A simple supper: twice baked potatoes

This is a recipe from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall‘s wonderful cookery book River Cottage Veg Every Day!, which I tweaked a tiny bit. It’s a fab cheesy and very filling jacket potato supper, quick and easy to make.

Twice baked jacket potatoes.

Twice baked jacket potatoes.

I baked some medium sized spuds, whole and unpricked, for about an hour at 200 degrees C / 400 degrees F / gas mark 6.

Grated cheddar, soured cream, spring onions and chives.

Grated cheddar, soured cream, spring onions and chives.

In the meantime I mixed together a load of grated tangy mature cheddar (we love Keen’s, made nearby in Wincanton, Somerset, mostly because it is one of the best farmhouse cheddars out there, and partly because Chap is friends with the maker and truckles have been bought at the pub for mates’ rates ….), the best part of a pot of soured cream I had left over from another recipe that only called for a dollop; all the spring onions (scallions to USians) I could find in the veg drawer, chopped roughly, and a massive handful of chives, also chopped roughly. Plus loads of freshly ground pepper (no salt because the cheese is plenty salty already).

When the spuds are cooked (poke ’em with a skewer to test), cut them in half lengthways, and scoop out the centre. Mix this with the cheesy filling and put back in to the potato shells.

Ready to go back in the oven.

Ready to go back in the oven.

Cook for another 10-15 minutes, until as browned as you like them.

Hugh also adds butter to the mix, but I thought that would be dairy overkill, considering all the cheese and cream in there already …  He also recommends crisping off the shells in the oven for 10 mins before putting the filling in, which I did, but in my opinion this made them a bit too tough and dried out. So I’ll omit that step the next time. I added shedloads of chives, which his recipe doesn’t use, because we love them and we have three very large and healthy plants in a pot just outside the back door.

Hugh’s recipe can be found here in The Guardian: scroll right down as it’s the last one on the page.

One-pot roast chicken

I bought a small chicken the other day and roasted it along with some spuds, carrots, onions and garlic, and with a whole lemon and a bunch of fresh thyme shoved inside its cavity: gurt lush, as they say around these parts.


Slightly blurry photo, but YUM!

I used the recipe on Jamie Oliver’s website, and it certainly is very simple. There were enough juices from the chicken (and the good glug of white wine I added in the latter stages of the cooking) for a simple jus – didn’t bother to make it into a gravy or anything, just spooned it over the meat and veg as it was. Scrumptious.

Rings that remind me of things: Part 3

The third in an occasional series about rings in my Etsy shop that remind me of things.



Vintage Danish 830 silver ring by Viggo Pedersen of Copenhagen, Denmark.


Cream horn.

Cream horn.

To be honest, the cream horn was the first thing that came to mind. If I was a bit more cultured, it would have been the Roman horn of plenty (cornucopia). But no. Cake. Always cake.

A horn of plenty (Cornucopia).

A horn of plenty (Cornucopia).

Part 1 was a ring that reminded me of an Iron Age hillfort, and Part 2 was a ring that reminded me of an alien spaceship.

UPDATE, 2 November 2015: The ring has now sold. Sorry!

Tree with flowers like cow parsley

One of the features of the ‘dashboard’ for this blog is a list of the search terms that visitors have used to bring them here. In among the usual ‘Niels Erik From’ and ‘Scandinavian silver’ and ‘filming locations’ search terms, yesterday I spotted something a little more unusual: ‘Tree with flowers like cow parsley’. Now I don’t know the nationality of the searcher, but I’m assuming they are British as cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) is one of our common wildflowers here. And so I’m guessing they might be searching for a British native tree with flowers like cow parsley.

Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris). Photo by Olivier Pichard.

Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris). Photo by Olivier Pichard.

Cow parsley flower head. Photo by Kristian Peters.

Cow parsley flower head. Photo by Kristian Peters.

