Friday, 30 May 2014


As soon as the sun shines in London, we love a barbecue so I had the perfect day a few weeks ago when we cooked homemade burgers with my dad's potato salad. Pascal thinks I should change this blog to a burger blog as I always eat so many…and it's true, a bacon cheese burger (with mac and cheese) is my ultimate meal. Like mother like daughter - Arabella is constantly asking when we can go back to Shake Shack so we can have cheeseburgers with cheesy fries - two weeks and counting!!!

The key to making burgers is being prepared as you need time to chill them, if you don't, they have the tendency to fall apart on the barbecue which is a very very sad occurrence, so we made these in the morning, then went to the park while they "chilled" for a couple of hours. Plus another tip -  don't make them too fat and cook them slowly as you do not want them burnt on the outside and raw in the middle.

Ingredients for 6 people:
For the burgers:

1kg good quality minced beef
1 onion finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 egg yolks (I forgot to add 2 eggs in the picture)!
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Vegetable or sunflower or olive oil for cooking

For the sauces:
Horseradish and Sour Cream Chive Sauce:

100ml sour cream
1 tbsp creamed horseradish
1 tbsp chopped chives

Dijon Mustard Mayonnaise:

100ml shop bought mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to season

Additional garnish:
3 avocados, sliced
1 big red onion, sliced
6 buns, halved and toasted
6-12 slices of American or Cheddar Cheese (I like two slices on my burger obviously)!

Place the meat into a large bowl and add the onion, garlic, parsley, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Add the egg yolks one by one.

Then season and mix thoroughly – this is a messy process so take any rings off and don’t be squeamish. (Pascal actually did the honours here as I was busy faffing getting ready for the park).

Using wet hands, shape into 6 evenly sized burgers. You don’t want them too fat in the middle (like some of ours were as you need them cook all at the same time).

Then leave the burgers in the fridge for a couple of hours (minimum 1 hour but 2 is best). Here is your time to go to the pub, go to the park or just chill (like the burgers)!

Once the chilling time is almost up, it’s good to prepare everything else. You need to chop up the avocado and red onion.

For the horseradish and sour cream chive sauce, add the ingredients to a bowl and then whisk them all together.

The same goes for the Dijon mustard mayonnaise.

Then it is time to fire up the barbecue, add a brush of oil and cook these burgers. How long you cook them depends on personal taste. Arabella and I both like the burgers medium which took about 7/8 minutes of each side. Pascal likes his rare so his took half the time.

Then add the all important cheese and lightly toast the bun.

Finally build your burger starting with the horseradish and sour cream chive sauce on the bottom, then add the cheeseburger, avocado, chopped onions and smear the Dijon mayonnaise on the top bun and voila!!

The burger is pretty stacked but you can easily push down on the bun and press all the ingredients together making it easier to fit in your mouth. All the flavours together work magnificently and so just go for it….even if it gets messy!!

A fantastic burger – I would be tempted to add some streaky bacon but then it would be sooooooo tall and this is the type of burger you want to eat with your hands.

Apparently we are going to have good weather for the next couple of days….you can guess what I am cooking again!!

Saturday, 24 May 2014


I haven't cooked as many new recipes this month and instead to the delight of Pascal and Arabella, I have redone some old ones they loved such as chicken nuggets for Arabella, lamb flatbreads with houmous for Pascal and herby salmon and couscous parcels for me. I even did the proscuitto and porcini lasagne for a dinner party which I would really recommend!

However I did need to be slightly experimental and so decided to cook a fish recipe from my latest Fay Ripley book - once I told Pascal that we were having fish for supper, he then decided that would be the day for his big meeting in the city - typical!! He suggested that I cook the fish for just Arabella and but instead I saved it for when he was around….last time I do that!! Like normal he complained all day about the fact we were having fish for supper and even tried to tempt me to go out for pizza, and then when we sat down to eat he informed me that he did not like artichokes, green olives or lemon - the three key ingredients of the dressing…doh….thankfully Arabella and I liked it!

I did make a couple of errors while cooking this (lack of concentration and lack of actually reading the recipe) so when following this do as I say, not what I did.

Ingredients for 4 people:

4 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 x 400g tins of cannellini beans (mistake number 1 - I only bought one tin and you definitely need two)
Juice of half a lemon
4 x sea bass fillets (I could only buy cod, I think sea bass works a lot better as you will have the crispy skin)

390g tin of artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
200g tin of olives stuffed with anchovies, drained and finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
1 bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

I made the dressing first and so started by finely chopping the artichokes.

I then chopped the olives and the parsley and mixed it all together with the juice of half a lemon and 2 tbsp of olive oil. By mistake I also added garlic - don't do this!!! The garlic is for the beans.

Once the dressing is ready, just set it aside.

The "mash" was Pascal's favourite part so don't be an idiot like me and only buy one tin of beans! Anyway start by frying the garlic in one tablespoon of olive oil for one minute.

