Skip to content

Taking the biscuit

Ok, all that stuff I said about it being unseasonably warm and hating it? I take it back. It’s freezing now and I’m scrabbling around for excuses not to leave the house. So far, the best one I have come up with (‘Jermey Kyle’ and ‘Cash in The Attic’ not withstanding) was the desire to knock up a great big batch of chocolate chip cookies. Normally I’ll reach for many a chocolate confection before I get my sticky mitt in the biscuit barrel – brownies always get my vote as does anything that combines chocolate with ground almonds but yesterday I just had to have a big fat cookie. I wanted to combine the grown up taste of Green and Blacks 70% with the childhood sensation I used to get from eating Wagon Wheels. I remember the first time I saw a Wagon Wheel as an adult and being truly crest fallen that it was no longer the size of my 8 year head. Cries of “They are not as big as they used to be” were swiftly followed by the realization that it was I who had grown and not the Wagon Wheels that had shrunk.

These  cookies are very much made in the American mould – big, crisp on the outside and still chewy in the middle. Sure they would taste good with a glass of milk but they are even better with a small, wickedly strong espresso.(They are just big enough to sustain you through two coffees if, like me, you need the extra caffeine hit).

It may be about to get even colder outside but after one ( OK, three) of these cookies I have just the right amount of warm and fuzzies to forget about the weather.


Choc chip Cookies ( Makes 24 large )


350g plain flour

1 tablespoon cocoa

1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon salt

225 grams unsalted butter at room temperature

175 grams caster sugar

175 grams dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

350 grams good quality dark chocolate with 70% cocoa solids ( Green and Blacks Chocolate for Cooks is excellent) chopped into small but rough peices


Preheat the oven to 180C/375F/Gas 5.

In a bowl, combine the flour,cocoa, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, beat the butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract until creamy. Beat in the eggs. Gradually mix in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate.

Split the mixture into two, rolling each out into sausage shapes, approximately 5cm/2in in diameter. Wrap them in cling film and transfer to the refrigerator for 1 hour.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, simply cut the log into slices 2 cm thick and lay on a baking tray, widely spaced apart. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the baking tray and cool on a wire rack until completely cold. Don’t worry if the cookies are still very soft, they will crisp up as they cool

Posted in Blog.

Legume with a view

A favourite hobby of mine is indulging in something I call a ‘Fridge Safari’ . It involves standing in front of an open fridge finishing off left overs and pondering on just about anything except what you are eating. It was during recent ‘Safari’ that I finished off a whole tub of humous without so much as a backward glance. After running my pinkie around the rim of the near empty tub I started to wonder what we all did before this simple chick pea puree became as ubiquitous as it is today. I’m sure half of the country’s toddlers would starve to death if it wasn’t for Mum’s constant supply of humous and carrot sticks.

As delicious and convenient as humous may be the chick pea has a lot going for it beyond the blender. Chana dhal is a great vegetarian curry and is found throughout the Indian sub continent. It’s usually a fairly simple dry curry of chick peas and tomatoes and makes great side dish to serve along side other curries with rice and flat breads.

Falafel is probably my favourite use of the chick pea not least of all because if there’s a food stuff that doesn’t taste better for a quick dip in hot oil and a smothering in chilli sauce, I’ve yet to find it. Arguments rage about the origins of falafel with the Arab world taking great ofence at the Israelis claiming it as a ‘National dish’. But world politics aside the one thing that unites all traditional falafel lovers is the practice of making them from soaked but not cooked chick peas. Don’t take any notice of anyone who urges you to crack open a tin of chick peas when making falafel – It’ just doesn’t work. They will fall apart in the frier and lack the all important chick pea flavour. Not what you are looking for at all.

Beetroot and Lime Humous – enough for 4 as part of a mezze


300 grams of cooked chickpeas

250 grams cooked beetroot (the vac packed kind from the supermarket is fine for this but not the pickled stuff)

2 large tablespoons of light tahini

2 cloves garlic

juice of 2 limes

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper


Place all the ingredients in a food processor except the olive oil. Puree until smooth and then with the motor running drizzle in the oil. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve with toasted pitta bread or crudite.

Posted in Blog.

Steak Out

There’s something rather disconcerting about everyone else knowing what you are going to order in a restaurant before you’ve actually had a chance to make your mind up. This happens to me every time I dine out. I try to peruse the menu just like everyone else but always end up ordering the same thing. Boring? Maybe, but I just don’t seem to be able to break the habit. I go through the pretense of running my finger down the menu, pausing for dramatic effect at the sea bass or lamb but I really needn’t bother.

“And he’ll have a medium rare steak” My friend said the other night before snatching the menu out of my hand and passing it to the waiter.

“I might have wanted the special” I protested

“Well, do you?” My friend asked

“Er, no. I want the rib eye”

The thing is, I am not alone in this. If you put 6 chef’s around a table I would bet good money that 5 of them would order a steak. The one that didn’t will then spend the rest of the meal talking about how he or she should probably ordered a steak after all. It probably has something to do with being surrounded by choice every day or maybe it’s more primal than that. Either way, steak and chips is the go to menu item for me.

