Confessions of a Cookbook Junkie

If you’ve been following my recent posts you may have noted some purchases made that I suggested would be blogged about later, well here it is.

One of my guilty spends was on ‘The Flavour Thesaurus’ by Niki Segnit, I’ve had a couple of days to peruse this little gem of a book and have to say it is brilliant. It lists all different ingredients and matches them with their partners in crime then suggests good dishes you can make with them. It’s great if like me you sometimes struggle to know what to do with new ingredients or are stuck for something different to mix and match to cook, combine and then blog about!

I made the lovely Chocolate and Cardamon Custard Pots (see previous post) based on a recommended combination in the book and hope that it will inspire me some more to think out of the box and experiment more in the kitchen.

Pork and Fennel Meatballs with a Tomato Sauce

I may have accidentally copied this from Jamie Oliver, I had pork and fennel in my head as a good combination for meatballs, then Googled the concept and stumbled upon one of his recipes.  I skimmed it this morning and haven’t been back to it since, so I’ll tell you what I did and if you want to report me to the Jamie Oliver plagiarism police then do it, but just to be fair I’ll link to the recipe I peeked at earlier here:

Right then, so let’s just continue as if this was all my wonderful idea and I’ll give you the haphazard, rough list of ingredients, and maybe  you’ll have a go sometime or maybe you’ll order a takeaway, because after all, sometimes you just like to read about food, and then it makes you hungry and then you can’t be arsed to cook. 

Ok so ingredients…

A big pack of pork mince (this is bloody good value fare btw), also I can’t remember how much was in the packet I used and I don’t want to go rummaging through the bin so pah!

A couple of handfuls of breadcrumbs (gf for me)

An egg

1/2 an onion, finely chopped

About four teaspoons of fennel seeds, crushed – did I tell you, I bought a very lovely pestle and mortar from a big supermarket chain today, very reasonable and not associated with one of those megalomaniac celebrity chef’s that seem to be taking over the world with their brands (sorry Jamie, I know I nicked your recipe but you are on everything these days)

Salt and pepper

Method:  Mix up all the above ingredients in a big bowl with your hands, get in there, get sticky.  Then roll into balls.  Stick on a big tray and put into a hot oven for about 25 min until lightly browned.

Whilst these are cooking you can knock up a tomato sauce, so…

Chop up the other half of the onion, soften in a pan with some olive oil then add a chopped clove of garlic.  Once translucent, add tomatoes (I added a tin of chopped and a few old tomatoes that were rolling around the back of our fridge.  Add a pinch of sugar, a splash of balsamic, a teaspoon of veg bouillon, some salt and pepper, and oops, a squirt of ketchup.  Simmer away for a few min then blitz and sieve.  Oh yeah and taste this then add/alter the ingredients until it tastes good.  I was thinking this might be nice with a splash of cream in to go with these meatballs but we didn’t have any and I’m not buying anymore now because the holiday is nearly over and I have to start being a bit more sensible sometime.

Once done, chuck your cooked meatballs in the sauce and heat through.  I made some mash to go with mine, but clearly this would be good with pasta or rice even.  We’re very Irish in this household and love our spuds.

Maya Gold Addict’s Easy Healing Pudding

Did I mention I scalded myself earlier cooking rice? Well I was in some pain, so in order to relieve the wound I decided to invoke the healing powers of Green and Black’s Maya Gold.  This is probably the easiest recipe on here, in fact I’m not so sure you can call it a recipe.  Anyways, I had half a tub of cream left from the rhubarb fool I made yesterday and in an attempt to waste less I thought it only right I use it up in this luscious little pud. 

Simply…. heat cream in a pan, add chocolate, stir until melted together and pour into little pots ( I used shot glasses) and chill. Then, most importantly, scrape every last drop of the left overs out of the pan and into your mouth.  Use your fingers, your tongue, a spoon, whatever utensils you think can help and breath deeply letting the chocolate do it’s work. 


Flattened Fried Chinese Chicken

I got a bit carried away in Waterstones today and somehow three food related books slipped into my hand, sideled across to the cashier and then popped into a carrier bag that followed me home.  The books look very cool and I hope to blog about them later when I’ve had chance to read them a little more.  One of the books I bought was Ken Hom’s ‘Complete Chinese Cookbook’, I wanted something Chinese and didn’t want to ring the local takeaway and wanted something to show off on here!  I was flicking through it in the bookshop when I stumbled across something I thought I had most of the ingredients for and looked relatively simple to pull off, the dish is called ‘Fragrant Crispy Chicken’ and the main ingredient chicken thighs.  Once out of the shop, I found myself a little corner in the Whitgift Centre in Croydon and quickly scanned the recipe for additional ingredients I needed to buy.  The only extras I needed were, szechuan peppercorns and five spice powder so I pootled along to the supermarket and picked these up. 

