Mini Christmas part II

On Friday, a neighbour called round in the evening with a big box for us. I hadn’t ordered anything so was a bit puzzled until I saw Kelly Bronze Turkeys on the side. Ooh.

As a thank you for visiting the farm, Paul Kelly had gifted all of us bloggers with one of their fabulous turkeys. Here was mine, and it took me rather by surprise! Yes, those are the giblets in a bag. Believe me, they make FABULOUS stock. I simmered them with 2 shallots to make stock for a sauce and the smell pervaded the house.

Surprise turkey

We had planned to have a Christmas with my in-laws weekend of the 15/16th, as I’m going to be away over the actual Christmas holiday, so we would have taken the turkey up to Suffolk, but pa-in-law came down with Norovirus so our visit got cancelled. Now we had the turkey, so what to do?

I had no room in the fridge or freezer, but luckily the weather cooperated and I popped the whole thing outside. It was so well packaged that I didn’t have to worry. The icepacks were still frozen the next morning, and stayed so until well into the afternoon. It was have been a very determined cat or fox to get into that lot of packaging.

Saturday night was going to be Roast Turkey Dinner night!

I read all the instructions, weighed the turkey on scales which then went EEEEEEEEE at me, so after a certain amount of jiggery pokery I guessed that it was around the 5 kilo mark and cooked it accordingly, making use of the meat thermometer that Kelly’s kindly send out with each turkey.

I have never seen such an amount of meat juices in  a turkey roasting tray before. I did not add any butter or oil. I just put some shallots and a lemon in the cavity, and salted the skin. It needed nothing else at all.

Cooked upside down initially, and then turned and finished off breast side up,  it retained all the moistness in the breast, which made it a pleasure to carve. I took the breast off in one whole piece, which made it much easier to carve up and portion out. It’s what I do when carving a roast chicken, but this took a bit more effort, the bird being that much bigger.

I can also happily attest to the fact that if the turkey has reached the temperature of 65ºC at the thickest part of the breast, it is done. It does not need to be cooked anymore, just taken out and left to relax, uncovered. No more danger of chalky, crumbly breast meat and don’t worry, it stays perfectly hot.

Served with olive oil roasted potatoes, green beans for Tex and steamed, buttered sprouts for me.

But what to do with all the leftover meat? Turkey and ham pie.

I had enough meat to make two pies, each one enough to feed four people, and I still have some dark meat left in the fridge to snack upon.

The pie was a great success, so here’s the recipe.

Food Processor Shortcrust Pastry (makes just over 1lb pastry)

300 g (11 oz) plain flour

150 g (5½ oz) butter, straight from the fridge (I use half lard and half butter here)

2.5 ml (½ tsp) salt

about 60 ml (4 tbsp) cold water.

Fit the stainless steel blade.

Put the flour and salt in the bowl and process for a few seconds to mix.

Cut the fat into pieces and add to the bowl.

Process on speed 2 for 5-10 seconds until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Use the food pusher to measure the water.

With the machine running add the water through the tube and process until the dough just forms a ball.

Remove and knead lightly until smooth.

Wrap the pastry in cling film or foil, and chill for at least 30 minutes before using.

Divide the pastry in half and roll out. You need enough to line and top an 8” x 1” pie plate.

Line the pie plate, leaving a bit of overhang to allow for pastry shrinkage. I do not own any baking beans, so I just pricked the base all over with a fork so it didn’t puff up too much.

Bake at 180C for about 15 minutes then take it out of the oven to cool.


Turkey and Ham Filling (this is approximate, as I’m afraid I just threw it together.)

Lingonberry or cranberry sauce

1/2 a whole turkey breast, cut into cubes

4 thick slices of cooked gammon, also cubed

3 carrots, cut into small dice and cooked (I microwaved them for 8 minutes)

1/2 cup of frozen peas

1 leek, very finely chopped

500 ml turkey or ham stock (You can use any stock you have)

2 tbs plain flour

About 1 tbs butter

1 tsp mild mustard (use whatever mustard you like, but don’t use too strong a flavoured one or it will overpower the turkey.)

Pinch salt

1/4 cup milk

Fry the leek in butter until softened. Add the carrots, peas and meats, and mix well to combine.

Heat the stock, and melt the butter in it.

Add the mustard and milk and whisk to combine then whisk in the flour until no lumps remain. The sauce will thicken if you keep it on a low heat.