I had an onglet steak the other night at Hotel du Vin in Brighton and it was bloody delicious. Rare and full of flavour it was everything you could ever want in a slab of meat. Despite it cropping up on many a decent eaterie’s menu at the moment it’s still not that well known. Onglet has pros and cons for the first timer. It has to be said that raw, it’s not going to win any beauty contests and it’s unfamiliar appearance could have some people reaching for the rib eye.


Asking the butcher what part of the cow it comes from might not be much of a reassurance either as it’s actually a pair of muscles that hang from the diaphragm.


Lets just say it’s hell of a lot tastier on the plate than the page. It also requires a a certain amount of chewing so it’s probably not for the kind of diner who want’s the flavourless ‘melt in the mouth’ experience you get from a fillet steak. In fact it needs very brief cooking over a high heat to render it rare to really get the best out of it. Those preferring a medium to well done steak should  probably stick to what they know.

All that said, what it lacks in good looks and familiarity it more than makes up for in flavour and lets face it if you’re not eating steak for flavour then maybe you should have had the sea bass after all.

If you’re planning on trying onglet you could ask your butcher for hanger steak or skirt steak. I got mine from award winning Sussex Butcher of the Year Bramptons (Cause he’s my mate!) and just when you thought it couldn’t get any better it’s cheap too!


Posted in Blog.

Dear Chicken Tikka Marsala….

Dear Chicken Tikka Marsala,

I’m not going to deny it; it was love at first sight for me. After that first night in the restaurant I only had eyes for you and even though I flirted with the others I always came running back to you.

You were different yet I felt like we had known each other forever. We’ve had some laughs and on occasion we’ve had some tears (Though to be fair that was usually more to do with some of your more feisty friends). I loved the way you made me feel even though my jeans became a little too tight when we spent too much time together. I loved your friends and all my friends loved you but like all good things it was never going to last forever.

The thing is, I’ve changed and I don’t think I can cope with anything too heavy right now. I want a relationship that leaves me with the energy to do other things and not just curl up in front of the TV and fall asleep.

So, remember the good times and lets both agree to just move on. I’m sure we’ll bump into each other and I don’t even mind if you continue to see my friends. Just don’t be too upset when you see me hanging out with someone new


Michael x

Vegetable Byriani – serves 6 -8 people

For the rice:

600 gms basmati rice

3 cinnamon sticks

6 cardamon pods

12 cloves

12 black pepper corns

4 bay leaves

(The spices can be tied into a muslin bag but if not you must pick them out of the cooked rice)

For the vegetables:

1 kg mixed veg cut into uniform 2.5 cm pieces.  (I used a mixture of potatoes, peas, onions, green beans and cauliflower because that’s what I had in the fridge)

6 cloves garlic

2.5 tablespoons grated ginger

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

8 cloves

12 black peppercorns

The seeds from 10 green cardamon pods

1 teaspoon turmeric

4 tablespoons plain yoghurt

2 teaspoons salt

Good pinch saffron threads

6 tablespoons milk

To Serve:

2 large onions, thinly sliced and fried until crispy

3 tablespoons flaked almonds toasted

2 tablespoons sultanas


Pre heat oven to 200º C

Start by washing the rice in plenty of cold running water. Be gentle as you don’t want to break the grains. When the water is starting to run clear tip the rice into a large bowl and cover with fresh water. Soak for 30 minutes.

After the soaking time is up drain and set aside. In a large saucepan or stock pot bring 4 litres of water up to the boil and add the spice bag and the rice. Cook for exactly 7 minutes.

Drain the rice and discard the spice bag. Allow to cool.

To make the vegetable part of the byriani grind the spices, garlic and ginger in a pestle and mortar until you have a smooth paste. Stir in the yoghurt a spoon at a time and mix thoroughly.

In a wide sautee pan or wok fry the curry paste for 5 minutes before adding the veg. Turn the vegetables in the paste until well coated and add a cup of water. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.

In a deep casserole pan or baking dish place half of the rice and then top with the vegetable mixture. Cover with the remaining rice and pat down gently.

Mix the saffron with the milk and pour onto the centre of the rice. Pour an additional 200 ml boiling water around the edge of the rice. Place the lid on (or improvise with foil) and place into the oven for 40 minutes.

Remove after the cooking time and allow to stand for 10 minutes

Scoop out onto a shallow serving dish and garnish with the fried onions, sultanas and almonds. Delicious served with just plain yoghurt and chapattis.

Posted in Blog. Tagged with .

Cheese straws

cheese-strawsCrunchy and deeply savoury, these are just the thing to keep your guests going until dinner. For a slight twist on the following recipe, try swapping the mustard for sun-dried tomato paste, black olive tapenade or even anchovy paste.