Chickpeas, chorizo, spinach and grated egg. Not necessarily four things that you'd think of in one recipe, but they go surprisingly well together in soup. Even if it does look a little brown and lumpy. Today's adventures in the culinary field otherwise known as my kitchen came from the new Jamie Oliver book. The name escapes me, and I can't be bothered to google it as it's late, and I'm lazy and rather full of soup. Lots of pretty photographs of food, anyway. I have to admit I'm a sucker for the food porn. It's much harder to read a recipe and decide if you want to cook it or not if it's in a book without pictures.

Anyway, it's late, and it's time to extract the cat from the wardrobe, where she has taken up residence on a pile of my pants, for some reason best known to herself. Toodleoo.



A steak in ale pie is bubbling away in the oven as we speak. Well, it's cold and dark and wet outside here in the frozen north, so I feel the need for a bit of comfort food. And we got given a couple of bottles of ale for Christmas which neither of us really drinks...


I'm full

Phew. The Christmas eating marathon ended yesterday, with a celebratory last meal of a few pints of cider and a takeaway pizza in front of Tomb Raider (a film which can only be watched while reasonably drunk - sorry, fellow Dr Mac/JRT fans, but it is terrible, albeit in a kind of fun way). From now on, it's back to normal food. No more turkey (although if you do have any left, you could do worse than take the advice of Nigel Slater, bless him, who recommends turkey sandwiches and an episode of Green Wing).

No, from now on, it's detox (until New Year's Eve of course, which will no doubt end up involving a bowl of chips and cocktails (preferably several vodka, raspberry and basil ones) in Popolos). Roll on the New Year!


The Paper Dress

The Paper Dress
Originally uploaded by rachc.
Merry Christmas! And in a spirit of giving and all that, I give you the rather wonderful paper dress ad that appeared on my calendar in November. Marvellous. It would definitely make me buy more pies, that's for sure.

Potted Meat

Worth it for the picture of the Goblin meat pudding alone, you should definitely visit the Potted Meat Museum. They even have a picture of a Fray Bentos steak and kidney pie. Now that's devoted research (just don't ever eat them, as they are truly awful. Review coming soon on www.pie-man.com).



I've just finished watching the completely mad and very scary Fanny Cradock making choux pastry for Christmas. If you liked burnt choux pastry buns (a la Julia Child), filled with dayglo yellow 'confectioner's custard' and topped with about 4 inches of pink icing, you were clearly onto a winner in 1975. Yeeuccch. Quite how we managed to survive the 1970s I really don't know.

Green Wing didn't win anything at the British Comedy Awards last night. Boo Hiss. I think the great British public should be forced to eat Fanny's choux buns until they come to their senses. That'll show them.


Don't be silly

Culinary trends that Never Quite Caught On made me laugh quite a lot and upset the peace and quiet of the office.



Delia Smith has announced that she's hanging up her apron, and not making any more tv shows, which can only be a good thing from my point of view. I know people think she's amazing (and her recipes are certainly not bad at all - my Mum swears by some of the Christmas ones, as does half the country by all accounts), but I really don't get on with her tv persona - she's too patronising by half. I had to turn off How to Cook, as it drove me up the wall. But then a lot of tv cookery programmes are like that, I'm afraid. I love Nigella Lawson's recipes (Domestic Goddess is one of the best baking books there is), but I can't stand her show. The only one who does match up in print and on the telly is Nigel Slater. But then he is the kitchen god, after all.


It's open!

On a completely non-food tack, if you're ever in Newcastle, definitely go see the Sage Gateshead, which opened yesterday. We went to a 'tuning' concert last week, where they were setting the acoustics for the main hall, and it's just amazing. The interior of the building is like some glorious ocean liner, all clean lines and curves. And then you get inside the main concert hall, to discover blond wood panelling, a ceiling that moves up and down 10m, and one of the best sound systems in the country. I think they've probably removed the rules that said we had to wear blue overshoes so as not to mess up the carpets now though. Which is probably a good thing.

What a smell...

The world's most expensive truffle has been buried in Italy. Apparently it went off, while on display at a restaurant in London. Wonder who got the sack over that one then? Especially as it cost a cool $54,000. I've not really ever properly tried truffles (apart from the chocolate variety, obviously). Are good ones all they're cracked up to be?



When it comes to the morning after the night before, Gordon Ramsay's got it all wrong. The last thing I felt like on Tuesday morning after the work Christmas party was haddock kedgeree. I don't think carrot and ginger soup would have gone down very well either. What's wrong with lots of strong coffee and a piece of flapjack?



All those of you who turn up here looking for PIE, otherwise known as the people who make possibly the best pies in the whole world, I don't know where they've gone either. They used to be at www.wearepie.co.uk, but the site seems to have disappeared. I hope they're ok - the Big Chill 2005 won't be the same without them... If you do know, then please get in touch.

