Project Food Blog

Vegetarian White Chili


2 x 330ml bottle light Mexican beer
4 finely chopped white onions 
1 bunch roughly chopped Spring onions
4 crushed garlic cloves 
4 red peppers, deseeded and finely chopped 
3 fresh jalapeño chillies, chopped
3 dried smoked chillies, chopped 

3 tbsp ground cumin 
800 ml hot vegetable stock 
Large bunch of fresh coriander, plus extra, chopped, to garnish 
100ml rice vinegar
2 x 400g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 x 400g can butter beans or chick peas, drained and rinsed

2 packets of frozen quorn pieces (optional)
3 tbsp chopped fresh oregano 
3 tsp chilli powder 
3 tsp smoked paprika 
750g grated vegetarian cheese,  Cheddar or similar
Lime wedges & a generous dollops of Creme fraiche or yoghurt to garnish


Bring the beer, onions, garlic, peppers, jalapeños, smoked chillies, cumin and stock to the boil in a large pan, then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes on a low heat.  

Saute the quorn pieces if you are using, and add to the pan.

Blend the coriander, vinegar and a good pinch of salt in a food processor to make a smooth paste. Add the coriander paste along with both cans of beans to the spiced stock pan, and simmer for 25 to 35 minutes.

Stir in the oregano, chilli powder and smoked paprika. Serve sprinkled with grated cheese and garnished with lime wedges and extra chopped coriander.

Green Friday

Have to be quick as I need to pick up from ballet! I'm so excited about the Green Tea Ice Cream I made this afternoon... it's FANTASTIC! There is a little bit left for everyone else, but I did have yet another serving as I needed to take a photo!
Today I also had a friend round for brunch, she's been away teaching in Brunei for three years so it was great to catch up. As we were eating early, I wanted to do something light, so settled on Croissants with Asparagus and a Gruyère and Mustard Sauce. I had no recipe, but rather knew what I wanted it to look like and more importantly taste like when I'd finished! I made a Very Easy Cheese Sauce, used tinned Asparagus which was delicious and worked very well here. I heated the croissants in the oven, put 3 or 4 spears of asparagus on each opened croissant, spooned the sauce over the top, then sprinkled a little more grated Gruyère over the sauce. To finish, I popped them back in the oven for a couple of minutes and voilà, a tasty and quick brunch. 

You could easily do this for large numbers with minimal effort!

Polpo and Cocoon – Great Value Lunches!

It's been one of those weeks. And it's only Tuesday. A week where you've worked all weekend, so lose track of days (is it really only Tuesday night?)

Where life squeezes you from all sides, and each day becomes survival. Luckily, I work in the centre of London, and part of my job as a manager involves taking my senior staff for an annual pre-Christmas appraisal lunch. So I may not have been cooking, apart from the very basics for my family such as Speedy Pasta Sauce, but I have been entertaining.

This year, with the focus being firmly on saving every penny, my aim was to find places that felt special and offered great value, without compromise. And I'm happy to report that I found a couple of gems that absolutely delivered.

First up was Polpo, on Brewer Street. Not sure when any of you last saw a starter for £1.20 on a Soho menu? And this is no fly by night start up – this is the new venture from Russell Norman, ex Caprice Holdings - a man who genuinely understands what makes a great restaurant. The food was wonderful, but it was the attention to detail that I loved. It was so obviously born from passion, created and crafted with care, and delivered with a personal touch. It made me wonder why I'd ever head into a Pizza Express again [I know the answer. It's because I have a two year old and a four year old. And lots of  Tesco restaurant tokens.]

Second lunch was Cocoon. I defy you to find a better £15 set lunch in the country. Soft shell crab. Miso soup with bells and whistles. Jasmine tea. Sushi galore. A spiced tofu salad. And Green Tea Ice Cream.

So not a lot of cooking, but hospitality in abundance. And both restaurants will be featuring in my January edition of Fabric magazine.

Polpo photograph courtesy of Polpo Restaurant

Cocoon photograph courtesy of Spherical Images

Somewhere near Domesticated Bliss

It's early Sunday morning, and so far the day has gone well! I have an Onion Tart in the oven, enough Pumpkin and Ginger Soup to put in the freezer for those unexpected but very welcome guests that may stumble our way over the Festive Season, twenty Chocolate Cupcakes (recipe and photo courtesy of the delicious Primrose Bakery Cookbook)  ready to be iced  (Vanilla Buttercream Icing) and the washing is on! Having not even had running water in the kitchen until recently, and a kitchen that was barely fit for purpose for the last five years, the novelty of cooking has not yet worn off. I hope it never does! The tart is ready to come out of the oven now so I'm off back to bed! Happy Days!

