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Some other recent meals:

Butternut squash and caramelised onion galette, from Smitten Kitchen on Kate’s recommendation in my comments.

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On Kate’s suggestion I used feta as I couldn’t find fontina. It was delicious, although I think I’d use my own pastry recipe in the future. I already had some leftover caramelised onions in the fridge (I always make large quantities) and had a butternut squash in my veg box, so it was a very handy recipe.

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Second up, mussels with fennel, saffron and spinach from A Year In My Kitchen. Also delicious. I’m so glad I bought the book. I used NZ mussels which come frozen on the half shell from Waitrose, but there’s a new fishmonger down the road now so I may go and get some live mussels next time. The fennel was in my veg box, I had to buy the spinach.

Lastly, something truly decadent (Mum, you should probably look away):

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Artichoke with butter, parmesan and white wine sauce. It’s probably just as well I don’t eat this sort of thing every day as my arteries would be hard as a rock. That said, accompanied by a couple of glasses of wine it made for an amazing meal, picking off the leaves one by one, dipping them and sucking the tasty flesh out. The parmesan was direct from Italy, where Tommaso’s dad buys it in Reggio. I was practically floating for the rest of the day.

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Christmas Cake

Sneak preview of this year’s Christmas cake:

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I didn’t make a Christmas cake last year as I was going to New Zealand, and for reasons of biosecurity you’re not allowed to take food into the country. So this is the first cake I’ve made in two years, and the first in this kitchen too.

My Christmas cake is a little different from most. Like all good New Zealanders (although some would argue I’m not a good New Zealander) I follow the Edmonds Cookbook recipe, a nice rich cake with five eggs in it. However, I vary up the fruit a lot. I’m not a big fan of sultanas, raisins and currants. I calculated the cake has about 2.1 kilos of fruit in it, however I know exactly how much my cake tin will hold so reduced this to 1.9. This was made up of 500g mixed fruit (sultanas, currants, peel), 500g of chopped Otago dried apricots my Mum sent from New Zealand (they have a very strong flavour unlike other dried apricots), with the rest made up of peel, glace cherries, and chopped crystallised ginger. Sometimes I put nuts in but my nut-phobic brother is visiting this Christmas so I only put them on top (don’t worry, no danger of anaphylaxis so he can just pick them off the top).

Then my secret ingredient: I soak the fruit for several days in Winter Pimm’s. Winter Pimm’s is brandy-based and has orange and spices added, so it’s perfectly Christmassy. Slightly less than 1.9kg of fruit actually made it into the cake as some of it mysteriously disappeared as I was giving the fruit its daily stir…

Speaking of stirring, the Italian flatmate was called upon to stir the cake and make his first ever Christmas cake wish. “How long do I have to stir this for?” he moaned at first, then didn’t want to relinquish the spoon!

The knitting needle came out of the cake clean after only three hours of cooking, which was surprising. But it looks fine. I’ll just have to wait and see how it tastes.

And you’ll have to wait for the finished picture as it’s wrapped up in the cupboard right now. It tends to stay very moist so I don’t usually feed the cake with more booze. I’m sure I’ll find a use for the rest of the Pimm’s!

Il faut pratiquer!

This past weekend I was lucky enough to go to Paris with my friends Rebecca and Sally, for Rebecca’s birthday. We also met up our friend Francis, who is researching his PhD at the Sorbonne, and my brother’s girlfriend Kate, who is there working for the OECD currently.

We’d all been to Paris before so were there for the catching up rather than the sightseeing. This led us to buy some cheese (Comté and Bleu d’Auvergne), baguettes (the best I’ve ever tasted), and sweet treats (tartes and macarons) and head for the Bois de Boulogne for a picnic. Not before we were introduced to Frank’s landlady though, who interrogated us in French for at least half an hour! Bit of unintended practice there but I at least managed to follow most of the conversation and take part when prompted. If only I remembered half the French I learned at school.

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The birthday girl.

Sunday was free museum day – on the first Sunday of the month all national museums are free. We wanted to go to the Petit Palais but it was shut due to it also being a public holiday. So we braved the crowds at the Louvre. Deliberately going nowhere near La Joconde, we discovered the crowds were bearable after all. I spent most of my time in Napoléon III’s apartments and looking at Renaissance objets d’art – in particular a lot of very finely carved ivory. All I could think about was the poor elephants.

Then it was back to London, an hour late due to some idiot leaving their luggage unattended at the Gare du Nord. Such a short trip, and it has really whet my appetite for more. I realise how much of Paris I still have to see.

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Cèps are in season. I intend to buy some the next time I’m at Borough. Along with more Comté, which interestingly is the same price here as in Paris.

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Too weird not to take a picture of it.

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Who is the Parisian equivalent of Banksy?

Poetry Cafe

As some of you may know, I have been working at the Poetry Society lately putting together the world’s largest knitted poem.

What you may not know is that the Poetry Society has an excellent cafe. It seems like every day the chef comes up with something new – in the months that I have been going there, I have only had a meal repeated about two times, and even then there is often something new or different about it.

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The menu is short and always contains a soup, main, salad, cheese and bread, and muffin. But there is always something new and the food is consistently good. There is always something I want to eat.

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The day I took these photos I ordered the spicy beanburger wrap. It was absolutely delicious.

One of my companions ordered the tomato and feta salad, and was very impressed when it arrived:

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Now that the poem is finished, I will miss eating there. But I know I will go back from time to time.

Photo walk

A friend of mine invited me along to a photo walk around Holborn last weekend. Basically it involved a few of us walking around taking photos. It’s a nice way to get a bit of practice in and look at the city from a different angle.

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We found this apple tree in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and managed to pick a few. The skin was tough (once we’d rubbed the smog off) but the flesh was delicious. There should be more fruit trees in public spaces.

Fifteen

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen. Jamie Oliver set up the restaurant in order to train disadvantaged young people to be chefs and give them a start in life. What a fantastic idea. The restaurant is funded through takings, donations and merchandise. Which brings me to why I was there – the launch party for Fifteen’s new knitting kit.

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What’s knitting got to do with a restaurant, you ask? Well, the wool in each kit comes from Fifteen’s lamb supplier in Wales. So I think it’s rather fitting!

The food was absolutely divine: (photos courtesy of Stitch and Bitch seeing as I forgot my camera)

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The limited edition knitting kit (complete with beautiful wooden needles and patterns) can be purchased here.

Autumn vegetables

I have often said Autumn is my favourite season. I love the colours, the afternoon light on a sunny day, the crisp mornings, the woolly jumpers.

And the food. My last couple of vegetable boxes have been delicious, albeit with a bit of a glut of carrots, potatoes and sweetcorn. Once I got sick of eating corn on the cob, I made corn fritters, a Friday night favourite since my student days. However the oil got a little overexcited and spat into my face… and then the phone rang, and I ended up with a blister on my cheek! So with the next batch I made corn and chili soup, with a mixture of minced chili and dried chipotles for more depth of flavour.

With some of the potatoes and carrots, I decided to try out a recipe for vegetarian goulash I found in 200 Veggie Feasts, kindly sent to me by the publisher, Octopus.

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It was fairly similar to similar vegetable stews I have made in the past – not really the sort of thing I need a recipe for. I am usually a little more generous with the dumplings as I love them. I would normally add some beans for protein as well. There are some nice looking recipes in the book though and I look forward to trying them when the contents of my veg box allow.

I also made a large quantity of butternut squash risotto.

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I love butternut squash and have another in my box this week. I want to make something different this time though. Ideas?