Pout the sauce over the meat and vegetables and mix well.

Put a couple of tablespoons of cranberry sauce into the bottom of the pastry case and spread the sauce around.

Pile as much of the meat mixture as you can into the pie base, brush the edges with milk or beaten egg and then cover with the second half of the pastry.

Press the lid onto the base and crimp to close. (I am very haphazard, but it sealed anyway. Just didn’t look very pretty!)

Brush the top with more beaten egg, cut a slit in it so that the steam can vent and bake at 180C until golden.

Turkey Pie


Turkey Pie close up

A friend is having goose this Christmas, and I think this pie recipe would work well with leftover goose too. I’d probably make the sauce a bit more zingy, as goose is so rich, perhaps adding in orange zest and a bit of redcurrant jelly.


A mini Christmas, all of my own.

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind of job applications and agency interviews recently, so much so that my brain has been distinctly frazzled when it comes to cooking, churning out the same old thing because it’s easy. My usuals are okay, but every so often I need a change.

I was on my way back from another agency when I stopped at the big Tesco by Liverpool Street station. This store used to be fabulous, stocking pretty much everything you could wish for, but then they redesigned the shop floor and, of course, that meant losing lines. Despite this, it’s still not a bad supermarket, even if they have crammed everything in so you feel rushed and claustrophobic, but I suppose at least that makes people get out fast.

I found fresh chestnuts, and decided on a whim to buy those, and some parsnips plus a Gressingham poussin. A nice solo dinner, with a Christmas edge. I bought Purple Sprouting Broccoli too, but that’s awaiting my attention in the fridge.

I got home and unpacked my haul, realising that I had enough parsnips in my £1 bag to make not only my dinner, but also a cake as well.

I set about grating the parsnips and putting this fabulous cake recipe from Sabrina to the test. (obviously cake before dinner right?)

It was easy to do, and I came out of it with only minor battle scars. Apparently my box grater is about due to be replaced, and the knuckle of my thumb bears testament to this. Ow. 

My tweaks were to leave out the nuts, because I had none, cut down the amount of baking power to 1 level teaspoon and the bicarbonate of soda to 3/4 of a teaspoon, as I am quite sensitive to the taste of those, and to add 1 tsp mixed spice plus an additional tsp of Rose extract. Oh, and to use olive oil and Demerara sugar as that was all I had in. Sorry Sabrina! I fiddled again!

The smell of that cake as it bakes is lovely. The Demerara gives it a caramel note, and I added the mixed spice to make it more Christmassy, as I want to take it to my in-laws on Sunday for our early Christmas dinner, planned because I’m flying out to see my Mum in Cyprus for the holidays.

I can also say that having your electronic scales die on you as you carefully pour in the oil to a cake mix can leave one temporarily flustered because of course you cannot remember the digital reading before they died.

Parsnip and Honey Cake

225g plain flour

3/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

1 level teaspoons baking powder

2 heaped teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 level teaspoon mixed spice

4 medium free range eggs

100ml clear honey (I used a Greek herb honey)

200g Demerara sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon Rose extract

180ml of rapeseed oil or olive oil

400g of parsnips, peeled and finely grated (this ended up at 300g grated weight)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (or 170, if fan assisted)

Mix flour, raising agents and cinnamon in one bowl.

Whisk eggs, honey, oil, extracts and sugar in another bowl until properly amalgamated. (I had to guess the oil, as my scales died as I was pouring the oil in!)

Pour into the flour, add the grated parsnip and mix very well.

Pour into a springform cake tin that’s been lined with baking paper. (I oiled the paper.)

Bake for 45-50 minutes. (Mine took longer, I suspect my tin was a bit small, so it took an hour.)

I can’t wait to try this. I can’t take a photo of the slice, as I won’t actually cut it open until Sunday, but here is Sabrina’s cake. Smile


Next up was Actual Dinner.

I had roasted the chestnuts as per instructions found on the internet, but they turned out to be very dry, and almost impossible to remove from the shell. Luckily I found a tin of unsweetened chestnut puree in the cupboard, so my dreams of a parsnip and chestnut mash were fulfilled.

Take one cast iron/oven proof pan. Heat it slightly on the cooker, then pop in the poussin.

Douse with olive oil, pop a pat of butter on the top and a sprinkle of salt. Cook at 170C for about 45 minutes.