My immediate thought was the elderflower, Sambucus nigra. It is in blossom right now, and looking glorious. Great frothy heads of white and creamy white flowers cover the large shrub/small trees.

Elderflower (Sambucus nigra). Photo by kku.

Elderflower (Sambucus nigra). Photo by kku.

Elderflower blossom detail. Photo by Frank Vincentz.

Elderflower blossom detail. Photo by Frank Vincentz.

Often the cow parsley is out at the same time that the hawthorn (Crataegus mongyna) is in blossom, their intertwangled blooms giving a white frothy appearance to the hedgerows and roadsides around here, but this year the cow parsley has been much later in flowering. It’s just about going over now, but has overlapped with the elderflower blossoms, giving a different but equally lovely combination of white froth.

In our garden we grow an elderflower cultivar, a stunning and decorative form with purple leaves and light mauvey pink flowers, Sambucus nigra f. porphyrophylla ‘Eva’. (It was called Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ when I bought it, but as so often seems to be the way with horticultural nomenclature, it’s undergone a name change, and is now a bit more of a mouthful).


Sambucus nigra f. porphyrophylla ‘Eva’.

Now is the time of year to make elderflower cordial, a delicious and refreshing drink made from the blossoms. Here’s a recipe by Jane Hornby from the BBC Good Food website:

Elderflower cordial

Makes about 4 litres


20 fresh elderflower heads, stalks trimmed

2.5 kg granulated or caster sugar

2 lemons, unwaxed

85 g citric acid (available from chemists)

Put the sugar and 1.5 litres water into a very large saucepan – a jam pan is best. Gently heat until the sugar has dissolved, but do not allow to boil. Pare the zest from the lemons, then slice the lemons into rounds.

When the sugar has dissolved to make a syrup, bring it to the boil then remove from heat. Wash the elderflower blossoms to remove insects or dirt – a washing up bowl full of water will do the trick nicely. Shake the flowers dry gently and add to the syrup along with the citric acid, lemon zest and lemon slices. Stir well. Cover the jam pan and leave for 24 hours for all the flavours to infuse into the syrup.

Drain the syrup (now transformed into cordial) and flowerheads through a clean piece of muslin or tea towel lining a colander, which sits over another large container. Discard what’s left in the muslin and put the cordial into sterilised bottles (these can be sterilised by putting them through the dishwasher on its hottest setting, or by washing well with very hot soapy water, rinsing and leaving in a low oven to dry). The cordial is ready to drink. Serve by diluting to taste with water, soda water, tonic water or whatever you fancy. It will store for up to six weeks in the fridge. It can also be frozen (ice cube trays are great for individual portions) and used as needed.

Orange and almond cake

When my younger sister opened her garden for the National Gardens Scheme, we sold plants and laid on tea and cakes as well, as a way of increasing the amount of money we took for the various charities that are the NGS beneficiaries. The days in the run-up to the two-day weekend opening would be a mad frenzy of fudge making and cake baking. My sister’s lovely work colleagues all joined in too, and so we always had a really impressive array of cakes and scones and flapjacks and brownies and all sorts of goodies to offer to the visitors. I had a massive grin on my face when I overheard one visitor say to her friend that our cakes knocked the spots off the National Trust ones! Quite properly, given that my sister lives in Devon, the third most popular was a West Country apple cake. The best seller was coffee and walnut cake, but it was very closely followed by a wonderful, zesty orange and almond cake.

This is only about half of the syrup.

Orange and almond cake. This is only about half of the syrup.

Almost all slurped up - it takes a few hours.

Almost all slurped up – it takes a few hours.

So scrummy it didn't last long!

So scrummy it didn’t last long!

There is something very moreish about this cake. It’s got no flour in it, using ground almonds and semolina instead, and as well as having orange zest and juice within the cake, after baking it is drenchedand I mean drenchedwith a fresh orange and lime juice syrup. The smell while the syrup is cooking is divine, and reminds me so much of the smell that pervaded the whole house when my Mum used to make her batches of marmalade every January. When you make the syrup you think that no way can the cake take all that liquid without turning into a soggy mess. But hold your nerve. The cake gradually sucks it all up, and it gives the cake a wonderfully moist texture, as well as ramping up the citrusness (Is that a word? Citrusosity? Citraceousness?). Yummy.

