I don't believe it!

It just can't be possible. There's no way that the North East isn't in the top 5 pie-eating places in the country... Haven't they ever heard of Greggs cheese and onion pasties, the staple food of hungry Geordies?


First recipe!

Finally managed a recipe from my cookbook of 2004, Crazy Water Pickled Lemons. Friday night was sweet potato with marinated feta and olives night....and it tasted delicious. I've never baked sweet potatoes before - they were beautiful and squishy on the inside (far more smooth than baked ordinary potatoes) and set off by the tangy feta (which was marinated with chopped red chilli, crushed coriander seed and fennel...at least I think it was fennel, as I've lost the label from the jar). Mmmmm. One that will definitely be repeated, as it was perfect for a wet, rainy and cold Newcastle winter's night.

Ideally, I'd like to do loads of recipes from the book, but realistically, I'll probably end up doing one a month. Now, what shall we have for February?


I like to fly in my beautiful balloon...

Sorry, enough of the singing. But you have to fly directly to www.airlinemeals.net, and take a look at the old airline meals of the 1950-1970s....wow. Much better than the plastic stuff you get in cattle class nowadays...if you flew Aeroflot you even got caviar!



A third of Britons who go on holiday abroad prefer to eat pie and chips while they're there....and they wonder why this country is so unhealthy!


The verdict!

It was a keenly contested battle: Bamburgh sausages v Thirsk black pudding sausages....and I have to say North Yorkshire won! The venue: Pippa's grandparents' house in Bamburgh. The occasion: a surprise party for Rob's 30th. The tasters: 12 of the finest palates ever seen this side of Seahouses. The decision was unanimous.


Worth it?

A chef named after a motorway service station is awarded three Michelin stars... I'd like to eat at Heston Blumenthal's restaurant, to see if the effort that goes into the food is really worthwhile. His recipes used to appear in the Guardian on Saturdays each week, and I've not managed to find one yet that I'd like to make - the effort involved is monumental, and I guess he's just too avant garde for my suburban tastes...


If I ever visit New York...

(and I'd like to sometime soon) I definitely want to go and eat here...

On a separate, and totally random thread, this is what any self-respecting party hostess needs to liven up a boring get-together...



Maybe I need a challenge for the next year, something to keep my culinary interest alive on wet and windy nights. Should I try and make every recipe for cheese on toast that I come across? See if I can actually do every recipe in a cookbook? (but not the Breville Toaster Cookbook, otherwise I'll go insane...). I definitely want to use my tagine more, so maybe it's Moroccan/Mediterranean that I should be aiming for. I have the most fabulous cookbook, Crazy water, pickled lemons that I've been dying to try things from. Ok, there's the challenge. How many recipes from this book can I manage in the next 12 months?


Sad news for book-loving cooks

One of the highlights of the trip to Edinburgh, was a visit to the Cook's Bookshop in West Row, a treasure-trove of secondhand cookery books. But it's closing! So get there quick if you want to be able to delve into wondrous titles like Graham Kerr's original 1969 Galloping Gourmet cookbook... (no prizes for guessing what I took home!).

That said, another great place for a rummage is your local charity shop. I've picked up all sorts in Newcastle, the best being a copy of Len Deighton's Ou est le garlic? at the Oxfam bookshop. I like old books best, the sillier the better (hence the presence of Cooking with Men in Mind, and The Breville Toaster Cookbook in my collection...)


mince pies found!

At last - managed to track down a box of mince pies at Safeway in Berwick-upon-Tweed....

For those of you wondering about the relocation from Newcastle, we were en route from Edinburgh, after a fabulous weekend wandering around the granite buildings. Really impressed by the city - great shops, good food, and some wonderful art galleries.

If you get the chance, try (a) Cafe Mavi on the corner of Bread Street (tiny takeaway run by an Italian guy who made the best hot meatball subs I've ever had), and (b) the set dinner at the beautifully modernist Point Hotel (also on Bread Street). The food's great (if you get the chance opt for the haggis roll), and the lamps on the ceiling have to be seen to be believed!



As usual, an excess of food over Christmas and New Year...eaten my fill of smoked salmon, turkey, roast potatoes and sausages. Bizarrely, haven't managed to eat a single mince pie...though not for want of trying. They seem to have disappeared from the shelves of supermarkets. I know I should make my own, but when you're hurtling about the country from relly to relly it kind of takes a back seat.

In amongst the excess, tried the food at Popolo in Newcastle on Monday. It's a hip bar, with squishy leather sofas, cool artwork and usually packed to the ginnels. But the Morrocan/Mediterranean/Italian food's not much to write home about. Apart from a fantastic bowl of chips, it's underspiced and overpriced, at over £5 for two tiny bowls and two slivers of bread. Stick to the chips and the cocktails, and you'll do fine.