The snap of cold that comes at the start of the year is perfect porridge weather. I’ve never understood those who eat it like clockwork, regardless of the temperature. I love the warmth of it on a cold day, a bowl in my hands like a morning hot-water bottle, the quick but nourishing time spent stirring at the stove a welcome interruption to the busy rush of the morning and a few minutes to let my mind wander at the start of the day.
This is a soup for the soul; chicken soup without the chicken and with no apology. It’s the get-well soup I have been searching for, to cure whatever ails you, whether that’s a cold or a broken heart. As gentle and as nourishing as they come, the soup has a base of slow-cook sweet fennel and leek, layered with old friends celery and carrot, with a pep of ginger and lemon and a warmth from a generous amount of white pepper. Crisp little pieces of tofu top the broth, sticky from a minute or two in a pan, with some soy and a sprinkling of seasoning.
I have an obsession with pancakes; any opportunity to make or eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and I’ll take it. So I’ve had to expand my pancake horizons beyond the Shrove Tuesday classics and the fluffy American ones. One of my favourite ways to make pancakes is with chickpea flour. All over the world chickpea (gram) flour is used to make socca, farinata and Indian pudla. Farinata are a distinctly Italian creation.
I made this pie after a bracing walk on a wintry Welsh beach, a long stretch of sand lined with pines on one side and tempting glistening sea on the other. Icy cold, we dipped our toes in then ran to the car. On the drive home I became fixated on pie and an hour or so later we were eating a comforting crust of mashed cauliflower on top of a rich lentil ragu, cooked until the lentils were almost soft. Its warmth spread all the way to our feet. I use cauliflower but you could also use potato or a mix of roots.
Sardinas fritas con pipirrana
(Pan-fried sardines with pipirrana)
Pipirrana is a refreshing combination of tomatoes, onions, peppers and hard-boiled eggs which balances out the stronger flavour of the pan-fried sardines very well.
A treat today, but something I could happily eat all sunmer long. By the way, I use Maris Pipers for this very soft mash, but a waxy-fleshed potato such as Charlotte would be good too; unorthodox, but capable of giving an even smoother, more velvety mash.
I need something to quell my avocado-toast habit. That moment when I take an avocado, skin, stone and smash it, stir in a little olive oil, coriander and salt, then slather it on toasted sourdough. Nothing wrong with that, other than the regularity with which it replaces lunch or even dinner.
I need something less soft and green, something with a heart, soul and balls. So today, I toast a thin slice of sourdough over which I pour olive oil, then add ‘nduja, the spreadable, spiced Italian sausage available from supermarkets and Italian grocery shops. Put it back under the grill, I then calm its chilli heat down with a thick slice of soft, chalky white goat’s curd.