Orange and almond cake

Serves 8

115 g / 4 oz butter

grated rind of 1 large orange

115 g / 4 oz caster sugar

2 eggs, beaten

175 g / 6 oz fine semolina

100g / 4 oz ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp mixed spice

3 tbsp / 50 ml / 1.7 fl oz freshly squeezed orange juice

For the syrup

175 ml / 6 fl oz freshly squeezed orange juice

5 tbsp / 90 ml / 3 fl oz freshly squeezed lime juice

115 g / 4 oz caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F / gas mark 4.  Butter and line a 20 cm / 8 inch round cake tin. Beat together the butter, orange rind and caster sugar until light and creamy. Gradually beat in eggs. Mix together semolina, ground almonds, mixed spice and baking powder, and fold half into the creamed mixture with half the orange juice. Fold in remaining dry ingredients and orange juice. Spoon mixture into tin and bake for 30-40 minutes until well-risen and firm. Leave to cool for a few minutes, peel off the lining and turn out on to a deep plate.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. In a pan, heat the orange juice, lime juice and sugar until sugar has dissolved then bring to the boil and simmer for 4 minutes. Spoon over cake. This might take several goes depending on how deep your plate is and how much liquid it will hold. Leave to cool. Makes a nice pud served with crème fraîche as well as a great teatime cake.

National Gardens Scheme website.

National Trust recipes we beat!

World record easter eggs

Quite near to where I grew up in Leicester in the 1970s was a wonderful patisserie, Konditorei Macopa, run by a German man, Siegfried Berndt. The shop on Clarendon Park Road was pretty wee, but it had the most amazing selection of continental pastries and chocolates and wonderful cakes, all of which Mr Berndt made on the premises. It seemed such an exotic shop to have in our area, and it was a real treat to have one of his apricot Danish pastries or croissants for breakfast at the weekend, along with coffee made from the unroasted coffee beans he used to sell, which my Mum then used to roast in our oven. I loved that smell! His shop was also the first time I had seen fresh yeast, which you could buy in a little paper envelope with a cellophane front. His window display was a wonder to behold, with beautiful slices of continental style cakes and pastries and handmade chocolates. The shop always smelled wonderful tooMr Berndt roasted coffee beans on the premises, so along with the bready and cakey and chocolatey aromas, it was almost sensory overload to go in there.

A big egg.

A big egg. Bariloche, Argentina, April 2015. Photo by BBC.

Anyhow, I was reminded of this wonderful shop today when I saw an article about the world record breaking chocolate easter egg just made in Argentina. This handmade behemoth stands 6.50 m tall and used 8,000 kg of chocolate. Back in 1982, Mr Berndt became the world record holder for the heaviest chocolate easter egg – on 7 April 1982 he completed one that weighed 3,430 kg (7,561 lbs, 13 1/2 oz), and stood 3.05 m (10 feet) high. He appeared on Blue Peter with his creation, and soon after that 1 lb bags of smashed-up bits of easter egg were on sale in his shop: apparently it took until July to sell them all (only half of the eggsworth – he gave the rest to charity). I have to admit I succumbedit’s not every day you can say you’ve eaten a piece of world record breaking easter egg. I think the record stood for a few years, but then was overtaken by greater productions. The new Argentinian record holder is over twice the height and weight of the Macopa one.

I wondered what happened to the shop, and a quick spot of googling showed that it closed some time in the late 1990s. However, in March last year an artisan bakery opened up in the premises: The Tiny Bakery. Well named, indeed!

