non-patronising and unassuming. Very charming trait indeed. Plus it’s nice and thick, and I love my paperback version, which makes things a little bit easier when carrying it around the house just for a read.

I can never rave enough about James Ramsden’s Small Adventures in Cooking (2011, Quadrille), and the whole New Voices in Food series. Which brings me also to another nifty little book by Niamh Shields’ Comfort & Spice, same series, same publisher, same year. These two (not just the books but James and Niamh themselves) are delightful. With exciting but uncomplicated recipes, they will definitely guarantee a wow from all your friends. Definitely my two constant companions this summer.

Now I don’t mind a bit of a challenge sometimes. A recipe with a longish list of ingredients won’t be necessarily dismiss. However I would only give it a go when I have some time to spare in the kitchen. This is not always possible. So here comes my other favourite James. I bought James Tanner Takes 5 (2010, Kyle Books) on an unplanned trip to the bookstore with my mum. The idea behind this is simple: you need five ingredients for each recipe, plus the usual salt, pepper and pantry staples. Nothing complicated, which is just what you need, especially during the summer months. There’s also a good mixture of dishes and it’s a book which will continue to be well-loved by me because of it’s practicality.

If you’re a bit of a baking buff like me, then you will guess what the next book will be. I’ve said many times that How to be a Domestic Goddess, another Nigella book, (Chatto & Windus, 2000) is one of my favourites. It’s not the only book I go to for easy baking ideas, but I find myself grabbing it from the shelves nine times out of ten. It’s not all about cakes, so it’s not for you if you want just your sweet things. I must admit that I haven’t tried any of the savoury recipes, perhaps because I already had good recipes to work with when I bought the book. However there’s no need to say that the cakes and sweet pies and muffins and brownies, and whatever else that remains from HTBADG (my abbreviation) I baked, were yummie.

During my many hours on the internet looking for the newest publications, I came across A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell (2012, Harper Collins). And when it came through the post around three weeks ago I couldn’t help but feel excited and yet afraid. Why? Because this book was not an easy feat. Before I opened the book I said: it’s either going to be really really really good, or it’s going to be a disaster. Thank goodness it is such a good read! Not everyone could do this. Sitwell did. Hats off. So A History of Food has to be included in my list…in any list if I may say so. Please note that this is *not* a recipe book in the classic sense of the word. Most of the recipes cannot be replicated (especially those that go back to 1958BC) but I just love all the history. I don’t think the chapters are meant to be read in order, which makes it an ideal reference manual, and they are short, which is always a joy. It is, and it’s for everyone. I didn’t know that Virgil probably had one of the first recipes for roast goat…

Rob x

Kebab Kitchen

Let’s face it – I love Guildford and I’m much happier here, but living in London would make my life a bit easier. I tend to feel out of the loop so lately I’ve been on Twitter more than usual. Reason: it’s a hive mind. It’s like the less creepy version of the Borg. If you look carefully you can get to know almost anything. (And if you’re not careful you get assimilated, but that’s another story.)

So thanks to the mighty Twitter I got to know that the lovely James Ramsden (see my review on his book here) and Oliver Thring (lovely too just in case he reads this and wonders) have joined forces and opened Kebab Kitchen. (Click here for more.) I can’t wait to visit and taste what I’m sure will be delicious food. Perhaps I can talk them into coming to Guildford sometime in the summer, or before they set up shop somewhere permanent. Now how about that?

Rob x

Book review: Small Adventures in Cooking.

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So some three weeks ago or so, I came across a very interesting concept by the people back at Quadrille Publishing. Interesting as in good, by the way, just in case you were about to ask. It’s called New Voices in Food and their objective is to showcase exciting and talented new chefs. I contacted Quadrille about this project and I was sent James Ramsden’s Small Adventures in Cooking, published on the 6th June.

When it arrived in the post I was so relieved, for two things mainly: size and simplicity. It’s full of original ideas but it’s small enough to carry in a small bag. Big encyclopaedic-sized table top books are very nice mind you, but if you’re like me and you like to read through recipe books from cover to cover before you actually decide on what recipes to try, then the big ones don’t work for you initially. And since this is a simple book then there’s no glossy pages to deal with, which is, as you might know already, what I like best. Simplicity and unpretentiousness is what you get throughout the book; the real stars of the show are the recipes themselves. Even though James is the author, he is confident enough not to have loads of photos of himself splashed about. There are some photos on the flaps but that is it. Another good thing. So I marked most of the pages with orange sticky notes, as usual, and away I read.

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What I wanted to do before writing this review (which is by no means exhaustive) was to try some of James’ recipes. I have tried three, taking them from different sections of the book: the first was the 5-minute Sponge, second the Macerated Strawberries and third his Persian Aubergine Stew with Jewelled Rice. To be honest, my choice was more influenced by the current contents of my pantry rather than my present non-existing adventurous spirit. Don’t get me wrong. I was really inspired by the recipes, but I am moving house very soon so lately I’ve been trying to cook with whatever I have. That being said, I only needed one trip to the market and another to the butcher to get what I needed. I was impressed – usually I get lost among ingredients, wanting to buy every fresh vegetable and every fresh piece of meat I see. But James is teaching me to economise without compromising flavour.

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I started with the Persian Stew. I like stews to begin with because they remind me of home. This is stew with a twist and it’s so simple to make. Looking back I should have made it without the extra Tweaks (the little hints for each recipe) just because I would have given a more solid opinion. But for once I had some limes in the fridge (and this is very rare) so all I had to do was get myself an aubergine and some lamb. Both the stew and the accompanying rice are delicious. My only add-on was to throw a few tablespoons of sugar the second time round, to make up for the sharpness of the tomatoes and the bitterness of the limes and cranberries. This stew has become one of my favourites and if you’re feeding a family or having friends over for a meal, this will be a hit.

I tried the sponge and the strawberry recipes today. I only needed some quiet time this morning, after some coffee of course, to make everything. The Macerated Strawberries is an assemblage really – you need strawberries, lemon zest, mint and sugar, and pepper to serve, and that’s it. Perfect. (Let’s face it, few are those who don’t have strawberries in the fridge at the moment. Being a tennis enthusiast, I did.) And they are yummy with the 5-minute sponge, a five-minute easy whisking job and 15-20 minutes in the oven. Definitely another winner. There’s a selection of other things I plan to try later on…I bought a tub of cream not only for the next Two-week Strawberry-Fest which is Wimbledon, but also for the Kedgeree (pg.86). Plus I have enough chocolate for the Chocolate and Fennel Brownies (pg. 137) and beyond so I’m good to go! On my Facebook page I said that at first glance this book was a beauty. Now I can say that it really is. You can find James’ blog here.

Rob x