While that’s cooking, boil the peeled and chunked parsnips until very soft.

Add an equal amount of chestnut puree.

Add at least a tablespoon of butter, and a touch of olive oil, then blend. I used a stick blender and the motor overheated, which is why I added olive oil. I think I need a new stick blender, as mine is very old!

Grate in 1/4 tsp fresh nutmeg.

Serve piping hot alongside the juicy, buttery poussin.

I served it right in the cast iron pan it was cooked in, because that way the mash got all the juices from the poussin as well. It’s a gorgeous mix! Steamed Brussels would go fabulously here as well, to cut the richness.

Poussin and Chestnut Mash ii

The mash would work very well let down with chicken or vegetable stock to make a smooth, silky soup, perhaps with some crispy smoked pancetta shards sprinkled on top.


Just dropping by...

As a quick post to make you hungry, this is what Spiced Sultana Soda Bread looks like, toasted.
Yes, that is real butter.


Kelly Bronze Turkey Farm–Danbury, Essex


A KellyBronze turkey is more than a breed - it is a philosophy...
"bred, fed, reared and prepared under optimum ethical conditions" (Observer Food Monthly) to give you the ultimate eating experience.
Our family has been producing our unique and delicious tasting KellyBronze turkeys for more than 25 years.
We are truly passionate about what we do - and believe it shows in the flavour and texture of the turkey you put on the table.


Thanks, yet again, to my lovely friend Kavey, I received an invitation to visit Kelly Bronze Turkeys in Danbury.

Reading about the company made my decision for me – as if a day with Kavey wasn’t enough incentive!

“Paul and his father Derek have spent over 25 years developing the best bronze turkey for the Christmas dinner table. In the early 1970’s they put their efforts into buying up all the last remaining breeding stocks from all around the country to rear turkeys for Christmas concentrating on flavour and texture. But this is not the only thing that helps to make a KellyBronze turkey so special, each turkey is produced the Kelly way. This means each bird is dry plucked and hung for up to 3 weeks and does not go through water at any stage of the processing, unlike standard supermarket turkeys.”

Being somewhat light on the job front at the moment, I had some spare time, and was in dire need of cheering up. Tying on my big boots, I readied myself for the day (we had been warned it would be muddy) and made my way to Chelmsford station. Kavey and I arrived early, so shared a nice coffee whilst wondering where to meet everyone else.

We first found Ed – representing  Helen from  Fuss Free Flavours - (I’ve snaffled his photo of Paul, and his lovely write up is here http://fussfreeflavours.com/2012/11/down-on-the-kellybronze-farm/) and then Solange from Pebble Soup.

Paul Kelly – the present MD of Kelly’s – came to meet us. (Though minus the turkey. That would just have been awkward.)


He drove us through Chelmsford then out into the country to Turkey HQ.

Can you tell that this is Turkey HQ yet?

Giant turkey 

We were taken into a nice, warm office, and given coffee and biscuits. Paul then endeavoured to give us a talk and a presentation, though I’m afraid that with a roomful of chatterboxes, it kept veering off into conversations about food and cooking, and discussions about all kinds of things. Paul is a very genial fellow, and didn’t seem to mind at all, joining in merrily with us.

The talk was incredibly informative. Finding out that the traditional white turkeys are in fact just a mutation of the bronze, but people prefer the white because of appearance. The feather shafts in a white turkey are still there, you just can’t see them in the skin  like you can with a bronze. I suggested that they added truffle flavouring and call them truffle spores. I see a market for it darling!

Now. There are bronze turkeys, and there is a KellyBronze® turkey. It’s not just the breed, it’s the way of rearing, the good feeding, the spacious and natural environment, the way the animal is killed and then treated after death. It’s an entire process.

The birds are left to grow slowly, so that they mature at a natural rate, putting on the weight and fat content with no artificial assistance for six months. This is around  three months longer than an intensively reared, standard white turkey. It’s not just kinder, it results in a huge whack of flavour.

Once the birds have met their end, also as humanely and as stress free as possible, they are dry plucked and then hung, at low temperature, for 14 days.

Kelly’s uses a process called New York Dressing which, oddly, is no longer used in America, even though it originated there. Paul had just come back from the USA, teaching them that method again.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
New York dressed: (of poultry) sold by weight without having the entrails, head, or feet removed.

