Necessity is The Mother of Invention…Carrot Houmous and Cinnamon Honey Chicken

I was browsing the food pages of the internet this week, as always, and came across what I thought sounded like a fabulous recipe. I’ve always got too many carrots, so I wanted to use them instead of watching them turn into sad representatives of food waste, virtually overnight. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that carrots are the pear of the vegetable world.

I found this blog post: http://www.garnishwithlemon.com/2012/10/22/carrot-hummus/

As I had no tahini, I made the best of what I did have.

3 cups cooked carrots

2 cups (1 can) chickpeas, drained

Juice 1 small lemon

2 large cloves smoked garlic or 1 fat clove of unsmoked (stronger taste)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

Heaped tablespoon smooth peanut butter

Extra virgin olive oil

2 level tablespoons ground almonds, to add a bit of bulk

salt to taste

Put all of the above in a food processor and blitz. Drizzle in the olive oil so that it thins the mixture to a spreadable consistency, or to however you like your houmous. I prefer mine thick and quite grainy.

Leave it to sit for a while to develop. If you can.

Houmous with sumac

To go with this I made a chicken dish up out of what I had in the cupboard.

4 chicken thighs, skin on

1 tin chopped tomatoes, good ones. I used Cirio as they have a nice, rich juice

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tsp cinnamon

Squeezy honey

2 tsp sweet smoked paprika

2 handfuls of dried chopped prunes

Cook the chicken skin side down in a dry pan (one that can go in the oven)

When the skin starts to turn golden, turn the chicken over.

Scatter the prunes around the chicken.

Pour in the tomatoes, trying not to get too much over the chicken skin.

Add the cinnamon and paprika and mix in.

Tuck the garlic slices into the tomatoes.

Drizzle honey over the exposed chicken skin.

Simmer to meld the spices then pop into the oven.

Bake for 40 minutes on about 170ºC Fan, Gas 5.


Houmous with chicken



Sunday Staple: Featherblade and red wine stew

I make stew rather a lot. It’s a nice easy dinner, and if you make enough, you have some for the next day and some for the freezer. I also love the smell of it cooking merrily away while I potter about for the rest of the day.

The vegetable amounts are approximate. I used enough to feed 5, as I always cook for leftovers. I put the potatoes in later so that they won’t fall apart, as featherblade does take a while to cook down.

3lb featherblade steak (any stewing cut can be used, but this is our definite favourite) cut into chunks

2 slices smoked bacon, diced

8 carrots, sliced (I don’t peel)

6 potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 bottle red wine

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp onion salt (husband hates onions, so I use this)

1/2 tsp garlic salt (it adds another bit of zing)

Good pinch dried oregano

2 cloves smoked/unsmoked garlic, sliced

1 tbs HP sauce

1 tbs dark French mustard

2 Bovril stock cubes (much nicer than Oxo, cheaper than Knorr stock pots)

1 wineglass of water

Brown the meat off in batches, add to a large ovenproof casserole dish. (I will be honest here, sometimes I don’t bother, I just bung everything in the one pot, mix well and cook -  though if using bacon, I cook that off first. It still works.)

Cook off the bacon in the same pan you cooked the meat off in, then add to the meat.

Pour a good glass or two of wine into the cooking pan to deglaze, and dissolve all the dry spices in it, plus the crumbled stock cubes. It will thicken up! Do not panic.

Tip this mixture over the meat in the pan.

Add in the carrots, the rest of the bottle of wine, water, the fresh garlic, the mustard and the brown sauce. Mix well.

Cook, covered, on 170ºC Fan for three hours.

Add in the cubed potatoes, mix, cover and cook for another 45 minutes, covered, then take the lid off for the last 15 to thicken up the sauce.

I ladled out some of the liquid and reduced it in a pan to make it thicker and more rich. Definitely works!

Featherblade stew


Ikimiz–Kyrenia, Cyprus

I know this isn’t really fair of me to review a place that hardly anyone will get a chance to go to, but I was so impressed with this restaurant that I had to write about it. I also had to share some of my rather bad photos with you, in the vain hope that they might manage convey some of the magic that this place holds.

Going to Cyprus for Christmas was wonderful. Getting to see my Mum for the first time in years doubly so. We spent time visiting various places, cooking and eating and generally talking and catching up. A lot of time was also spent fussing the cat, and on a cold night in Cyprus, sitting in front of the fire surrounded by Christmas lights and watching silly TV, stroking a wildly purring, warm kitty is a perfect thing to do.


The Friday before I was due to return to Blighty, Mum took me to a local restaurant, tucked away in the old quarter of Girne, right next door to a Greek church, though now deconsecrated.