Winter Warmers

Kath's last post about eating Lentil Soup has made me think again of all the lovely produce there is at this time of year, just crying out to be made into delicious broths and stews.
One of the best soups I have ever tasted was at about 5 o'clock in the morning after a particularly raucous party at our friend Kat'e old house in Bavent Road in south London.  Kate had some great friends living next door and they would open up the two houses, install beautifully decorated bedouin style tents in the back garden, crank up the sound systems and do a fabulous job of ensuring the night's partying was perfect. At the end of the night, in Ian's place next door, they cooked the most delicious Spiced Pumpkin and Ginger Soup, which was served to all their tired revellers. It really was delicious and as I still have pumpkins left I will definitely be making this at the weekend!

40th Birthday Dinner Party

No, not mine, my dear friend Ben's. His friends David and Fiona own Northcott House, near Bude, in Cornwall – recently featured in a magazine as one of the top 10 villa hideaways in the world. Leaving London at 5.30pm on Friday, in a journey that involved bike, vespa, train, taxi and hire car, plus a few wrong turns thanks to the satnav, we finally arrived at 10.45pm. Thankfully, the rest of the guests were already settled in, and were busy nibbling on sweet chilli prawns and supping champagne before the main event.

David owns a herd of longhorn cattle, and we were treated to a fantastic rib of beef, served with roasted vegetables, mashed celeriac and Jude's special gravy. After the main course, we gave the birthday boy his presents, then moved on to pudding - 40 cakes topped with icing, cherries and skinny gold and silver candles. Truly elegant and not too girly.

Ben owns an events and production company called Drive (strapline 'Everything is an Event') and so this was no low key affair. Guests dressed in vintage 40s dresses and black ties, speeches were made, lots of good red wine was drunk and we danced until dawn.

The severe weather warning and the fact that we could not stand outside on the beach without being blown over did not deter us. It was a fantastic weekend. After breakfasting on leftover birthday cake and some of David's homemade sausages served with celeriac potato cakes, we hotfooted it back to London for a well-deserved takeaway from The Good Earth.

This week, it's back to lentil soup and hot water and lemon juice!

All about the Kids!

It's been a hectic week here, seem to have cooked non stop! Had friends over last weekend to christen the dining table finally being installed in the kitchen (made Shin of Beef stew with Horseradish and Chive dumplings... delicious!) Then had sleepover for four hungry teenagers (sent them off in the morning with a healthy organic breakfast of porridge, banana smoothies and bacon and egg) Then had to research WW2 recipes for my youngest, ending up in cooking and eating Woolton Pie, which I had never heard of before. We found this fantastic web site aimed at kids who cook, called Cookit, which has the most fantastic history section complete with recipes from different periods in history. It's great!

Woolton Pie we discovered was first known as Lord Woolton pie. It was created at the Savoy Hotel in London no less, by its then Maitre Chef de Cuisine, Francis Latry. It was one of a number of recipes recommended to the British public by the Ministry of Food during the Second World War to enable a nutritional diet to be maintained despite shortages and rationing of many types of food, especially meat.

It was named after Frederick Marquis, 1st Lord Woolton (1883-1964), who became Minister of Food in 1940.

Woolton Pie is an excellent example of how people coped with rationing. Fats, such as butter and lard, were rationed, so everyone had to find ways to make these last. The government issued many recipes to show people how to make meals with very limited ingredients.
Potato pastry uses very little fat as the potato makes the pastry moist and crumbly. It was difficult to work with and turns grey if left too long when it's made. The pie contains seasonal vegetables; many of these would come from gardens or allotments because people grew as much food as they could. The government encouraged this with 'Dig for Victory' campaigns.

We weren't altogether convinced it would be that tasty, but were really surprised. I've never used oats in a recipe like this before, but it really worked. Would probably be nice with a bit of meat in it too!

Elizabethan Pork

Kath's post reminded me of a similar dish my Mum makes for winter parties... it's very tasty, easy to prepare and serves a lot of people.. so ticks all the right boxes. It's a lovely combination of sweet and savoury, and dates back to Tudor banquets (hence the name, Elizabethan Pork!)
It's also very comforting, and good to eat when you've been outside in the cold. I've been at a football tournament all day, and although it was very exciting, it was also very chilly... I think I know what I'll be making for tea tonight... I've always had it with rice but you could equally have it with plain couscous, or even simple boiled potatoes and other seasonal veg. Now where did I put those apricots....