The process ensures that exposure to salmonella bacteria is almost eradicated,  because after being hung, not only do the enzymes have a proper chance to do their tenderising work on the meat, the entrails come out all of a piece, lowering the chance of contamination.

The dry plucking leaves the top layer of skin intact, and they also use a waxing process to get rid of the majority of the feather shafts. (I admit, when it was announced that the turkeys were waxed, there was rather a lot of hilarity round the table.)

The other thing that appealed to me – being a dark meat lover – is that they also remove the tendons from the legs. Anyone who has ever tried to eat a turkey drumstick will know what a boon this is. I adore the leg and thigh meat, so when faced with a turkey drumstick complete with tendons, I do have a bit of a battle. (Incidentally, the Duchy Originals bronze turkeys for Waitrose are produced by Kelly’s, and have undergone the same procedure.)

Now a bit about the company because, dammit, it’s important:

Formed in 1971 by Derek and Molly Kelly
34000 breeders producing 2.6 million eggs from May to August
3 egg supply areas (Ayrshire, Northants ,Essex)
Hatch 150,000 eggs per week
Grow  140,000 for Christmas
28 KellyBronze farmers selling 17,000 KellyBronze Turkeys from the Farm gate
28 Full time people + 80 part time in the seasons
22 contract farmers
Sister companies in Holland and Germany
30 miles North East of London
Launched in the US this year (2012)

I love that they have revived an old tradition, and kept it going. 

It’s a very pretty looking place, and I’m afraid on the way out after the presentation, I made everyone stop so that I could take a photo of this beautiful water feature.

Water feature

We piled back into the truck, and headed off down more country lanes to where the wild things were.

Down Essex way  Woodland

More woodland

And yes, it was muddy. This was the drier bit!

Wandering birdies

Turkeys don’t like the wind, so the majority of them were sheltering in the barn. Very sensible.

Hiding from the wind

I admit to not venturing into the wooded parts, as my balance is shot at the moment, so walking on slippery mud would have been a disaster. Instead I wandered back across the field, carefully, only to turn and realise that I had become some sort of Pied Piper to the turkeys.

Free range

A Bronze turkey

They really are inquisitive, and seem quite happy to follow anyone, so I had no problem imagining the turkey walks from East Anglia down to the London markets in time for Christmas.

After being buffeted about by the wind for a while, we were quite glad to head off to Paul’s house, where he very graciously fed us lunch. There followed an intense moment of pure kitchen envy here.

The range

and here…

Butcher block full on

and here…

Knife drawer

The smell of roast turkey filled the house, neatly aided and abetted by the juices simmering on the stove.

Stock cooking down

The bird, in all its golden-skinned glory, was waiting to be expertly carved by Paul. He’s won a world record for turkey carving you know.

Look at the skin on that. Delicious!

Beautiful skin

As the breast was taken off, I asked Paul to hold it up, purely so I could get a shot of the juices coming out of it. You can see them there on his hand, and on the knife. This turkey was NOT a dry turkey. To be honest, no turkey should be dry.

Generally it is not the fault of the turkey, it’s the cooking. The cooking times on many commercial birds are wrong. They are set to deliberately overcook, to reduce the chance of anyone getting ill. Health and safety is good, but in this case, that also ruins what is a delicious meat.

Carved breast

Crispy skin

Kelly’s send out a meat thermometer, free, with every delivery, and they also send cooking instructions.


The meat that we ate was so very moist, that I fully appreciated the huge amount of work that goes into it. It’s an expensive way of rearing, and yes, the turkey is pricey compared to the average supermarket bird, but it really is worth it. There’s no gravy added to that meat, it’s just the juices from the bird itself.



As an extra treat, Paul took the skin off the turkey, salted it, and roasted it on its own for an extra while. TURKEY SKIN CRACKLING people. It was delicate and highly savoury, quite addictive! We kept passing the plate round and round until it was all gone. I’m absolutely doing that with mine next time. I am going to fight the urge to make bacon dust to sprinkle over it.

I can honestly say that, even though I liked turkey before, I actively LOVED this one. The meat has a far nicer texture, and the flavour is more pronounced. It was incredibly tender, and utterly delicious. Yes, I know, that word gets over-used but really, it was.

I am quite willing to save up to have one every year. A proper, once a year treat.

It’s not just us foodies who were impressed. Anyone recognise this young fella?