It looks pretty unassuming, and quite small at first glance. This was a traditionally built Cypriot home, and has been turned into a restaurant, run by mother and daughter. It’s called Ikimiz, which means “The Two of Us.”

The welcome is warm, in manner and in temperature, and we were very glad of both. It really does feel like you are in someone’s living room, that you are just out at a friend’s house for dinner.

I simply had to explore.

The view from my seat at table:


The gorgeous painted door next to us:

Door painting

The entire place is full of artwork and decoration, all done by Fatma, the Mama and chef proprietor.

I decided to have a wander about outside.

What I found when I came out of the restaurant part was quite unexpected.

This was what I could see from our table, and I wanted to know what lay beyond that.

Courtyard view

To the right, as you walk outside, there is a covered bar area ‘walled’ by plastic, where people were sitting with a calor gas fire, drinking and chatting. It looked very cosy indeed, with cushions and warm fabrics.

Just past that there are steps up to another courtyard.

Courtyard steps

Everywhere you look, there is a personal touch. An old bike fixed to the wall, as though the rider has just raced in from school and left their bike leaning. Pretty cups, or coffee pots placed here and there, but none of it contrived at all. The feeling that someone absolutely adores this little place is obvious throughout.

Up the steps and there it all is.

My photos do not do justice to the breathtaking effect of standing under a cold indigo sky, and seeing an orange tree in full fruit in front of you. To me it felt as if I had found the tree of golden apples, completely by accident.


Every part of this homely, comfortable place has something that has been chosen with care and love.

Orange pile


I could have stayed out there all night, hearing the gods speak and watching the years roll by. But dinner called.


First a beautiful lemon drink, which was a cross between lemon and orange. I have a suspicion it was made with the same lemons as the ones I hauled back to England in my suitcase. A cross between a tangerine and a lemon. The drink was sweet, but not sugary, and tart enough that it was refreshing.


Next up, a small appetiser of toasted bread and crushed coriander olives.

Toast and olives

The hostess, Latife,  brought out a menu on a blackboard so that we could choose the rest of our dinner. It’s not a big menu, but that is good, as if there were any more dishes, choosing would be nigh on impossible.

All the cooking was taking place in the walled in kitchen next to us, and every so often Fatma (Mama and chef) came out to say hello and ask how we were, talking to my Mum as if they were old friends.

Mum chose macaroni layered with meat and topped with a béchamel sauce, I chose assorted dolma. Vegetables stuffed with finely ground lamb.

Everything tasted of my childhood, which is what I wanted, and what my Mum knew that I would love. Cypriot food, for me,  is set slightly apart from Greek food. There are more spices, a more Arabic influence perhaps. Whatever the reason, it is the food I grew up with, and often crave. So far our meal and hit every button. (The photos will not be brilliant, as it is very dimly lit.)


Latife then brought us out a crunchy, fresh salad, with spikes of herb flavours and a light dressing.


Mum had chosen steak and I went for spiced minced meat wrapped in homemade filo pastry with almonds.


I think it is safe to say that they do not stint on portion sizes.


I’m not sure how I managed it, but I did. Mainly because it was so very tasty.

The pastry wasn’t heavy at all, even though it had soaked up the sauce, and the spiced lamb was soft and well-flavoured with a fine texture. The sauce, or gravy, call it what you will, was deeply savoury and very meaty. For me, the addition of rice and potatoes was a bit too much, but then I don’t really eat an awful lot of carbohydrates usually. This time though, I was not going to miss out!

There was no way we were going to have room for dessert, or even a coffee.

We just sat, relaxed, listening and watching the restaurant bustle around us.

Even the Ladies’ Toilets have been made to look pretty. I loved the door

Mirrored Door

and the painted mirror too.


Not a surface, or a wall, or a corner has been neglected. You are eating your dinner in a house that is loved, looked after by people who exude charm and kindliness.

I may have wanted to kidnap this chair.


While we sat and chatted, Mama came out of the kitchen, took off her chef’s hat and shook out her hair, obviously done for the night. She came and spoke to my Mum, and although I can’t understand Turkish, I got the gist of “Is this your daughter? She looks like one of us!”

I should point out that Mum and I do not have the same colouring, so it takes people by surprise at first.

Me and Mum

The next thing I knew I was being hugged by Fatma, and given a kiss on both cheeks. Believe me, when in Cyprus, you get used to this pretty darned quickly. No British reserve here.

Finally we said our goodbyes, and went out into the night. There was a full moon, and the sky was almost luminous with it.

Church tower


The streets were very dark, and the houses looked all the more cosy for it. I didn’t want to leave but we were both starting to fall asleep, and Cyprus driving is fairly interesting at the best of times, but with no street lights…I shall leave it to you to imagine.


