Francis’ Fabulous Cheeseburger Pizza

So I had a little chat with Francis (an 11 year old rugby-playing burger-lover who enjoys reading Private Eye! Really.), after chocolate milkshake- his two favourite things are cheeseburgers…and pizza (and then cherry tomatoes…I’ve seen him eat an entire punnet in minutes…and I have also seen him eat a cheeseburger in about 50 seconds!)

And really who doesn’t like pizza?  I have shamelessly stolen and adapted the crust recipe from Ken Forkish’s great bread book, ‘Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast”.  It is dead easy – just mix stuff the night before.  Divide up the dough and pop it in the fridge.  It is good for a few days and makes a great thin crust with a nice bite.  If you want a more last minute recipe for pizza crust try this one: Jamie Oliver’s Basic Pizza


  • 500g flour (I use a combination of strong white and strong wheat, about 330g white to 200g wheat – but you could use all white)
  • 350g warm water
  • 10g salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried yeast

Mix the flour with 250g water and let sit for 20 minutes.  Mix the yeast with the rest of the water and set aside, while the flour rests with the water.  Mix the salt in to the flour then add the water/yeast and mix well with your hand.  Let sit for 30 minutes then come back and fold the dough over on itself about 4 times-  then form a nice ball and let it sit in a bowl overnight, covered with plastic wrap.  I usually do this around 7-8pm the night before.  The next morning gently tip the dough out on to a floured surface and pull it together into a nice ball.  Cut this ball in to 3…..form into 3 balls, lightly dust with flour and put on a tray in the fridge for 6 hours – or up to 2 days.  Cover the dough lightly with plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out.

The meaty bit (enough for x2 pizzas):

  • 450g mince beef
  • 140g can of tomato puree (paste)
  • 1 clove garlic, garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Salt

Brown beef in a pan, over med heat smashing it up so it is nice and crumbly.  Drain the fat then add the tomato puree plus half a can of water, crushed garlic, oregano, paprika and a good pinch of salt.  Cook over low heat for 10 minutes and then set aside.

Pizza assembly:

  • 1 c grated mild cheddar (any cheese really, I also like a mild blue)
  • cornmeal or polenta

Heat your oven to 220C.  If you have a pizza stone, toss that in to heat up.  If not – no worries, just pop you pizza on a  tray that has been dusted with coarse cornmeal – or polenta.  Roll out, punch out, flip around your dough on a floured surface until it is the shape and size you want.  Transfer to your cornmeal ‘sprinkled’ tray or pizza peel.  Cover the pizza with half the meat mixture and top with the grated cheese. That is it – contrary to those Pizza Hut adverts…. pizza is better when it isn’t too overloaded (my opinion of course).   Bake for ~10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust nice and crispy

Now comes the fun bit (although I think the dough bit is also pretty fun)!


  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Chopped lettuce (I like romaine)
  • Sliced red onions
  • Dill pickle slices
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • ….and whatever else you like on your ‘burger’

Slice the pizza and then everyone can top their own with whatever makes them happy!  If you are feeling a bit decadent- serve with a chocolate milkshake.

Fabian’s Bloody Worms with Brains and Bat Droppings

I know it is still still a month to Halloween, but what kid doesn’t like a bit of blood and guts? The Fabian of the recipe title is a very rambunctious 7 year old who can eat very big portions of pasta….I am not sure how he does it, he can out-eat his 11 year old brother! His favourite is a simple tomato-basil sauce, so this is a gory little twist on that. My first choice for bat-droppings would be chopped black olives…but you mention olives to Fabian and you get a very scrunched up face, so I am suggesting toasted pine nuts instead (and who doesn’t like toasted pine nuts!). Or…..given the season toasted pumpkin seeds would also be quite nice.

Spaghetti (enough for 4 servings)

1 400g can plum tomatoes
½ onion, chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
Olive oil
Handful fresh basil
12 or more cherry tomatoes
Bat droppings: toasted pine nuts, or chopped black olives, or toasted pumpkin seeds

Make the sauce:
Heat 1T olive oil over medium heat, add onion and sauté until they start to look a little glassy & see-through. Add the garlic and stir around until you can smell the garlic (about a minute). Now you have 2 choices:

Smooth ‘blood’: tip the can of tomatoes into a blender and give them a quick whizz then add them to the pan with the onion and garlic.

Chunky ‘blood’….which I prefer and is a bit more fun: tip the tomatoes into the pan with the onion and garlic, and smash them up with a fork/wooden spoon/potato masher….I have tried them all and personally enjoy attacking tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 min, add salt to taste and chopped basil just before you serve.