Paul and Jamie

Jamie is also a fan and promoter of the Kelly way of carving. That’s the carving that Paul won an award for. In case you didn’t see that earlier. Winking smile

They also do a half turkey, for the smaller family, and all kinds of other things. I want to try the turkey sausages, because they sounded fabulous.

You can order and then collect from the farm, which would be a grand thing to do as they try to make it really Christmassy, with mulled wine and a grotto. I love the special touches they add, it’s a mark of a company that truly cares about what it does. If you can’t make it to Essex, you can order online and have it delivered right to you.


Here’s to many, many more years of Kelly Turkeys. An enduring legacy for Molly, Paul’s Mum, missed but never forgotten. She advocated cooking the turkey breast side down first, which maximises the flow of fat into the breast, keeping it even more moist. I will be doing that, too!

We had a fabulous day, and it was such a treat to witness people with real passion for what they do.

Special thanks go to Paul Kelly, for welcoming us with open arms, into your business and your home.

I went as a guest of Kelly Bronze.


Nigel’s Lazy Loaf

This is, yet again, a Nigel Slater recipe. Yes, I have a soft spot for this particular TV cook (he insists he is a cook, not a chef) and pretty much everything of his that I have tried, works. I know he cannot lay claim to soda bread, because that has existed for many years already, but he can lay claim to bringing it back into the public gaze.

In these days of off the shelf breads that are made by something called the Chorleywood process, it makes a fabulous change to have something tactile, something almost earthy, to sink your teeth into. Something that you made yourself, with an absolute minimum of fuss, but with maximum flavour.

I have tried sourdough, with mixed results, and I will be trying that again, even if only to prove to myself that it can’t be as difficult as it seems and that I just need to persevere.

Poncy art shot

But today I wanted ‘instant’ gratification. The kind of bread that you tear a hunk off and dip into soup, or eat stickily spread with honey, or a good jam. I didn’t want to wait. I also needed to make use of the bag of wholemeal Spelt flour that had been languishing in my baking cupboard, and I think this recipe did me proud. Thank you Mr Slater. Yet again.

The recipe and back story, is from here: 

As is my usual way, I changed the recipe a little, to fit with what I had.

250g Wholemeal spelt flour
200g plain white flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
350ml Tim’s Dairy Greek yoghurt (plain) with about 3 tbs water added to make it thinner

Set the oven to 220C/200C Fan/gas mark 8.

Put a casserole pot (I used my earthenware Le Creuset Christmas present!) and its lid into the oven. I do have a cast iron pot as well, but that seemed too big for this recipe.

Mix the flours, sea salt, sugar and bicarbonate of soda together in a large bowl, pour in the liquid, and then mix it all together with a butter knife.

Knead it for a bit, add a little more flour if it’s too sticky and then flatten it to about 4cm high.

The next bit was removing the pan from the oven, and dusting the inside of the pan lightly with flour. The flour starts to toast and smells fabulous.

I managed to  lower in the dough without burning myself, which I counted as a win, then snipped a cross into the top with a pair of scissors.

Back on with the lid and put the dish back into the oven.

The bread should be ready after 25 minutes though mine took about 5-10 minutes longer. The smell of the loaf baking really is gorgeous, especially as you have the flour on the bottom of the pan toasting in there too.

Remove from the oven and leave in place for 5 minutes before turning out and leaving to cool slightly before eating.

That’s the pot I used to cook it in, underneath the loaf.

Spelt soda bread  Soda Bread i

Soda Bread ii

It has a lovely, crisp crust and a very tender inside. The crumb looks dense, but it isn’t heavy at all. Looks like another one to add to the Make Again list!

Edit: 05.12.2012 – a spiced, fruited version!

I simply had to make this again, but this time with variations.

225g spelt flour
225g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp soft muscovado sugar stirred into 350 ml plain yoghurt
1 tsp Demerara sugar mixed into the flours
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
a good grate of fresh nutmeg
1/2 cup sultanas, plumped up in warm water then drained

Put the soft muscovado sugar into the yoghurt and leave to sit for 1/2 an hour then stir well.

Mix flours, salt, bicarb together along with the 1 tsp Demerara sugar (I mix with a wire whisk to get any lumps out)

Pout the yoghurt mixture in, add the sultanas and mix to a slightly sticky dough.

Cook as above. Again, it took longer. About35 minutes.

It has a softer crust, but a gorgeous almost malty flavour.

