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Less-Than-Perfect-Strawberries Make Great Almond Crumble

If I’d had to choose one thing that cooking could not make better, I’d have put good money on its being a bad (as in unripe and tasteless) strawberry (strawbuggers). I’d be embarrassed even to own up to trying to improve it, were it not for the fact that I read an article by Saint Simon of Hopkinson in which he advised using said strawbuggers in a pie. So I did. Well, that’s not quite true: I am lazier than he is, so I made a crumble. I don’t know what, how or why it happened, but this is a crumble of dreams. The oven doesn’t, as you’d think, turn theberries into a red-tinted mush of slime, but into berry-intense bursts of tender juiciness. This is nothing short of alchemy: you take the vilest, crunchiest supermarket strawberries, top them with an almondy, buttery rubble, bake and turn them on a cold day into the taste of English summer. Naturally, serve with lashings of cream: I regard this is as obligatory not optional.


for the filling:

  • 1 lb strawberries (hulled)
  • ¼ cup superfine sugar
  • ¼ cup almond meal
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the topping:

  • cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 tablespoons cold butter (diced)
  • 1 ¼ cups slivered almonds
  • ½ cup turbinado sugar
  • heavy cream (to serve)



Nothing Says Dessert Like Chocolate Sheet Cake

What's not to love about a sheet cake? it’s a great way to feed a lot of people and, in my book, the more people get to eat cake, the better. I’ve simplified what is an already simple approach, so that both cake, and icing/frosting are made in saucepans on the stovetop: in other words, no creaming and multi-stepped process, just melting, stirring and pouring. What’s more, this is an infinitely variable recipe and a gratifyingly reliable one.

Traditional sheet cakes require buttermilk for sponge element, and this kind of icing/frosting needs regular milk. Rather than send you (or me) to the shops for an extra ingredient, I simply turn fresh milk into buttermilk by adding vinegar to the milk before I get on with the rest of the cake. It’s obviously not worth using an expensive vinegar, and if you wanted, you could equally use lemon juice. By the time you come to use it, the milk-now-buttermilk will look like a curdled mess, and that’s a good thing! The buttermilk is what helps keep the cake crumb so tender.

The batter is runny – and is meant to be, that’s what helps its fudgy texture later – and the cake will look woefully shallow once this mixture is poured into the tin. Do not be alarmed: it will rise, but not enormously; this is meant to be a shallow cake.  It’s perfect for bake sales, birthdays, indeed any celebration, and now I happily offer it to you as a celebration of, and thanks, for reaching 1 million of you on my Facebook page.


for the cake

  • ½ cup whole milk or semi-skimmed / 2% milk
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup soft unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the icing/frosting

  • ¼ cup soft unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk or semi-skimmed / 2% milk
  • 2 tablespoons best-quality unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar (sieved)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

to decorate

sprinkles of your choice


Easy, One-Pan Salmon with Roasted Asparagus and Potatoes

This is a quick, easy dish for Spring.
  • 1 pound new potatoes, halved if large
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 asparagus spears, trimmed and halved
  • 2 handfuls cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 salmon fillets, about 5oz each
  • handful basil leaves
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Tip the potatoes and 1 tbsp of olive oil into an ovenproof dish, then roast the potatoes for 20 mins until starting to brown. Toss the asparagus in with the potatoes, then return to the oven for 15 mins.
  2. Throw in the cherry tomatoes and vinegar and nestle the salmon amongst the vegetables. Drizzle with the remaining oil and return to the oven for a final 10-15 mins until the salmon is cooked. Scatter over the basil leaves and serve everything scooped straight from the dish.

2015 James Beard Award Nominees Announced

Nominees for the annual James Beard Awards, which honor chefs, restaurants, writers and other professionals in the world of American food, were announced Tuesday morning. The list of restaurant and chef nominees is below; the winners will be announced in Chicago on May 4. A full list of nominees in print, broadcast and other categories can be found on the James Beard Foundation website.

Best New Restaurant

Bâtard, New York

Central Provisions, Portland, Me.