Make the ‘brains’
Preheat your oven to 200c. Put the cherry tomatoes in an oven-proof dish and drizzle with olive oil. Put then in the oven for 15-20 min, or until they get nice and crinkly

Toss the spaghetti with the sauce….add a few brains and sprinkle on your bat droppings.

Broccotato Quffins

Recipe number 2! I am on a roll (sort of). Moving from sweet to savoury today. This is a recipe from Katherine, (but the name is mine). Perfect for breakfast, lunch, snacking, picnics….These are good hot out of the oven, or at room temp. This recipe calls for broccoli, but I am looking forward to trying all sorts of different ‘fillings’ in the coming seasons – grated butternut squash, sun dried tomatoes, spinach….the list goes on. So do adapt to everyone’s taste, that is the beauty of cooking your own- it is just how you want it. You could even have a family vote to decide the filling of the day.

Lets’ get cooking!

Makes x6 Quffins

1x ‘crown’ broccoli
3 eggs
¼ cup onion
1c shredded cheddar cheese
1 lg baking potato

Steam broccoli until fork tender. Set aside to cool.

Microwave potato 6 min, let sit for 5 min. Scoop out the inside of the potato and crush it up with a bit of salt and pepper and 1t olive oil. Not too smooth- you want it a bit chunky to ‘merge’ with the eggs later.

Sauté onion in a bit of butter until they soften and are looking a bit glassy.

Chop up the broccoli and add to a bowl with 3 eggs and the cheese. Mix together, add a dash of pepper.

Heat oven to 180C

Line your muffin tin with squares of baking parchment (some nice instructions here: or muffin cases. The first time I made this I just greased the cups and it was a bit tricky to get them out…and washing up the tin later was a bit laborious….but if you have a good non stick ti, well buttered should work. Divide potato and press into the bottom of the tin (little hands are especially good at this). Sprinkle the onion on top of the potato. Pour egg/broccoli/cheese mixture on top. Bake for 25-30 min. Serve with a little dollop of sour cream or Greek yoghurt.. Try not to stuff the entire thing in your mouth at once. .

Kicking off cooking with kids: Yeeha Cowboy Cookies

img_0827I am embarking on a new project from today- I am really passionate about ensuring kids have the opportunity to eat/cook/know their food…and see how much fun they can have in the kitchen.  So, from today I am going to be posting a lot around ‘Cooking with Kids’.  I am doing this in partnership with my long-time best friend Katherine, who is an amazing illustrator- she is going to be interpreting my recipes and posts with her fabulous, fun and happy illustrations.  If you love her work (and I’m sure you will) you can see more here:

Let us know what you think…this is kind of an experiment, something we have both been wanting to do for a while, and it would be great to get some feedback.

So, without further ado, here is the 1st of what I hope will be many illustrated posts on kid-friendly food and recipes (Katherine is working on the illustration, and I’ll update soon)

If you are a Yank (like me) you probably encountered some form of Cowboy Cookies when you were a kid.  The great thing about these cookies is they are really a blank canvas for some fun and creativity.  This is especially good with kids, because of course it is COOKIES! …and it is a recipe that lends itself to everyone having a go. You have a base, and then add in lots of goodies, depending on your mood.

Depending on how many little hands want to be involved, you can divide the base up in to separate bowls and each person can choose their own add-ins. The recipe is pretty forgiving, and it is a lot of fun sharing the different versions.

Start of by wandering around and pulling out all the things you need from the cupboard, off the shelves, under the sofa….  You will need x2 bowls, a mixer, wooden spoon, measuring spoons and cups, cookie sheet/flat baking tray.  I think that is it. Depending on how messy you and your sous-chefs are you may want a couple aprons  (I am very messy – and need at least an apron a few extra tea towels)

Now, Let’s get cooking:

Cookie Base:


  • 1 cup flaked coconut: now this is a divider, kinda like Marmite (you yanks out there may not get ‘Marmite’) I would say “coconut!” to the sous-chefs/kids and gauge their reaction.  If you get :-P, ignore coconut and add a few more extras, if you get 🙂 (that would be me!) tip in the coconut!
  • 1 cup ‘stuff’, a mixture of any of following
    • Dried fruit: raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries, and/or mixed dried fruit bits
    • Nuts – any, my favourite are pecans, but of course, walnuts, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts will all work well
    • Chocolate chips: white, dark, milk
    • Other stuff…. anything really – pretzels, M&Ms/Smarties, those peanut butter candies ET liked, anchovies….OK, that might be a bit too far but you get the idea

How to do it!