Sultana and mixed spice soda bread ii

Sultana and mixed spice soda bread

Sultana and mixed spice soda bread i


Inspector Montalbano; enabler.

He is you know. That entire series just exists solely to enable my cravings for pasta. Not just pasta. To be more specific, my cravings usually centre around spaghetti. Every time I watch an episode, he is somewhere eating either caponata, fresh fish or spaghetti. Last night it was spaghetti con vongole, and spaghetti with sardines. Then it was spaghetti with crab. See, spaghetti all over the place!

Today, then, had to include spaghetti. Luckily I had stocked up recently on some of my lovely Dreamfields low carb pasta, and in one of those boxes I knew there was angel hair spaghetti.

But what to make? I thought of the dish of sardines, and realised that even though I loathe sardines (I dislike almost all oily fish except raw salmon) I had a lonely looking tin of tuna to use up. It had to be done.

Spaghetti al tonno - ispirati dalla Sicilia

Olive oil

Lemon olive oil (this was a treat to myself that I bought at Maltby Street market a while back. Mallafre olive oil, crushed with lemons.)

The finely grated zest of one lemon

2 shallots, finely sliced

2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

Handful of sultanas, soaked for about 10 minutes in warm water.

1 x 125g/4oz tin of tuna in brine, drained

Gently fry the shallots in olive oil until they start to soften, then add in the garlic slices. Everything should cook through, but not brown too much.

Add in the sultanas, and the halved cherry tomatoes, cut side down. Cook gently until the juices start coming out of the tomatoes.

Add in the drained tuna and the lemon zest and up the heat a little.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta. I used about 4oz/125g angel hair spaghetti.

When the pasta is cooked to your liking, tip it into the tuna sauce, and mix well.

I drizzled over some of the lemon oil to lift it, and it really worked.

Thank you Salvo Montalbano.



Tuna lemon pasta


Cake and Ice cream.

It’s a winner isn’t it? The idea of a good, rich cake, its gooeyness cut by tangy ice cream? Heaven to me. It’s like eating hot Christmas pudding with cold, cold cream. (My mum’s light Christmas pudding though, no other.)
This week, my husband has been working stupid hours. Such long hours, in fact, that I’ve barely seen him for more than half an hour at a time. He’s not been home before midnight most nights, some nights it’s been 2am. So if anyone deserved cake, it’s him.
I had made Nigella’s Chocolate Olive Oil cake earlier in the week but the poor man hadn’t had a chance to eat it. As he was magically home before 9pm yesterday, it was time for Cake. I had made the ice cream earlier in the week too.
Caramel Condensed Milk Ice cream
1 can Caramel Condensed milk
1 pot Tim’s Dairy Greek yoghurt
1 cup crushed meringues
1 tsp vanilla extract
Whisk the yoghurt, the condensed milk (save 2 tbs) and extract together, trying to get some air in.
Stir in the meringue pieces. (I had some power, some pieces, all sorts.)
Pour all of this into a freezer container. I used an empty ice cream tub.
Dot the top with the rest of the condensed milk, and swirl it through so you have toffee trails.
Freeze overnight and take out of the freezer about 1/2 an hour before serving. There are no ice crystals, but it can set very solid!

Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Olive Oil Cake (with my own tweaks of course)

50 grams cocoa powder (good quality, sifted)
125 ml boiling water
1 teaspoon(s) best vanilla extract*
1 teaspoon rose extract*
1 tsp cinnamon extract*
200 gram soft light brown muscovado sugar
3 eggs
150 gram(s) ground almonds
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Pinch salt
150 ml light olive oil (plus more for greasing)
1 22 or 23cm springform cake tin, the sides greased and the base lined
Mix the cocoa, boiling water and extracts together. Whisk well so there are no lumps and then leave to cool.
Whisk the eggs, oil and sugar together until they look paler and more creamy. I whisked for a good ten minutes.
Mix in the almonds,  bicarb and a pinch of salt.

Cocoa and dry ingredients

Pour in the cocoa mixture, and mix very well.
Pour that lot into a lined springform cake tin. Don’t worry, it really is that runny.


Bake at 170C/Gas 3 for 45 minutes. (I have a fan oven, so cooked it at 160C)
Leave it to cool in the tin.

Cooked cake in tin

Serve with the ice-cream, making sure to post photos on Twitter late at night so that you can make folks hungry.