Cosme, New York

Parachute, Chicago

Petit Trois, Los Angeles

The Progress, San Francisco

Spoon and Stable, Minneapolis

Outstanding Baker

Joanne Chang, Flour Bakery & Cafe, Boston

Mark Furstenberg, Bread Furst, Washington

Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery, New York

Belinda Leong and Michel Suas, B. Patisserie, San Francisco

William Werner, Craftsman and Wolves, San Francisco

Outstanding Bar Program

Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, New Orleans

Bar Agricole, San Francisco

Maison Premiere, Brooklyn

Trick Dog, San Francisco

The Violet Hour, Chicago

Outstanding Chef

Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern, New York

Sean Brock, Husk, Charleston, S.C.

Suzanne Goin, Lucques, Los Angeles

Donald Link, Herbsaint, New Orleans

Marc Vetri, Vetri, Philadelphia

Outstanding Pastry Chef

Dana Cree, Blackbird, Chicago

Maura Kilpatrick, Oleana, Cambridge, Mass.

Dahlia Narvaez, Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles

Ghaya Oliveira, Daniel, New York

Christina Tosi, Momofuku, New York

Outstanding Restaurant

Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, N.Y.

Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, Ala.

Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York

Per Se, New York

The Spotted Pig, New York

Outstanding Restaurateur

JoAnn Clevenger, Upperline, New Orleans

Donnie Madia, One Off Hospitality Group, Chicago (Blackbird, Avec, the Publican and others)

Michael Mina, Mina Group, San Francisco (Michael Mina, RN74, Bourbon Steak and others)

Cindy Pawlcyn, Napa, Calif. (Mustards Grill, Cindy’s Back Street Kitchen and Cindy’s Waterfront at the Monterey Bay Aquarium)

Stephen Starr, Starr Restaurants, Philadelphia (the Dandelion, Talula’s Garden, Serpico and others)

Outstanding Service

The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tenn.

Marea, New York

Quince, San Francisco

Restaurant August, New Orleans

Topolobampo, Chicago

Outstanding Wine Program

A16, San Francisco

Bern’s Steak House, Tampa, Fla.

FIG, Charleston, S.C.

McCrady’s, Charleston, S.C.

Spago, Beverly Hills, Calif.

Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional

Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, Del.

Ron Cooper, Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal, Ranchos de Taos, N.M.

Ted Lemon, Littorai Wines, Sebastopol, Calif.

Rajat Parr, Mina Group, San Francisco

Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, Ky.

Rising Star Chef of the Year

Tanya Baker, Boarding House, Chicago

Alex Bois, High Street on Market, Philadelphia

Erik Bruner-Yang, Toki Underground, Washington

Jessica Largey, Manresa, Los Gatos, Calif.

Cara Stadler, Tao Yuan, Brunswick, Me.

Ari Taymor, Alma, Los Angeles

Best Chef: Great Lakes

Curtis Duffy, Grace, Chicago

Jonathon Sawyer, The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland

Paul Virant, Vie, Western Springs, Ill.

Erling Wu-Bower, Nico Osteria, Chicago

Andrew Zimmerman, Sepia, Chicago

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic

Joe Cicala, Le Virtù, Philadelphia

Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore

Rich Landau, Vedge, Philadelphia

Greg Vernick, Vernick Food & Drink, Philadelphia

Cindy Wolf, Charleston, Baltimore

Best Chef: Midwest

Paul Berglund, The Bachelor Farmer, Minneapolis

Justin Carlisle, Ardent, Milwaukee

Gerard Craft, Niche, Clayton, Mo.

Michelle Gayer, Salty Tart, Minneapolis

Lenny Russo, Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market, St. Paul

Best Chef: Northeast

Karen Akunowicz, Myers & Chang, Boston

Barry Maiden, Hungry Mother, Cambridge, Mass.

Masa Miyake, Miyake, Portland, Me.

Cassie Piuma, Sarma, Somerville, Mass.

Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, Me.

Best Chef: Northwest

Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, Ox, Portland, Ore.

