The simplest meal. Plain BBQed American ribs, as they are called in Australia. I guess in America they are called Aussie. Or Irish. If they are cooked on a wood BBQ then that smoked effect does as the marinade, the flavouring.

And this salad:

Baby leaf spinach, stemmed, maybe cut into smaller pieces, if you please. Rocket, wild or not, does equally well.

Ripe pear, peeled, quartered, cored, sliced.

Pecans cut into slivers, maybe three to each piece as they come from the packet.

A splash of proper balsamic vinegar and oil – I use best olive oil as a rule, but without my glasses grapeseed oil went in tonight, it was fine.

Toss. Serve.

I am a meat girl, but salads like this make me forget all about the rest of dinner. I could eat this all day.

Variation: you’d be amazed how different this is with strawberries instead of pear.

You can also use walnuts instead of pecans, but make sure they are nice, not bitter. In general I find pecans less likely to disappoint.

If you take this on a picnic, take the dressing in a jar and toss when serving.

Caesar’s Salad Dressing as it was supposed to be.

Long ago we lived in a world where mistakes and bad luck were allowed to happen. They were part of life. Anybody living in Europe will know how much legislation has taken place to stop food practices which are considered ‘dangerous’ to the health. I read somewhere that there are now underground restaurants in France where one can get food as it used to be prior to this interference with such an intimate part of our lives.

So, this recipe comes with a big warning. It has uncooked egg in it which is an illegal practice probably pretty well everywhere these days. If you use this recipe and die, just don’t come complaining to me. Ditto if you kill somebody else. Me, I’d rather eat well and die of this habit than eat badly and die of that habit, but I use the words ‘well’ and ‘badly’ in a way which is probably illegal too.

1 raw egg
half a cup of olive oil
juice of a lemon
1 teasp of wine vinegar (or more lemon)
3 cloves of crushed garlic
half a teaspoon dry mustard
half a teaspoon of worcestershire sauce
lots of freshly ground black pepper
crushed anchovies

Mix the above ingredients together in a jar with a lid that works. I mention ‘that works’ because you are going to shake it up vigorously and once I didn’t have a lid that matched the jar. A politician would have called what happened next ‘regrettable’, I imagine. This dressing keeps well in the fridge for several days.

Toss with baby cos lettuce leaves, from the heart of the lettuce, not those nasty ones from the outside.

bacon and croutons as an optional garnish

The best bacon, cut into little chunks and fried. And please, if you are going to use croutons, don’t buy them. Thickly slice some bread, fry it in something nice, honestly, it won’t take any longer than getting the car out to drive to your nearest crouton shop.

Potato salad with bacon and crème fraiche


500g kipfler potatoes
2 tbsp crème fraiche
125g bacon, diced
1 teasp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp good wine vinegar
pinch salt
fresh chives, finely cut

Boil potatoes until tender, peel and dice. Fry bacon until crisp and fat is rendered. Remove the bacon. Combine the mustard, vinegar and salt and mix with the bacon fat. Quickly pour over the potato, mix and scatter with the chives. Oh…freshly ground black pepper, of course. I think this is a warm salad, partly because the bacon fat will solidify.

Souped-up green sludge

As I’ve mentioned before, Madhur Jaffrey is my idea of reliable. I’ll try anything by her once. But now and again…

She has a recipe in her Taste of India which she says is for the best vegetable puree she has ever tasted and that included, she said, the puree of superior French restaurants. Well, my best advice to anybody reading this, in that case, is never ever order the vegetable puree, even if it has three Michelin stars attached.

This one starts off thus.

Channa dal – 175g – soaked for an hour.
Approximately 600g spinach, stemmed and washed.
A large potato peeled and chopped.
A couple of onions, ditto.
About 500g tomatoes, also chopped.

A magical melange according to Madhur. Add to a large pot several tablespoons of oil, toss in all the above and some chillies. Add 750ml water, bring to the boil. Simmer until soft. Now bring to boil and reduce to a thick stew. Puree. Et voila.

What you have at this stage is the very drabbest green sludge which I, ever the optimist, served with roast lamb and potatoes. The dry, over-cooked lamb was quite the highlight.

What next? How to save all that time I’ve spent stemming a mountain of spinach? I tried this today for lunch:

two ladles of green sludge (one per person)
cup of plain yoghurt
salt and pepper
teaspoon harissa paste

In a saucepan mix the sludge and water, then add the yoghurt. As far as quantities go, my idea was a thin soup. You want to heat without boiling, you don’t want the yoghurt to curdle. Everything else you can add just before serving.

This was really good. Souped-up green sludge. Yummmmm.

Spicy herby eensy eggs

Miniature omelettes

These are so good. Sit around the kitchen and eat them out of the pan.


3 eggs
good pinch of ground cumin
finely chopped fresh mint
finely chopped fresh parsley
3 spring onions, white part, very finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil


Mix the eggs with the cumin and then everything else but the olive oil. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan: perhaps 5mm of oil. Slip teaspoons of the mixture into the hot oil. Allow the omelettes to puff up and brown around the edges – these are so small, they don’t need turning. Remove with a slotted spoon to a hot plate and eat while you are cooking the rest. Oh, if you have to be civilised about it, remove with a slotted spoon to a hot plate lined with crumpled kitchen paper and keep warm. When all are cooked, serve. You can top with a little more cumin mixed with GOOD salt.

recipe idea from Stephanie Alexander The Cook’s Companion

Yakitori Atlantic Salmon with Udon Noodles.

I adore this, easy, quick, good for you, yummy. This quantity will serve 3.

Don’t use farmed salmon, the fish doesn’t have a nice life AND it’s probably bad for you.


450gms Atlantic Salmon fillets – the tail has least bones if you need to pull out those the fishmonger missed.
400gms fresh Udon noodles (you may have to rinse or soak a bit, follow packet instructions)
lots of washed baby spinach – a packet per two people
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup Japanese soy sauce (I use Tamari by preference)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
grated or finely chopped ginger.
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted.


Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Combine mirin, soy, sesame oil and ginger and brush over salmon.

Bake in paper-lined dish for 5-10 minutes, it really depends on thickness of salmon. You want it undercooked for now. Break salmon into chunks.

Stir-fry noodles in a hot wok, adding sesame seeds (reserve some) and remaining marinade.

Cook for 2 mins and add spinach. When spinach has softened add salmon, stir gently so as not to break up the pieces of fish. Serve with reserved sesame seeds on top.

When I last made this I forgot I didn’t have any ginger and added lemon juice ‘instead’ right at the end. A perfectly adequate variation. Nor are udon noodles a deal-breaker here. Tonight I used rice noodles, soaked in boiling water while the fish was in the oven.

Cottle on Coventry

We went to St Ali’s for coffee, but Cottle beat them hands down, according to the coffee drinker of the team. This is a place you go to for the coffee, not the food. But hey, it was lunch time….

Cottle on Coventry

Cottle on Coventry

Cottle on Coventry (2)

Cottle on Coventry (3)

The food is simple and reasonably priced. More to the point it is super friendly, a nice, untrendy, place to hang out.


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