February 2016 update: Thanks to a comment from a lady, June, who used to work at Macopa, I’ve corrected Mr Berndt’s nationality to German. He is wrongly described as Swiss in the news reports I’ve seen. Do have a read of June’s comment, below – it’s a fascinating glimpse into the life of the patisserie and the travails of the easter egg. Thanks, June!


Today we had our annual quince harvest: it basically entailed one of us poking the fruit with a long stick and the other trying to catch them before they hit the ground. We had a couple go in the pond and poor old Chap got walloped in the mouth by another, so it wasn’t quite the charming scene of bucolic plenty and activity that we might have envisaged. Anyhow, we ended up with a good haul of fruit. Some were starting to rot on the tree and many had split (they always do, every year, without fail—no idea why), but they are all usable, in whole or in part.

Some of our quinces harvested today, alongside some Cox's apples for scale.

Some of our quinces harvested today, alongside some smallish eating apples for scale.

The quince (Cydonia oblonga) is a fantastic fruit, and I don’t know why it isn’t more commonly grown. The blossom is so pretty—opening out of a spiralled bud, the single pale pink cup-shaped flowers are like turbo-charged apple blossom.

Quince flower buds.

Quince flower buds on our tree, 25 April 2007.

Quince blossom.

Quince blossom on our tree, 25 April 2007.

Quince tree in bloom (Cydonia oblonga) behind a miniature lilac (Syringa microphylla) in our garden.

Quince tree in bloom (Cydonia oblonga) behind a miniature lilac (Syringa microphylla) in our garden, 28 May 2013.

The fruit looks like a big yellow lumpy pear, and smells amazing. The fruit never ripen sufficiently in the UK to be eaten raw, but make a great addition to apple pies and crumbles, and even better make a superb jelly, and also a cheese to go with cold meats. A single quince left in our fruit bowl will scent the whole house. Cooked, it has a grainy texture similar to pears, but the taste is rather different.

Certainly if we ever move it will be the first tree we plant in our new garden. We planted our present tree about 15 years ago. We went to Landford Trees, a tree nursery in south-east Wiltshire, and chose the variety ‘Meeches Prolific’. It started fruiting after only a few years, and seems to have a repeating pattern of an ‘on’ year for fruit, when we might get three large carrier bags full, and an ‘off’ year, such as this year, when we get only one.

Young quince forming on our tree. They are deliciously fuzzy at this stage. 4 June 2007.

Young quince forming on our tree. They are deliciously fuzzy at this stage. 14 June 2007.

Last year's bumper harvest ripening. When they are fully ripe they are bright yellow against the green leaves - fantastic! 30 September 2013. I think we harvested them about 10 days after this photo was taken.

Last year’s bumper harvest ripening. When they are fully ripe they are bright yellow against the green leaves. Taken on 30 September 2013. I think we harvested them about a week after this photo was taken.

Rather fuzzy photo of the tree laden with last year's crop. taken 30 September 2014.

Rather fuzzy photo of the tree laden with last year’s crop, taken 30 September 2013. ‘Meeches Prolific’ certainly lived up to its name.

We planted our quince next to the pond as apparently quinces like damp conditions; we prune it every year in the winter to keep it a manageable size as we have such a small garden.

I have always loved quinces—we had a quince tree in our garden when I was a child, planted by my parents along with a walnut and a mulberry tree, all of which fruited beautifully (though we never got to the walnuts before the squirrels did). One lunchtime on my first dig abroad, in north-eastern Greece, one of the local workmen offered me a slice of quince picked from his garden, and I was amazed to find it could be eaten raw: we just don’t get enough heat and sunlight in the UK to ripen them. It was delicious, but sadly that is still the only time I have been able to eat quince like that: it’s cooked or nothing here in the UK.