Preheat oven to 375 F/180C

Make the base: In a bowl whisk together baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour. In a separate bowl beat butter with granulated sugar and brown sugar until ‘fluffy’. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour, the oats, and then fold in the add-ins.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet or flat baking tray. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Now – most ovens have a personality of their own, so for that 1st batch you may want to keep a close eye and check after about 7 minutes.  Once they look lovely and Golden, and the centres set pull them out! Let stand for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool, if you can….then enjoy, best eaten a little warm and I am told a cold glass of milk is particularly nice with them ( I am just not a milk drinker…in coffee yes, on it’s own, no!)

My Food Porn Addiction

So, at the risk of ending up in some Google search I’d rather not know about  – here is my confession: I am addicted to food porn.  Yep, I can’t get enough glossy pictures, new recipes, tantalizing restaurant reviews, swaggering TV chefs and more cookbooks than any sane human would ever need. I even have a hidden Twitter feed to satisfy my daily craving…titled, of course, food porn.  Given the amount of information I inundate myself with one would think , somewhere in my brain, is enough to make me a Michelin-starred chef….but, alas I have a deficiency when it comes to practical recall.  I tend to remember the best  juicy, useful info after I am near the end of the latest cooking adventure (damn…chocolate in the venison stew….I bet it would  have tasted even better!)  But I do now have the ability to make dinner out of whatever might be lurking in the fridge and cupboard, handy when you are hungry, and have been working silly hours so you haven’t had tome to even go to the grocery store… would be amazed at what you can do with some stale bread and 3 tins of food (as long as one is chopped tomatoes).  If you have bit of cheese….well now that is a luxury meal!  Anyhow, what was I blabbering about , oh yes…soo…..I really don’t need to buy 3 different food mags in one month that all basically tell me the same thing but inevitably I get some sort of pleasure around it.  I am making someone quite rich…and I know I am not alone.  Just look at the rise TV food programmes, cookbooks, food mags, etc in the last 10 years.  Sad to say I am not unique…I am part  of a wider trend, but I do like to think I am just a wee bit more informed than the next food geek…which may or may not be true, but it keeps me happy.

The Legend of the Giant Yorkshire Pudding

For awhile now I have been hearing tales of the elusive (well, elusive in London at least) Giant Yorkshire.  Most of the extolation is from my boyfriend who associates the Giant Yorkshire with his happy college days. I think he has been on a mission to introduce me to this Northern delicacy, so when I suggested we get outta town he suggested we go to Ilkley for the weekend.  We stayed at a really nice pub on the Ilkley moor, The Cow and Calf (amazing view from our corner room…ask for room 3 f you go, it is lovely!).


So, the Giant Yorkshire…very serious comfort food.  We ended up capturing one at The Hermit pub. That is a nice bit of roast lamb and some tasty gravy hiding away in there.  If you happen upon the elusive beast, do give it a go. And as a bonus …pie and peas, that would  be mushy peas, apparently another Northern Delicacy and I have to say, better than any I have had in London.

The Giant Yorkshire
The Giant Yorkshire
Pie and Peas at The Fox pub in Shipley
Pie and Peas at The Fox pub in Shipley



A Good Burger in London

Who doesn’t like a good burger?  For  me, I think a burger has some sort of calming reaction with my body, it sounds strange, but somehow the comforting dribble of grease and cheese makes any stress just melt away (for you veggies out there- even a good veggie burger can work…sometimes).  It has to be a good burger though.  Growing up in California, Fatburger and In-n-Out will always hold a special place that can’t be matched- but that has as much to do with the place as the burger.

I am constantly updating  my short burger list in London, and like my old favourites from California, the place has to be as characterful as the burger.  My top three right now, in no particular order:

The beef and marrow sliders from Spuntino.  Yum. Yum. Yum.  The free uber-greasy popcorn while you wait for your food is a particularly special added bonus.  Don’t even pretend you will be satisfied with one, you will be left wanting.  Get two (or three depending on how hungry you are) and a side of the very tasty fennel slaw to contrast with the richness of the sliders. I am on the fence about all these no reservation places in London, but I keep going back, and have been trying to figure out the good off hours (early or late dinner seems to be good…4pm or 10pm).

Another fab burger and another no reservation joint (and trust me, this is a ‘joint’) – the Dead Hippie burger at Meatliquor.  If you are intent on stopping your heart completely- order the chili fries (reminiscent of good ‘ol Fatburger chili fries) as well, and then plan to not eat for a few days.  This is the epitome of a ‘classic’ cheeseburger, two patties of freshly ground deliciousness cooked just enough to hold together and topped with ‘special sauce’ cheese, lettuce tomato, pickle and onion.  This is at least a three napkin burger.  Juicy goodness. Best with a nice cold beer.

two dead hippes
Two dead hippies and a side of chili fries. Yes, probably too much food for two people.

