It's amazing how nice chilli tastes when you've not been able to cook anything properly for ages.

And it's amazing how hard it is to go shopping when you're not really that bothered about food. Wandered around Tesco last night trying in 20 minutes to get enough food to keep me going for the rest of the week. Tried to get some reasonable stuff for meals, but ended up with odds and sods. I wonder what I can make with bananas, mozarella and mince...my mother will be horrified.


I tell you what - hospital food is disgusting. Not the stuff that the patients get - I'm sure that's very good. And not necessarily the stuff that you can get in the shops/cafes when they're open. No, what I'm complaining about is the awful food they put in vending machines, which you have to resort to when there's nowhere else open. I've eaten what must be officially the world's worst ham sandwich, sugar-free shortbread biscuits and blueberry muffin in recent days. Luckily, I've survived to tell the tale. Next time I'm just going to eat chocolate and to hell with the trying to be healthy nonsense.


Rob's made stew - it's been bubbling away in the oven all afternoon, tantalising me with the smell...I just want to eat it now, but that would be sacrilege, as the dumplings aren't in there yet. There's nothing better than stew on a rainy, freezing cold Sunday in Newcastle. Who cares if it's not haute cuisine?!

I've been making myself even more hungry this afternoon by reading Antonio Carluccio's Southern Italian Feast. There's some gorgeous recipes in here for antipasti, including one with strips of aubergine rolled around a filling and baked, which I'd really love to try.


Paris-Texas, Newcastle. Not very Paris, can't vouch for the Texas bit, as I concentrated on the pizza. Which was a bit soggy, but by then I was starving and didn't care. I suspect if you want decent pizza it's best not to choose the night that Newcastle are playing Juventus...


Roast duck tasted ok, but wasn't really my kind of thing...I've never been keen on lumps of meat. Roast potatoes done with duck fat, however, were stonkingly good.

Minestrone again yesterday...the taste has really caught my imagination, since we made it at cookery class. It's just a normal, boring soup until you put bacon and garlic in, and then it turns into something magical. Sorry to everyone who has to meet me the day after though - I must reek of garlic for ages afterwards...

Discovered yet more redbush tea (or rooibosch). This one has a nutty kind of taste - really nice with milk in it. Apparently it goes a deep red colour if you make it properly - I'm a bit more of a wuss, and only dunk the teabag in for about 10 seconds.


Ravioli at cookery class last night - our turn to watch and taste. We'll have to make it in two week's time...better get practising.

This weekend will be more experimental cookery - I've got a whole duck in the freezer (courtesy of Tesco's reduced to clear section last month) and need a good recipe for it. Spent a while checking out the ones on the foodtv website and have found some nice ones - can't decide between

  • Red Chile 'Peking Duck'
  • Red Duck with Apples
  • Roast Duck, plain and simple
  • Slow Roasted Duck (a Jamie Oliver thing)
Now all I need to do is get the thing out of the freezer and wait about 2 days for it to defrost...


Now these I really fancy making...anyone for a Halloween party?


New recipe again last night - it's been a bit of an experimental week. This one came from Jamie Oliver - fillets of plaice stuffed with olive, anchovy and oregano paste and cooked in the oven in garlicy tomato-y sauce. Gorgeous. Except never ever buy plaice with the skin on - it's impossible to get off, unless you're a fishmonger with lethally sharp knives and years of practice. I gave up after 10 minutes of swearing...

The Observer's now managed (finally) to update its food section with the article I was wittering about on Monday. Go read...


Gennaro's recipe for potato gnocci (gnocchi?) was a winner. Never tried making filled ones before, but they taste great. Not something I'd make every week as it was a bit fiddly, but might be a dinner party winner once we get our new house and have space for things like that...

Went to Zizzis on Friday night for pizza before the RSC at the Theatre Royal. I'd not twigged that Zizzis was a chain with lots of places across the country, much like Est Est Est or Pizza Express. But the food was great - proper thin-based pizza baked in a wood-fired oven and with some good toppings. I had Fiorentina of course, as I always do. One day I'll get fed up with the combination of egg and spinach, but I suspect it's a long time off yet.

There's a great article on the search for the perfect Italian pizza in the Observer Food Monthly this weekend. I'll link to it once the Observer bothers to mount the new text...


Tonight's menu at cookery class - minestrone soup and bread sticks (grissini, poppyseed and plain). It's been a bit of an Italian food fest this week - what with a bolognese sauce last night, and a great recipe for potato gnocci to follow this weekend (one that Gennaro Contaldo demonstrated a couple of weeks ago on Saturday Kitchen).

I spent a happy half hour yesterday evening weighing out my ingredients for tonight - it felt just like being back at school preparing for a cookery lesson. Ah, the delights of learning how to make pastry with Mrs Smith.


Pie obsession officially over. Had not one but two pies over the weekend...more than enough for anyone.
Pie 1: Marks & Spencer's steak and kidney pudding - steamed it for 35 minutes and it was perfect - dark rich gravy, melting steak and suety pastry. Pie 2: Chicken, leek and ham pie at the Badger, Ponteland. An unexpected bonus - but not altogether perfect as there was too much puff pastry (I don't know about you but I prefer shortcrust) and not enough chicken.

Made Portuguese cornbread yesterday - a bit of an experiment. It worked really well - using cornmeal instead of about 1/3 of the flour you'd normally use makes for a lovely yellowy crumbly bread. And for once I followed the recipe properly and left it to rise for the right amount of time, so it wasn't solid as hell. Didn't know the Portuguese particularly went in for cornbread, but hope they come up with some more good recipes...


You're not going to believe this. After tracking down the steak and kidney pudding, I didn't get to eat it after all... Cookery classes started, involving bowls of minestrone soup, breadsticks and amaretti biscuits, so by the time I got home I was full! Maybe tonight...


OK, so I couldn't bear the pie obsession any longer. Went to Marks & Spencer this lunchtime and bought an individual steak and kidney pudding (suet crust and all). Will report later on my findings...let's hope it's a cure!


New edition of BBC Good Food magazine arrived through the letterbox this morning, landing with a real thud on the hallway floor. Discovered why when I opened the shrink-wrap - I've got a free whisk! Amazing what cheers you up on a Wednesday morning as you go off to work...

Today's tip - don't buy your apples shrink-wrapped!


Discovered the wonders of baby spinach yesterday, courtesy of Rob. He made salad, with smoked salmon, avocado, tomato and baby spinach with a mustardy dressing...definitely one to make again some time. I'm trying to think what to make with what's left...maybe pizza with spinach (fiorentina, inspired by the Pizza Express version) or a chicken and spinach lasagne, or maybe just baked eggs and spinach. Ooh decisions, decisions...

I've started drinking Eleven O'Clock Rooibosch tea which is organic and caffeine free. It's got a funny flavour to start with, but then you get used to it. I like to dunk my tea bag in the hot water, swoosh it around a bit and then pull it out again. I dread to think the colour it would go if you left it in the mug for 2-4 minutes like it says on the box...