Music to cook to

I tend to keep my laptop (relatively) nearby when I cook so I can bop along to music. When cooking something savoury, I tend to choose upbeat, bouncy songs. Today, as I cooked a smoked fish gratin, I chose Prince (although he tends to be a firm favourite no matter what the occasion), Magic System and Gogol Bordello. I was slightly late onto the Gogol Bordello bandwagon, but now I’m on it I’m quite happy to nod along while chopping smoked fish and boiling new potatoes.

When making something sweet, I tend towards motown. There’s something saccharine about motown that just goes with baking.

As for today’s dish of creamy smoked fish gratin…

For my birthday, my boyfriend’s mum bought me these lovely cookbooks. As I’m looking to move out soon, she thought I’d need some no-frills recipes and these books each contain two hundred, only one page to each recipe. I’m so excited to try them all – starting today.

I had a flick through the ‘curries’ book…

And through the ‘one pot meals’ book…

But eventually the smoked fish gratin caught my eye in the ‘easy suppers’ book.

Just look how it turned out. I’m so full from eating it but I still think it looks yummy.

Served with new potatoes and salad with a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Learning to cook was a real rite of passage for me. The women in my family are amazing cooks and I was quite late to take an interest in the preparation of food. Now that I’ve tried a few things and can put ingredients together and have them taste nice, my confidence is picking up. It’s a therapeutic process – starting from deciding on a recipe, buying the ingredients, daringly substituting any ingredients for other ones or adding in something spontaneously, preparing the dish, eating the dish, and feeling full and satisfied afterwards. The dishes had been scraped bare by the end of today’s meal, which is always a good sign.

I think I’m also developing a feel for cooking potatoes. My aunty on my Irish side has got an enviable knack for it, but I’m getting there slowly but surely. The secret is not to overseason or overcook the potatoes, but to cook them in a way that helps you taste the flavour of the potato itself, not of excessive ingredients you add to the pot. When I was growing up, potatoes were served bare; no butter or other condiment was to be found near them. It’s a principle I’d like to carry on in my cooking – trying to make the best of the basic flavours, not conceal them with convoluted mixtures.

Brownie’s Honour

My friend Tara came over yesterday and we decided to bake chocolate brownies. No better way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Warming the butter on the walk home!

We’re suckers for cute packaging.

Tara melting the chocolate and butter together!

Stirring the chocolate/butter/eggs/vanilla mix into the flour.

All mixed in!

Folding in the chopped up white chocolate.

Ready to go into the oven!

Voilà! Yummy chocolate brownies with white chocolate chunks!


350g dark chocolate (we used 70% cocoa)

375g unsalted butter

1 tbsp vanilla extract

6 medium size eggs

350g sugar (although we substituted half of this with granulated sweetener)

1 tsp salt

225g plain flour

300g white chocolate, chopped up into small pieces

[we used 2 tins, measuring approximately 17cm x 22cm x 5cm]


Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Line the baking pans with a small amount of butter. Melt the dark chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a saucepan of gently boiling water (on low heat – make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water). In a large measuring jug or bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence together. Measure the flour and salt into another large bowl. When the chocolate and butter have melted into a smooth mixture, let them cool before stirring in the egg and sugar mix. Add the resultant mixture gradually into the flour until the mixture has a relatively thick and gooey consistency. Finally, mix in the white chocolate until evenly distributed. Spoon the mixture into the pans evenly and bake for about 25-30 minutes until the top is a slightly paler brown.