And finally- a sort of posh burger.  The mouthwatering Kimchi burger at Hawksmoor Seven Dials.  Oh. My. Big fat generous burger, falling out of its bun topped with a good pile of fiery Kimchi.  Who knew my mouth could be so happy….washed down with a nice slug of Ridge Zinfandel (I am from California after all) and the world is good.

C’mon everyone- open up those palates!

So…someone I have known for a few years ‘doesn’t do Italian’.  What?!  I hear you say doesn’t like subtitled films?  No, he doesn’t eat any Italian food. Any, if he can help it.  When I pressed him on this he said it was because he hated tomatoes and pasta.  Now, ignoring the fact that he eats tomato soup- which I am told isn’t really tomato….Italian is much more than tomatoes and pasta.  I know he likes a good steak, a good bit of cheese, a nice plate of seafood….so…. What. Is. The. Deal?  Well, for him I think it makes him seem eccentric, different or fussy and he seems to relish being contrary.  I have given up arguing with him it just isn’t worth the effort, and quite frankly I am bored of him rambling on about it anytime he spies a noodle or bit of tomato.

Italian food in Rome
Italian food in Rome

I respect that there are things people truly can’t eat – due to food allergies, religious restrictions, vegetarians… and then some people just can’t stand certain food items: beets, Brussels sprouts, strong cheese, sea urchin roe (that last one would be me- a very bad experience that ended with me dashing into the sea and splashing sandy-sea water in to my mouth to remove the taste, not good).

That said, I love the opportunity to turn someone on to a new flavour or taste – but only to willing palates, I would never force food on anyone. I recently turned someone on to butternut squash.  The key was a butternut squash hummus: roasted butternut squash, roasted garlic, a bit of cumin, lemon , salt, pepper and a dash of tahini – Yum!

I myself have been the somehwat willing, errr, victim, to a friend who is determined to turn me on to smoked/cured (or as she puts it- rotten) fish.  She grew up with it and absolutely adores the stuff.  Me- well, it just doesn’t do it for me.  I keep trying, and she has been very persistent, plying me with an enormous variety…I have yet to find anything that makes me go wow, and I feel like it is wasted on me.  But- I will continue to experiment, who knows….I used to hate oysters, but got over that and now love them.

Recently I encountered someone who ‘didn’t do French wine or cuisine’.  WHAT?!  Again, how can you categorically dismiss an entire cuisine? Not to mention wine….Really?! All French wine….Chablis, Champagne, Cahors, Bordeaux, Burgundy?!  All??  Something else must be going on- maybe a bad ex-French girlfriend?  I would be more understanding if he had said “I don’t really like red wine” or ” I don’t like Chardonnay”  Fine.  But ALL French wine.  All French cuisine. Nope.  I don’t get it.

French food in Paris (OK- the H2O is Italian)

The Ultimate Compliment

Cassoulet!  The ultimate winter comfort dish…and last night I received the ultimate compliment: “This is the best Cassoulet I have ever had- including what I had in Carcasonne”.  And this was from a Frenchman.  I have to admit it was indeed delicious, but that was less to do with my cooking skills and more to do with the face that I had a pile of delicious sausage/porkbelly/duck legs and bacon.  I mean- how could it go wrong.

So what is the fascination with Cassoulet…it isn’t exactly ‘pretty’ food.  You wouldn’t necessarily serve it up at a party where you were trying to show off or impress anyone with your amazing cooking skills.  You would serve it up if you wanted a nice long evening with friends, lingering over one big pot of food at the centre of the table.  The funny thing is for years I had this impression of Cassoulet being a terribly fussy, difficult dish.  I guess there are some pretty heated discussions about what should be included in a Cassoulet (duck- yes/no, lamb yes/no, tomatoes yes/no, bread crumbs yes/no).  I think it is something that you just make your own, but at the core it is simply a long cooked pot of white beans with pork…and anything else you think might work.  It is also something that requires some pretty serious patience.  My version cooked for about 6 hours at 12oC….then sat for about 30 minutes before we cracked the crust and dug in.  Worth. Every. Bite.

Back in blog

Ok, I have been very very naughty and ignoring the blog…no good excuses, I could blabber on about the crazy change last year…settling in to new job this year, but hat is no excuse. If anything that should have been more of a reason to write. I often find writing sets my mind straight. Sort of like a computer sounding board.

Anyhow…many months and many tasty meals have past, so time to jump back in…just in time to wind up the BBQ season (well, at least in London anyhow…not that we have had any kind of BBQ season this year!). So bring on the Bank Holiday Weekend…rain or shine I will light the coals and host a meat fest. I am thinking a bit of lamb, some happy pork and maybe a few sausages. Looks like I will be hitting the Farmer’s Market on Saturday.