Our favourite thing made with quinces is quince cheese: it is like a thick paste, and goes wonderfully with cold meat such as ham or pork. Here is a River Cottage quince cheese recipe which gives great results:

Quince cheese

A fruit cheese is simply a solid, sliceable preserve—and the princely quince, with its exquisite scent and delicately grainy texture, makes the most majestic one of all. It can be potted in small moulds to turn out, slice and eat with cheese. Alternatively, you can pour it into shallow trays to set, then cut it into cubes, coat with sugar and serve as a sweetmeat. A little roughly chopped quince cheese adds a delicious fruity note to lamb stews or tagines—or try combining it with chopped apple for a pie or crumble.

Servings: Makes about 1 kg of quince cheese.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 70 minutes, plus time to stand

1kg quince
500-750g granulated sugar
Food-grade paraffin wax, for sealing

Wash the quince. Roughly chop the fruit but don’t peel or core them. Place in a large pan and barely cover with water. Bring to a simmer and cook until soft and pulpy, adding a little more water if necessary. Leave to stand for several hours.

Rub the contents of the pan through a sieve or pass through a mouli. Weigh the pulp and return it to the cleaned-out pan, adding an equal weight of sugar. Bring gently to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer gently, stirring frequently, for an hour and a bit until really thick and glossy. It may bubble and spit like a volcano, so do take care. The mixture is ready when it is so thick that you can scrape a spoon through it and see the base of the pan for a couple of seconds before the mixture oozes together again.

If you’re using small dishes or straight-sided jars, brush them with a little glycerine.?This will make it easy to turn out the cheese. If you’re using a shallow baking tray or similar, line it with greaseproof paper, allowing plenty of overhang to wrap the finished cheese.

When the cheese is cooked, pour it into the prepared moulds or jars. To seal open moulds, pour melted food-grade paraffin wax over the hot fruit cheese. Jars can be sealed with lids. Cheese set in a shallow tray should be covered with greaseproof paper and kept in the fridge.

For optimum flavour, allow the quince cheese to mature for 4–6 weeks before using.

Eat within 12 months.

You beauty!

You beauty!

Quince tree (Cydonia oblonga) in the orchard at Lytes Cary, a National Trust property in Somerset, 26 April 2009. Lovely blue camassia growing underneath, along with cow parsley and pheasant's eye narcissi.

Quince tree (Cydonia oblonga) in blossom in the orchard at Lytes Cary, a National Trust property in Somerset, 26 April 2009. Lovely blue camassia growing underneath, along with cow parsley and pheasant’s eye narcissi.

Sloe gin and sloe vodka

Chap came back from a Sunday trundle in his Land Rover up on to Salisbury Plain with a bag full of sloes. We make sloe gin and sloe vodka most years. We also make damson gin and vodka, and greengage gin and vodka when we can get hold of those rare little green beauties. Sloe gin is a wonderfully warming winter liqueur, and it also makes a great base for a kir royale-type drink, made with cava (or champagne if your pockets are a bit deeper).

2011 and 2013 sloe gin batches. The colour deepens as the liqueur ages.

2011 (left) and 2013 (right) sloe gin batches. The colour deepens as the liqueur ages.

There are various schools of thought about when is the best time to pick sloes. Some say they should only be picked after the first frost; others bypass this by sticking them in the freezer overnight; others (like us) don’t bother and pick them when they are ripe, frost or no frost, and no freezer malarkey. I can honestly say I cannot tell the difference between any of these methods in the resulting drink they produce, but maybe I’m just a lush with a very unsophisticated palate.

Sloes (Prunus spinisa).

Sloes (Prunus spinosa), photographed 17 August 2014.

The sloes seem to be getting riper earlier with each passing year: in 2011 we picked them on 3 October: this year it was on 31 August.

Last year's batch waiting to be strained and bottled up. Left to right: sloe vodka, sloe gin, damson vodka, damson gin.

Last year’s batch waiting to be strained and bottled up. Left to right: sloe vodka, sloe gin, damson vodka, damson gin.

And as for the recipe itself, it couldn’t be any easier.