Stir in the beans, mashing as you go, until you have a rustic texture and they are warmed through. This takes a few minutes. Vigorously stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, half the juice of a lemon and season. Keep this warm over a very low heat.

Finally in a non stick frying pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil and fry the fish skin side down (if there is a skin) until crispy which will take about 3 minutes. As the fish was cooking I seasoned. Then flip over and fry on the other side for another couple of minutes until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily.

Serve the fish on a bed of the cannellini and garlic mash and top with the artichoke and olive dressing and enjoy!

So both Arabella and I were big fans  - I never knew she was an artichoke fan but she obviously is, plus her and I LOVE an olive. We all enjoyed the mash, so much tastier and healthier than potato mash - I have been thinking about what else I can add this mash too. The fish was tasty and simple, even Pascal didn't complain there…makes a change…however for him the dressing was a big no no. I won't be cooking this for him again although I definitely will for Arabella and I - it was fresh, tasty, healthy and took 30 minutes - perfect!!! Let me know what you think...

Tuesday, 20 May 2014


As a child whenever we came up to London we were "treated" to a McDonald's, I absolutely loved it and I think this is where my burger obsession started. 

When I was very young I would ask for a specially made burger with absolutely nothing in it other than the patty. As I grew up I became more adventurous  - the McChicken sandwich, the quarter pounder with cheese (obviously) and then the Big Mac which was a firm favourite. Unfortunately due to all the bad press McDonald's receives I now very rarely go. In fact my brother wanted to report me to the NSPCC as at the age of 5, my daughter Arabella had never tasted a thing from the Golden Arches (she has now been a couple of times and thinks it's heaven). However I can't stomach it because I have heard too many rumours about dirty kitchens, poor ingredients etc, which is unfortunate as I really do love a Big Mac. 

Thankfully there are lots of other good burgers out there…

The Admiral Codrington, or the cod as I have always known it, is a gastro pub with a smart dining area, a small terrace and a private dining room. I first came here when I was 17 although I was more into the drinking part than eating then and it has changed quite a bit!!

Pascal and I ventured here for supper last night. As soon as we arrived the service was impeccable and we were shown to a big booth (perfect for all the plates we always order). Unfortunately there were only two other tables taken in the restaurant so the atmosphere was very drab.

I was torn about what to order - I always remember the squid being brilliant but there were also several bar bites I wanted as well as….such a piglet. I knew for I would be having a burger and mac and cheese but then the menu had lots of other appealing dishes such as risotto with butternut squash and Gorgonzola or pork belly….but old habits die hard.

In the end to start we chose the tempura prawns with sweet chilli sauce, the welsh rarebit and the homemade pork rolls from the bar bites menu.

The prawns were amazing - in breadcrumbs rather than fatty batter - I just wish there had been more. The sauce was far too spicy for me but luckily they had soy sauce.

The welsh rarebit also had a kick to it but it was absolutely delicious - very cheesy.

The homemade pork rolls (sausage rolls) were also extremely tasty, homemade sausage meat in light puff pastry.

We couldn't not have the squid and ordered a starter size rather than the bar bite and I am so pleased we did as it was fabulous. The salt and pepper squid is served with green chilli, spring onion, coriander and nuoc cham.

It was one of the best squid dishes I have ever had, I even loved the sauce which surprised me - incredible and I highly recommend it.

For mains Pascal and I both had the Admiral Cod's Burger which is 180g rare beef breed, a brioche cream bun, slaw, Montgomery cheddar and bacon served with triple cooked chips. They couldn't cook it rare like Pascal prefers although it was still pretty pink.

What a burger! No wonder people say it is one of the best in London and I have to say it reminded my of a new improved "clean" Big Mac - the slaw mixture at the bottom really made it special and I loved the soft bun, juicy beef beef, crispy bacon and cheese (although next time I would ask for double cheese)! I will definitely be back, especially as they had my favourite side and a very good one at that - Mac & Cheese!

This was a good size portion, cheesy and creamy, and even though I was fit to burst I finished the lot as it was too good to leave!

To drink we had a very good Chianti, recommended to us by the waitress.

No wonder the cod has been around for so long, it is consistently good - great service, great food, great wine. The only thing which was missing was the ambiance but it was a Monday night so I am willing to forget that part, as I am sure it is a different story at the weekend…I will be researching that very soon and I will no doubt be ordering exactly the same things!

The Admiral Codrington

17 Mossop Street
Tel: 020 7581 0005

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Square Meal

Friday, 16 May 2014


My dad was a keen cook - he wasn't adventurous in the slightest however he had a recipe repertoire that he liked to do and he did well. He cooked various things brilliantly such as veal with mushroom sauce or steak Diane and he made the most amazing egg mayonnaise sandwiches although his mac and cheese was revolting!!! I wish I'd made a note of his successful recipes before he died as all I ever wrote down was his welsh rarebit and potato salad. Dad never followed a recipe book and instead was more "naked chef" (thankfully not literally) with a little bit of this and a little bit of that!