Renee Erickson, The Whale Wins, Seattle

Blaine Wetzel, The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Lummi Island, Wash.

Justin Woodward, Castagna, Portland, Ore.

Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, Joule, Seattle

Best Chef: New York

Marco Canora, Hearth

Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, Carbone

Mark Ladner, Del Posto

Anita Lo, Annisa

Ignacio Mattos, Estela

Jonathan Waxman, Barbuto

Best Chef: South

Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, Miss.

Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans

Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, P.R.

Slade Rushing, Brennan’s, New Orleans

Alon Shaya, Domenica, New Orleans

Best Chef: Southeast

John Fleer, Rhubarb, Asheville, N.C.

Edward Lee, 610 Magnolia, Louisville, Ky.

Steven Satterfield, Miller Union, Atlanta

Jason Stanhope, FIG, Charleston, S.C.

Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Memphis

Tandy Wilson, City House, Nashville

Best Chef: Southwest

Kevin Binkley, Binkley’s, Cave Creek, Ariz.

Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue, Austin, Tex.

Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine, Austin, Tex.

Hugo Ortega, Hugo’s, Houston

Martín Rios, Restaurant Martín, Santa Fe, N.M.

Justin Yu, Oxheart, Houston

Best Chef: West

Matthew Accarrino, SPQR, San Francisco

Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

Michael Cimarusti, Providence, Los Angeles

Corey Lee, Benu, San Francisco

Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, Animal, Los Angeles

2015 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics

Archie’s Waeside, Le Mars, Iowa

Beaumont Inn, Harrodsburg, Ky.

Guelaguetza, Los Angeles

Sally Bell’s Kitchen, Richmond, Va.

Sevilla Restaurant, New York


Valentine Cupcakes are Best Love Buns

In another time I'd have been satisfied with calling these Valentine's Day Cupcakes but, as the saying goes, if you're going to get wet, you may as well go swimming. (These are love buns)

for the cupcakes (buns)

  • 9 tablespoons soft butter
  •  cup superfine sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons milk

for the topping

  • 2 large egg whites
  • ½ cup golden syrup or light corn syrup
  • ½ cup superfine sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 packet heart-shaped sprinkles (to decorate)


  1. Take everything you need out of the fridge in time to bring to room temperature - this makes a huge difference to the lightness of the love buns later - and preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200°C/400ºF.
  2. Put all of the ingredients for the buns, except for the milk, into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Pulse while adding the milk down the funnel, to make a smooth dropping consistency.
  3. Divide the mixture into a 12-bun muffin tin lined with muffin papers or heart-patterned cases, and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. They should have risen and be golden on top; you want a little peak if possible.
  4. Let them cool a little in their tin on a rack, and then take them carefully out of the tin to cool in their papers, still on the wire rack.
  5. Now for the topping. Here there is a slight dilemma, as you'll make more than you need for the 12 buns, but if you halve the quantities, you won't have quite enough. If you're making these for you and your one true love, then I presume you won't need all 12 of them, in which case you could freeze most of the buns to be iced and eaten at some later date, and halve the topping ingredients to decorate the few you want today.
  6. This is a topping that has a kind of meringue base, by which you whisk egg whites over heat until they're stiff and gleaming. Think Mr Whippy. So make a doubleboiler with a bowl that will fit snugly over a saucepan of barely simmering water, and put all of the ingredients for the icing, except for the vanilla and sprinkles, into the bowl. Whisk everything with an electric beater until the icing becomes thick and holds peaks like a meringue. This will take about 5 minutes, so be patient.
  7. Take the bowl off the saucepan and on to a cool surface and keep whisking while you add the vanilla. Then keep whisking until the mixture cools a little. You want a proper peaked and whipped covering here, so spoon some icing over each bun, and then dollop another spoonful over in a swirly fashion. Immediately shake over your choice of sprinkles, as the icing will set very quickly. Indeed, these look rather like stage prop buns or the fake ones that some bakeries used to keep in their windows, so plasticky and gleaming are they.
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