We bid everyone a fond farewell, and returned home to sleep the sleep of the very well fed.

Fatma Erim “All I ever wanted was to make our place feel like your own home, like you’re sitting in your own garden enjoying traditional home-made Cypriot food.”



Smokey Split Pea and Bacon Soup

Two posts in one day! Gosh.

The weather has turned, and with it my food cravings. All I wanted today was soup, so when I saw a big packet of split peas for 65 pennies, my mind was pretty much made up on the spot. I only had to buy an onion and I was all set.

My soup turned out to be so very nice, that I am sharing it with you, not ten minutes after I have finished eating it.

(I used American measuring cups because that’s what I have and I didn’t want to generate more washing up.)

2 and 1/3 cups hot water

1/3 cup yellow split peas

1 red onion, chopped into small chunks

2 rashers smoked bacon, chopped into small bits

2 cloves garlic, sliced (I used smoked)

1 Knorr chicken stock cube

Olive oil

1 knob butter

Sauté the chopped bacon in the olive oil.

When the bacon loses its translucence, add in the onion and sauté on a gentle heat until it starts to soften.

Add in the garlic slices, along with the butter. Mix well to coat.

Pour in all the water, and the peas.

Bring to the boil, turn the heat right down to low, add in the stock cube and leave it on a low heat, stirring every so often, for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Eat. Feel better.

   Split peas


Finished Soup

Trinity Stores, Balham

I’ve been following the @TrinityStore Twitter account for a while now. I can’t remember how I found them, but their feed usually makes me laugh, and also makes me very hungry.

I was waffling on about how I’d brought some beautiful lemons back from Cyprus, thin skinned and almost a cross between lemons and oranges, and I happened to mention I’d me making lemon curd. The Trinity Stores social media lady expressed much interest, so I decided to take her a jar when I was next in the vicinity.

That day was today.

I headed off from East Croydon and got to Balham pretty quickly. The stores are very easy to spot, being located right opposite the rail station’s exit. I hurried across the road, desperate to get out of the biting wind. I failed to get a photo of the outside, because I was so cold, but I should have done. It looks so welcoming! My apologies for not providing that bit of viewing.

They do look like they should be nestled in a village somewhere, possibly with Miss Marple sitting inside having a pot of tea, although that would elevate the possibility of foul play, so maybe not Miss Marple…if anybody used to watch Mapp & Lucia, then you will know that kind of quintessential English village setting I mean.

I had been told to ask for Rick when I got there, and I dutifully passed over the jar of pale, creamy looking preserve. It’s quite sharp, and very lemony. I believe Faye (that’s the social media lady) is going to make a cake with it. There was a discussion about what it was, and where it was from, and then it was carefully placed in the fridge for safekeeping.


Rick very kindly offered me a coffee and some cake. I let him choose which cake, as there was no way I could decide.

Gorgeous Coffee

The coffee was divine. Strong and full of flavour but not bitter, and the cake…Oh my, the cake. They had chosen to give me me some lemon, olive oil and rosemary cake, which not only smelled and looked amazing but tasted fabulous too.


Soft and juicy, sweet but not overpoweringly so. It had an almost treacle tart taste, but was so much more. I took my time over it, because I didn’t want it to end.

Lemon olive oil rosemary cake

The very patient people who work there then let me potter about taking photos of the place. It's been so beautifully put together, there's not a corner that hasn't been thought about.


This wee birdie made me smile so much.

The staff have all had input into the decor, Rick has left them to it and they have made it into a haven of peace and loving quirkiness. 

Shelves and table setting               The Chocolate Shelf

Chocolate corner!

In the evenings they put candles out to make it a relaxing place to be, and it certainly is that. It maintains an air of gentility, even during lunch hour, when people are in and out all the time. The background music is at the perfect volume, in no way invasive, and lets you sit and think.


If you are ever in Balham, try to go. It's right opposite the rail station entrance.


They also gave me some grapefruit and poppy seed cake to take home for Tex. :) I bought some scotch eggs - they do six kinds including a vegetarian one - and a pork pie so Tex and I will try those out tomorrow. 





I wish that I lived nearer, because this warm and welcoming place would be my regular retreat from the outside world. It has a sense of timelessness to it, from the faint tinkling of old-time music to the assorted crockery.

It’s not forced hipster, it’s not practiced shabby chic, it’s just a place formed out of a genuine love for what they do. I can’t wait to have occasion to go back.

It’s amazing what you can discover, just from a Twitter chat about lemon curd. 

5 & 6 Balham Station Road
SW12 9SG
Tel: 0208 673 3773