And for some of you other people who arrive via google, I'm a bit worried. Considering your search terms include underwear (eh? on a foodie site?) I'm not sure I want to know where you've been...


Milky milky

It's horrifying what they're subjecting schoolkids to for lunch these days. Mind, we had to put up with warm milk at breaktime and spotted dick for pud, but at least it came relatively additive free.

Last night's work Christmas party (an Elizabethan banquet at Lumley Castle) was an eyeopener. Never tried eating fish pie with a dagger before...



Originally uploaded by rachc.
I am Far Too Full. The nice people at pieminister sent us a huge box of pies (14 in all) to review for pie-man.com, and we've just munched our way through all of them. Here's the boxes in a lovely upside down pyramid shape, courtesy of Rob. Detailed reviews to follow shortly, but they were pretty damn good.


So there.

Clementines are a-boiling for Nigella's clementine and chocolate cake as we speak. And the flapjack's in the oven. See how I bake. Bakey, bakey, bakey. That'll teach you, WI people.



My local newspaper is bemoaning the fact that young women don't bake any more. Well I'm sorry, but we do. I made a batch of flapjack just last week, and on Saturday I'm baking Ian a rather belated birthday cake (which in theory's going to be Nigella Lawson's clementine and chocolate concoction...). And I suspect there are more of us out there, who'd chuck a pie together for tea or maybe sling a few biscuits in the oven.

But what we don't have time to do is bake in any quantity - certainly I wouldn't produce enough to sell on a market stall. It's something that I'd love to do, but there just isn't the time, what with having a full time job, freelance work, running www.pie-man.com and ooh, yes, somehow trying to shoehorn in a bit of a social life as well. It's all very well saying that today's generation don't bake, knit (although knitchicks may not agree...) or sew, but then we don't tend to have the time to be able to do that. It's not that we don't want to, just that we have to concentrate on the day job first, seeing as that's what's paying the mortgage and buying the ingredients.


Is romance dead?

Not content with the delights of German supermarket dating, fast food speed dating has been unleashed on an unsuspecting world. It's being touted by Burger King as the latest thing to do in London, and will be rolled out to the poor unfortunates in Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Bristol if it's successful. Thankfully, Newcastle seems to have escaped their notice. Whatever happened to the idea of going out for a romantic meal, a picnic, or even fish and chips in a steamed-up car overlooking a windswept beach? (not that that's my favourite or anything...)


Nice weather for ducks

Mog and Pippa got married yesterday, surrounded by smiling faces and a few tears, accompanied by Yorkshire pudding, stilton, champagne, chocolate cake and Lemon Jelly. It was a good combination.

Popeye would love this

It's good to see that newspapers get it wrong too - here's The Observer's account of why you don't need 6kg of spinach to make turkey with spinach stuffing. Very good. I like it when people own up to getting it completely and utterly wrong, and do it in an amusing manner. But much though I love spinach, I think I'll be giving the stuffing a miss...


Foodie goodie

Having trekked round the BBC Good Food Show last weekend, I can safely say that there are more than enough olive oil sellers in this country for us to be drowned in a tidal wave of the stuff if all their bottles ever broke at once. Which they wouldn't of course, unless it got so hot that all the glass melted. In which case we'd have far bigger things to worry about. Anyway, my point is that if you're thinking about setting up a business making and selling flavoured oils then don't. There's hundreds of them out there already, and I'm not sure the country can really take that much chilli and rosemary olive oil with garlic dipping sauce.

Other things to avoid selling - strange mops, odd machines for chopping garlic (what's wrong with bashing it with a knife like everyone else?) steam cleaners (particularly if you demonstrate them while wielding a fag and looking extremely disgruntled), and gourmet chutney of any variety. Take it from me, someone's got there first. Oddly, there were hardly any pie sellers, apart from the rather wonderful Lime Tree Pantry whose Christmas mince pies were pretty fantastic. Look out for a review of their steak and kidney pie on www.pie-man.com soon...

Oh, and never ever attempt to try and eat the hottest chilli sauce in the world. It's quite warm.



Me no postie for a while. Sorry. Spent most of the last couple of days on trains courtesy of GNER on my way to and from the big smoke. It's big, smoky, and as ever freakily exciting, and I'm not sure why. First trip in a taxi this time too which again raised excitement to fever pitch. Not that we don't have taxis oop north, you understand. It's just that when you only ever get the tube and pop up at random intervals at stations across London it's a bit of a novelty to see what's going on and catch some scenery.

I have to say though, that I'm glad I live in the sticks (if urban Newcastle ever qualifies as that). I can't believe how much you Londoners get ripped off. Take the drinks at the hotel I was staying at, for example - £6 for a vodka and lemondade and £10 for a glass of wine - or the overpriced (and lack-lustre) 'Persian' meal I had at a place just outside Olympia. I know I was staying in Kensington, but even so...

Rant over for the moment. More to follow soon...