This slice of cake was eaten on election night because I was anxious

Caramel Meringue icecream
This cake and ice cream was eaten to celebrate seeing my husband properly for the first time in days.

*The extracts used were Star Kay White’s. They are amazing.


La Porte des Indes–Masterclass

Warning: picture heavy post!

I have a love affair with Indian food. I grew up in a multicultural part of London, and almost all of my friends were Indian, but from very different areas, and so I grew up eating the most wonderful foods. Amazing Gujarati vegetable dishes,  zingy Punjabi stews and keema with peas, pakoras and spicy chicken in the Sikh households, meat dishes rich and full of cinnamon , nuts and sultanas in Bengali houses and  absolutely perfect rice in all of them…mine was a blessed childhood.

It did get to the point where I had trouble remembering the English name for things, and got mistaken for being Indian a lot of the time. This lead to being told off once by an Aunty at a wedding because I “didn't speak my own language.” The poor lady was mortified when she was told by my friend, amid much laughter, that I was Anglo Greek, not Anglo Indian. She spent the rest of the afternoon feeding me freshly cooked spinach pakoras as a penance. Oh woe is me.

Given my early obsession, it should come as no surprise that I jumped at the chance to attend a masterclass at La Porte des Indes in London.

I have to extend my thanks, once again, to my lovely friend Kavita for asking me along to this event. Not only am I blessed with amazing friends, I am blessed by friends with excellent taste.

I arrived stupidly early at Marble Arch, so I had time to grab a coffee and read my book whilst waiting for the appointed time. I’m quite nervous of going in to new places on my own, and when there was no-one to greet me I was a little shy of just wandering down the stairs just in case they were the wrong stairs and I ended up somewhere I shouldn’t be, but I did it anyway and arrived at the right place.


We were served a gorgeous drink made from passion fruit and guava which stubbornly refused to be photographed by my camera, which is a shame, because the colour of it was amazing. Hopefully Kavey got a shot, because I’d love you to see what a vibrant drink it was.

This is an event that I will not forget anytime soon. The elegance and beauty inside the restaurant – which used to be a ballroom - took my breath away, but there’s a quirkiness too. There is the Jungle Bar where we congregated http://www.laportedesindes.com/london/about-us/jungle-bar/ and I just loved it. I could quite happily have stayed there all day.

The tiger skin rugs of the old colonies are replaced by fake tiger rugs. Fake skins with a happy face and a flat fluffy tail. I may have wanted to take one home. Don’t worry, it is still there. Look, see?

Tiger rug


The general manager, Shirin, collected us all together and took us on a tour of the kitchen. I am well aware that a kitchen can be a territorial place. Anyone who has tried to cook with me will attest to that, and so I felt more than a little trepidation at going in. I shouldn’t really have worried, because everyone was smiley, and very accommodating to us invaders.

One of our group got to place a naan bread inside a blisteringly hot tandoor oven, and very brave of her it was too. We got to taste a naan, literally fresh from the oven wall, and it is so shockingly different to what you can buy elsewhere. Better, more crispy on the base and with a far superior flavour.

I managed to get one, very blurred shot of the oven, and it was blurred because the heat coming out of it made me not want to get too close! This is it. I show you my shameful effort simply so you can see the glow at the bottom.


It is a compact space, with little room for manoeuvre, but everybody seems to work with it perfectly well.

First kitchen counter  Cooking station vivid colours  2nd kitchen side cooking station

Now these big pots here are MY kind of cooking pot. Oh yes. What do you mean I overcater?

Huge pots

Next we invaded the personal space of a lovely smiling man making aubergine fritters, or beignets, which is what they are called on the menu. The smell of which drove a few of us mad it was so good.

Another blurred photo! (I was trying so hard not to get in the way that I rushed it, so that serves me right for worrying too much.)

Aubergine pockets ready to be fritters

The aubergines are made into a pocket, stuffed with deliciousness, and then dipped in a gram (chick pea) flour batter and deep fried. Best savoury doughnut EVER as far as I am concerned. I’m going to get me some gram flour I think. The nice man also let me and another invader eat some of the crispy bits that had collected in the draining tray.

Next was the immense spice grinder, though I didn’t get a shot of that. I was too busy going “Oooh bowls in stacks!” and taking shots of those instead.