I do try to make his potato salad every summer when we have barbecues as it brings back some good memories of him. This is the "rough" version he gave me.

I have tried to tweak it but do taste as you go, I have also made a few alterations such as including bacon.

Ingredients for 4-6 people as a side (depending on how hungry you are):

750g new potatoes
3 garlic cloves
8 spring onions
14 rashes of streaky bacon
100ml beef stock cube
4 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tbsp white wine vinegar
1-2 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper

First thing first boil the kettle or heat the water to boil the potatoes. You want them to be soft which takes about 15-20 minutes so check them after 15 minutes and see if you need longer. Then boil the kettle again for the stock cube.

At the same time slice the spring onions and crush the garlic.

Frying the bacon is tastier as you can get it really crispy (especially if you add butter)! However it isn't exactly healthy so I grilled the bacon in batches. This took about 15 minutes.

Once the potatoes are soft, slice them into chunks.

In a bowl mix the 4 tbsp of olive oil, 1.5 tbsp of white wine vinegar, 100ml of the beef stock, salt and pepper and a teaspoon or two of sugar - taste as you do it and add more of the ingredients if necessary.

Add to the bowl, the potatoes, garlic, spring onion and bacon.

Then mix!

I much prefer this potato salad to a mayonnaise based one and surely it is more healthy?! It is based on a German potato salad so you could always add sausage rather than bacon. If you can, try and serve it warm, but I never get the timings right. 

I never once cooked for my dad, at the time I couldn't even boil an egg, so I think he would be very happy that not only am I regularly cooking his potato salad, but I am also sharing it with others. 


Monday, 12 May 2014


Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows I love a burger with mac and cheese…I just do not get bored of it…and so whenever I hear of a new American place, I get terribly over excited. I received my new Tatler restaurant guide last week and so now I have several new places to try - the top of my list was Jackson + Rye.

This all day restaurant is backed by Richard Caring whose portfolio include the J Sheekey's, Scotts, 34 so I had high hopes! It is based in Soho and is a sleek, buzzy US brasserie - just what you'd expect to find in New York.

Pascal and I decided to live life on the edge and go without a reservation - something I never do - however I knew they did some very good cocktails so we could always have a couple of drinks while we waited for the table.

We arrived at 7.30 and the place was already rammed - we were told it would be a 45/50 minute wait, you can either wait there or go elsewhere as you can track your waiting time online which I thought was pretty cool! Luckily there were two seats left at the bar so we settled down with a gin on the rocks, a g&t and some popcorn and nuts….I couldn't have been happier.

Of course I then had to try a cocktail…..a Deuce Royale with vodka, lime, mint and fizz - delicious!

Before we knew it our table was ready - it was actually only a 30 minute wait. We were shown to our table - this was a disappointment, for such a big restaurant the tables are practically on top of each other and they squeeze as many people as possible around each one. Anyway our waitress was super friendly, the place has a great atmosphere and so we didn't dwell on it and instead moved on to the most important….

I had already studied the menu (obviously) and knew exactly what we were going to order.

We shared a starter - crispy squid with chipotle mayonnaise. 

This was good - more calamari in breadcrumbs than crispy squid but still enjoyable, Pascal really rated them and the mayonnaise was delicious.

Obviously we both had burgers and I was very happy that you could order it with double cheese!!

Pascal was disappointed that they wouldn't cook the burger rare, only medium or well done. We both had the burger with a side of bacon. The bacon was absolutely phenomenal, I was expecting something thin and crispy but this was more like pork belly and it tasted incredible and really made the burger. It wasn't the best burger in London but it was a good one.

For sides Pascal ordered the lettuce wedge with blue cheese dressing - this was so good, Pascal didn't even share a bite with me!

I ordered the truffled mac and cheese which I adored - cheesy but not creamy with lots of truffle oil. Pascal was not a fan as it was too greasy which suited me as then I got to eat it all!

We needed another table to fit all our food at this point as we also ordered spicy coleslaw and fries. I enjoyed the coleslaw with my burger, it wasn't spicy at all - it was good but not amazing.

The fries were thin, crispy and salty but I was fit to burst by this point so could only eat a couple - Pascal enjoyed them though.

Wow - what a meal - I needed to be in my tracksuit bottoms not tight jeans!! 

Pascal was so full that wanted to have a digestif when we got home - I thought he meant a shot (not medicine), so told him to surprise me with one…….he really played me at my own game and gave me a shot of absinthe!!! Revolting!!

Anyway service at Jackson + Rye was quick and extremely friendly and compared to most places in central London, the bill was not astronomical which made a pleasant surprise. The food was good although not exceptional. I wouldn't rush back there in a hurry although if I was passing by I would go in, it would be fun with a group of friends…but maybe I would order slightly less next time!!

Jackson + Rye

56 Wardour Street
Tel: 020 7437 8338

Square Meal
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