Sloe gin (or vodka)

(Can be made with any soft or stone fruit, really—damsons, greengages, mulberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries …)

Wash the sloes and drain dry. Pick out any leaves or stems. Prick each sloe (I do this with a fork, holding two sloes at a time). This allows the juices to get into the gin (or vodka) more easily. Fill a 1 litre bottle to halfway up with the sloes (you’ll need a wide-mouthed bottle if you are using damsons or greengages). Add 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. Top up with gin (or vodka).

Leave in a dark place for at least 6 months, gently agitating the bottle every few weeks (if you remember—I sometimes forget and it doesn’t seem to matter much). Strain off the sloes through a muslin-lined colander. It’s best to leave the sloes sitting in the strainer for a few hours to allow the precious liqueur to slowly drip out. Bottle up the sloe gin (or vodka) into a clean, sterilised bottle.

Don’t throw the sloes away. They are too small and bitter to make into a pie filling (as we do with the damsons and greengages); instead, put them back into the bottle and top up with dry white wine and leave for a couple of weeks. We get several bottles of wines-worth from the sloes before they stop giving up their boozy, sloey flavour into the wine.

Sloes picked on Salisbury Plain, 1 September 2014.

Sloes picked on Salisbury Plain, 31 August 2014.

Sloes, 2 tablespoons caster sugar, and gin.

Sloes, caster sugar, and gin: sloe gin in the making, 1 September 2014. Now all it needs is time.

Sloe vodka made yesterday (3 September 2014) on the left, sloe gin made on 1 September on the right. I haven't shaken the vodka and you can see about 1cm of colour hovering above the sloes.

Sloe vodka made yesterday (3 September 2014) on the left, sloe gin made on 1 September on the right. I haven’t shaken the vodka and you can see about 1cm of colour hovering above the sloes.

Hey presto!

One shake later: hey presto! Need to buy a bit more vodka to top the bottle up, and then it’s into the back of the cupboard with them.

We normally bottle up the previous year’s sloe gin and vodka about the time we are making beech leaf noyau (another lovely liqueur that we make in early May), so they have about 8 months’ steeping; this year we forgot and so the sloes have been steeping 3 weeks short of a whole year. Some people reckon their sloe gin is ready by Christmas, but we’ve tried it then and the flavour hasn’t fully developed in four months. It’s definitely worth the wait!

Favourite pubs: The Blagdon Inn, Blagdon, near Taunton

My family spent a lovely lunchtime yesterday celebrating our father’s 83rd birthday at the Blagdon Inn, in Blagdon near Taunton, at the foot of the Blackdown Hills in the beautiful county of Somerset.

The Blagdon Inn, Blagdon, Somerset.

The Blagdon Inn, Blagdon, Somerset.

This pub has only recently opened (in March this year; previously it was the White Lion, before that an Indian restaurant, and before that another pub), and I have eaten lunch there with my Dad some four or five times, the first time when it had only been open a fortnight. Each time the food has been exceptional and the service warm, friendly and attentive. The pub hasn’t yet found the public we all think it deserves, so I am doing my tiniest bit to publicise it.

The chef, Sam Rom, formerly worked at the famed River Cottage canteen in Axminster. The Blagdon Inn shares the River Cottage ethos in that the food is locally produced, sustainable and seasonal. The pub has land near the pub on which are kept chickens, pigs and sheep (all of which end up on the menu in one form or another), and on which much of the produce used in the food is grown. What they can’t produce themselves is sourced locally. The menu has never been the same, and each time I have the hardest time choosing as there is rarely anything on the menu I wouldn’t want to devour …. (August sample menu here).

Memorable dishes I have eaten include a pearl barley and spring asparagus risotto, kipper hash and free-range fried eggs with capers, pulled pork crumble, lamb shank in a gorgeous rich sauce, and bar snacks such as a Blagdon pork sausage roll, potted crab, a kipper and barley scotch egg made with a quail’s egg, lovely spicy roasted almonds, Kalamata olives, and garlic bread. Sam’s twitter feed has some great photos of the food served. I can’t look without salivating!