Time to depart the kitchen and head to the demonstration area. The majority of the following photos are by Ayub from http://www.aminart.co.uk/, and I am very grateful to him for allowing me to use them. Mine are marked with my watermark.

All of us and a rapt me

Yes, that is me at the front, utterly rapt in what Chef Mody was saying.

Chef Mody

Chef Mody, in a rare standing still moment.

He described the cooking of each dish as they went along, sometimes being ambushed slightly by his incredibly quiet but efficient assistant. I named him Ninja.

Chef Mody is an absolute pleasure to listen to, a man with obvious passion for food, and the history behind both the restaurant and the cuisine. I also got the feeling that fools are not suffered gladly.


The wooden contraption in the fore of the picture is a coconut grinder, to scrape the coconut meat out of the shells, ready to make milk. Coconut milk is not the liquid inside, that is coconut water. The milk is made from squeezing the grated flesh once it has been mixed with water.

Spice bowls

Frying pakoras

Chard and Water chestnut pakoras in the deep fryer.

Cooked chard and waterchestnut pakoras

The finished pakoras – they were delicious!


Busy, busy. Chef Mody and his Ninja chef assistant.

Plated prawns potatoes and rice

The finished taster plates of Chard and Water Chestnut Pakoras, Bombay Potatoes, Crevette Assadh, fluffy rice and naan.

The prawn dish was my favourite, and quite possibly the best prawn dish that I have tasted in a long time. You could have given me a bowl of just that and that would have been me happy.

There was a wine expert present as well, and she expertly matched wines to dishes. I cannot comment there, as I don’t drink, but everyone seemed to be pretty happy with the choice of wines, and how they stood up to the flavours they were put with. There are also now a lot of wines being produced in India, and these are available at the restaurant.

After the demonstration ended, we had a quick Q&A session, and then…then it was on to lunch. I’m afraid the next photos are all mine, so may well be a bit shaky.

I was in a serious quandary as to what drink to order, and was nearly swayed by a Coconut Lassi, but when Kavey pointed out a Rose Lassi, that was that question answered.

Rose close up

Rose Lassi



Our lovely starters consisted of beautifully silky Seekh kebab, deep fried puris (mini round breads that puff up when you fry them) filled with yoghurt and I think, a chutney, topped with crunchy sev. (deep fried gram flour vermicelli) It’s a variation on a very popular street food, pani puri, but thankfully this one didn’t leak all over when you bit into it. The samosas were perfection. Filled with minced chicken and spices, they were delicate, utterly moreish and light with it. This came with two fruity chutneys.




delicate chicken samosa

There was a danger of filling up here, but I stayed away from the basket of fresh naan. You have no idea how difficult that was.

Fresh naan

The mains were equally good.

Mixed mains

Poulet Rouge, which was chicken in a creamy sauce, then monkfish in a spicy sauce with dried red chillies and spinach sautéed with mushrooms. The monkfish was a bit too spicy for me, but that was probably because I’d chewed down on a piece of dried chilli, not realising what it was. That is what drinking a lassi is for! Not lager, people, yoghurt. Cools the mouth down nicely so that you can finish eating the delicious food in front of you.

Mains plate

Just when I thought we were safe, desserts arrived.

Dessert selection

I’d gone for a wander to stretch my legs, so missed the explanation of what was what. The mini samosa was delicious, and contained chocolate and walnuts in a crisp shell. The chocolate mousse was served in a little leaf bowl and was rich and unctuous. Do you know how hard it is to scrape a leaf bowl with a spoon?

The pink dessert in a glass had the feel of a rice pudding, but possibly one made with ground rice. Tasty as anything though, and rose scented.

The terracotta pot was my favourite. It tasted like a mango cheesecake, so I suspect strained yoghurt with mango purée. It was divine.

Everything about our day was excellent. The only thing I would say was that the group was too large to be able to see properly or take everything in, mainly on the kitchen tour, but everything else proved to be brilliant.

My thanks to Chef Mody and Shirin, to Ayub for the photographs and to Kavey for inviting me along, plus the lovely staff who didn’t mind being invaded at all.

I liked it so much, I’m going to try and convince my boss to have our Christmas party there. I don’t think he will take much persuading mind, as it’s his favourite restaurant. I have been ordered to try the lamb chops when I go back.

La Porte des Indes

32 Bryanston Street



020 7224 0055

I ate as a guest of La Porte des Indes and received a copy of their cookbook to take away with me.