Bonfire Night Spicy Pork

Such fun on Clapham Common tonight. Have finally discovered the stress-free way to take young kids to huge firework displays – Peltor Kids Ear Defenders. All the fun of the atmosphere – crunchy leaves underfoot and huge bright lights overhead, with none of the bangs that they hate. Bliss.

Ended up taking 5 kids up with us as my neighbour was stuck in traffic, it was great fun but it was equally great to be back home, nice glass of red in hand, cooking up some pork.

First, I cut the fat off, and fried this up separately over a high heat, then drained and sprinkled with salt for homemade pork scratchings. Delicious.

Then I fried up the pork with carrot, garlic, five spice, rice wine and soy sauce. I cooked a separate pot of rice with chicken stock and chopped cauliflower. Then mixed it all together in the wok at the end. It felt right for Bonfire night, somehow.

Wonders of Modern Technology

Hi there! Popped into our lovely local deli Bread and Milk, to get myself a sandwich (roast beef and horseradish on ciabatta, yum) after a hard morning at work... to be greeted by a sign on their blackboard inviting customers to join them on twitter... Well, that's a coincidence I thought as Kath and I had spent the evening trying to work out how to set up a twitter account for the blog so we can both tweet from separate locations... Perfect opportunity to get started I thought to myself... so, after browsing all their delicious pies, local cheeses, and further ranges of other goodies such as fresh pasta, antipasti, cakes, chutneys and wine... I decided to carry on browsing... back on the pc, and hopefully get tweeting...

We are now set up on twitter to follow and be followed... see if you can find us!!

Be interesting to see what recipes can be condensed into 140 characters including spaces!!

Halloween afternoon tea

As Halloween fell on a Saturday, we decided to have an afternoon party before we took the kids trick or treating. We spent Friday decorating the kitchen with frogs, spiders and other Halloween detritus, then headed out to the shops to pick up some carving pumpkins. Jasmine and Libby picked the biggest two left in the store – and as soon as I picked them up, I knew why no-one else had chosen them. They were far too heavy to carry, so we persuaded Scarlett to get out of her buggy, and arranged the pumpkins one on top of the other, to look like a Pumpkin baby! We wrapped 'her' in a blanket and walked back up Battersea Rise, getting some very strange looks on the way…

Back home, we carved these two beasts, together with a beautiful little pumpkin that came in my Abel & Cole box, then arranged them in the garden with candles in for a Halloween Eve vibe.

Saturday morning and we got the rest of the Halloween party food together for our 2.30pm start, including the Witches' Brew. Scarlett (2) and Jasmine (5) both had two friends coming over, so we planned some crafts and games that would amuse both age groups. Although in reality we catered more for the 5-6 year old girls, as the two little boys were more than happy kicking balls around the garden and playing with gravel, while the girls got on to the serious business of 'paint-facing', making spells and pinning the tail on the pony.

I got all of the ingredients for spell making together in the garden on low tables to kick the party off. I dressed as a witch and had glass vases full of water and food colouring. The little witches had to ask me for the various potions (venomous blue, blood red, vampire purple and squashed frog green), then add glitter, and any herbs and leaves they could find from around the garden.

They also loved making leaf monsters – we collected lots of different coloured leaves, then they each laid on pieces of paper and drew round each other. They then stuck the leaves on and had life sized monsters which could then be cut out and hung on the washing line or pinned on the wall.

The goriest game was 'a witch in my fridge'. I said that I had lots of different parts of a dead witch in my fridge, and could they guess the body part. This really appealed to the macabre nature of the 5 and 6 year olds! I put the following foods into covered tubs, then asked them to close their eyes, put their fingers into each tub and try and guess which part of the body they were touching.

Peeled grapes – eyeballs
Slice of ham in clingfilm - skin
Knobbly carrots – fingers
Tomato purée – blood
Carrot tops, slightly dried out – hair
Cold noodles in oil - intestines.

After more fun and games and a ghoulish themed tea, we headed out to trick or treat. There was a group of 10 kids and six adults, and we visited about a dozen houses. The kids are still talking about the devil – one man answered the door in a huge red devil mask and they all screeeeeeeamed. The best one by far was a flat at the top of a converted church. Lit pumpkins led up to the door. When the kids knocked, the door swung open but they couldn't see anyone. Then a huge wolf leapt round the door, roaring. It was actually a tiny woman on all fours, wearing a wolf head mask, but it was genuinely scary and their favourite door by far. Howl!