Blagdon pork sausages, chop and mash. Photo from the Blagdon Inn website.

Blagdon pork sausages, chop and mash. Photo from the Blagdon Inn website.

The attention to detail is wonderful—the bread is homemade and comes on chunky wooden boards, homemade ketchup comes in tiny preseve jars, homemade chunky chips in a white enamel mug, bar snacks on vintage china, and yesterday’s food was decorated with nasturtium, borage and violet flowers, with pea shoots beautifully draped over. Even the paper napkins are really thick and good quality.

blagdon 1

Eton Mess at the Blagdon Inn. Several of these got scoffed by us yesterday lunchtime! Photo from the Blagdon Inn website.

Luckily our other halves were driving, as my sisters and I guzzled several of the lovely proseccos served with fresh raspberry puree—divine!

The pub is a beautiful old building which has been lovingly restored and redecorated, and displays art by local artists, some of which is for sale.

The owner, Nigel Capel, has recently launched a wonderful new initiative in conjunction with the local RVS. It helps older gentlemen in the community who are isolated and lonely to get out and about and meet new friends—a volunteer can bring an older gentleman to lunch in the pub on the first Tuesday of each month, where they will both enjoy a free light lunch. If they are lucky they might see Nigel’s beautiful old Austin parked in the car park.

I have to give a special mention to the manager, Tim, who is an absolute star. Thanks Tim, and all the lovely staff at Blagdon.


I love kedgeree: quick to make and so tasty. Here’s my version of the Anglo-Indian classic. It involves a little bit of juggling to get the cooked, skinned fish, the boiled eggs and the rice ready at the same time, but it’s very easy. The spice measurements are guesstimates as I just chuck a load in that seems right. Serves 2, with some left over (it freezes well, apart from the eggs, which go rubbery—so eat all of those first time round!).



1 large fillet undyed smoked haddock with skin on (about 400 g)
4 eggs
200 g brown basmati rice
big knob of butter
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground chilli
salt and freshly ground black pepper
large bunch of flat leaf parsley

Fill a large saucepan about a half full with water, and bring to the boil.

In a small saucepan, bring some water up to the boil into which to boil the eggs.

Reduce the water in the large pan to a simmer and poach the haddock (I cut it into two or three sections for ease of handling) in the water for about 5—6 minutes or until the flesh loses its translucence.

When poached, take the fish out of the water and drain—don’t throw the water in the pan away. Bring this fishy water up to the boil, add a pinch of salt and then add the rice (the rice will taste extra yummy cooked in the fishy water, even if it looks a bit scummy). Stir the rice around to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan or clump together while cooking.

Put the eggs in to boil in the smaller saucepan.

Skin the fish and break it into rough flakes, and keep it warm. (I put it on one of the plates we’re eating off and upturn the other over it so it doesn’t dry out, and put it in an oven that has been warmed but with the heat now turned off; the cats gets the fish skin).

Strip the parsley leaves off the stalks and chop roughly.

Give the eggs 8 or so minutes to hard boil with a slightly soft centre. When cooked, shell and cut into quarters.

When the rice is cooked, which should be about the same time that the eggs are ready, drain it and quickly rinse under hot water. Leave it in the sieve to drain. Put a big knob of butter in the rice saucepan, then add the spices and cook briefly over a medium heat. Return the rice to the spicy buttery mix in the pan and stir around to mix the spices through well.

Add the flaked fish and the parsley to the rice mix and stir to combine. Add the quartered eggs and gently stir through (they’ll break up if you’re too rough). Season with salt and masses of freshly ground black pepper, and serve. I like it with a big dollop of brinjal pickle; plain yoghurt goes really well with it if you are not too keen on dry rice dishes.

This is the first time I’ve written down a recipe that I do ‘off the cuff’—I now have added respect for cookery writers, because it’s not nearly as easy as I blithely thought it would be.