When I got home, I began to read the recipe in more detail and realised it involve deep frying, twice cooking, and a bit of hammering, and by this point I was getting hungry so I decided to adapt it to suit me.  The result was very tasty and well worth a go. 


Chicken thighs, skinless and boneless – though I think there could be scope for crispy skin action if you had these with the skin on.

1 teaspoon of five spice powder

A teaspoon of szechuan peppercorns, dry roasted and crushed (i forgot to crush mine)

4 tablespoons of Shaosing wine

A good shake of Tamari soy, if your not a coeliac use the normal stuff, Ken says use a bit of both dark and light, but like I said I’m adapting

A tablespoon of sesame oil

A thumb size piece of ginger, grated

3 cloves of garlic, grated (crushed whatever)


Put the chicken in a bowl, cover with the other ingredients and mix together with hands. I think this is where its best to leave it in the fridge for an hour or two but like I said before I was hungry so I left mine for about 5min then got on with it.  Heat up a frying pan until super hot, add some oil, spread out the thighs flat in the pan and then top with a circle or square of greaseproof paper and a big heavy pot filled with water to flatten and weigh down the chicken so it goes crusty on the heated side.  Cook for 5 min or so a side, squashing each time with the pan until dark brown and crusty.  I served mine with some plain boiled rice and some sweet chilli sauce. I was contemplating vegetables but I scalded myself during the rice cooking and just wanted to eat something to distract myself from the throbbing.

Tuna Fish Cakes and Basil Mayonnaise

I made this for lunch today.  It’s my first attempt at home made mayonnaise and I’m rather proud of the results and it wasn’t half as hard as I thought it might be (ok ok i did have a semi disaster as had hoped to make a lemony mayo but my first attempt was rather sour so I binned it and started again with a very nice sherry vinegar and it worked out!).


As usual I’m not going to be precise, it depends how many you are making for so just add appropriate amounts and give it a go.

For the fishcakes…

Mashed potato

Spring onions, chopped

Tinned tuna, drained (dolphin friendly please!!)

Salt and pepper

Mix the ingredients together, form in to patties and fry off in a little hot oil.  Pop the oven on and put in there to ensure heated through. 

For the Basil Mayo…

1 egg yolk

Olive oil

a tablespoon or two of sherry vinegar

salt and pepper

About a tablespoon of shredded fresh basil

Whisk the egg yolk, vinegar and seasoning.  Slowly trickle in the oil whisking quickly, my dad always said figure of eight, but just keep whisking and slowly adding oil until thick and glossy. 

Add basil, stir, serve with your fish cakes.  We ate ours with a little tomato and basil salad dressed with some more of that delicious sherry vinegar.

Rhubarb Rhubarb

I love rhubarb, I love the word rhubarb, I love the colour of rhubarb, I love the taste of rhubarb.

"rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb"

In memory of my one of my favourite childhood cartoons I was going to make Rhubarb and Custard but in the end I just made a compote.  However, this would work really well with custard, cream, panacotta, all sorts of things really.  I ate some last night with some pan fried mackerel fillets and some sauteed potatoes.  I also then snaffled some up warm with ice cream and today I think i might make a little fool out of the remaining compote, some cream, vanilla and a little sugar.

This compote is super easy to make and as you can see from above goes with lots and lots of different things.

Rhubarb and Ginger Compote:

Rhubarb, cut into short sticks


Stem ginger, about one nugget chopped finely and a slurp of the syrup from the jar

Juice of an orange, I used a very lovely blood orange from my local green grocers but any will do


Pop all the ingredients in a pan and cook gently until Rhubarb is tender but not completely collapsed.   Sugar wise, I shook some in from the jar, rhubarb can take quite a lot so taste as you go, you can add more at the end so keep trying and you’ll find your perfect balance.

Serve warm as a dessert with custard, french toast, cold with panacotta, mixed with youghurt, cream or as a sweet and sour element to a nice bit of mackerel as described above.

Snack Loves

Just a quick, silly post about a couple of things I just can’t stop nibbling on at the moment.  Marks and Spencer’s Handcooked Taw Valley Cheddar and Caramelised Shallot crisps and Green and Black’s Maya Gold chocolate. I just can’t stop.  This is becoming a little like my Lindt Truffle addiction at Christmas and seems to have a recurring theme, holiday = snacking.  Anyway just thought I’d share my compulsion, it’s good to talk isn’t it?  Kind of like snack therapy, or SS (Secret Snackers), do you see what I did there?! Oh god I better stop.  I promise to write something more meaningful later, I bought some rhubarb this morning so watch this space…

What are your snack loves?

p.s. Green and Blacks big bars on offer in Co-Op 2 for £3!!