Category Archives: Kitchen Tips

Chilli Oil

So very spicy, and so very good!

I made this chilli oil when I saw the most beautiful peppers at the wondrous Khans Bargains on Rye Lane in Peckham. They looked like the usual scotch bonnet peppers we have an abundance of in our local markets, those fiery Caribbean beauties that come in fluorescent hues of orange, yellow, red and green, but these ones were smaller, and the skin was thicker. They looked dangerous, so I bought them.


Fiery Chilli Oil

2 handfuls of hot peppers (you can use any type of chilli for this really)
Olive Oil
Dried chilli flakes (if you want to feel the burn)

Find a suitable receptacle and sterilise it well, including the lid. Sterilising tips in this post here. (I used an old ketchup bottle as it had a nice large opening better to stuff the peppers into. A smaller opening is better for pouring though so maybe invest in one of those oil pouring spouts if you have an aversion to great sloshes when you want a drizzle)

Thoroughly wash and dry your peppers, coat in a little olive oil and roast on a high heat in the oven until the peppers are starting to shrink, about 15 minutes.You’ll know when they are ready because the smell coming from the oven will make your eyes water!

Drop the warm peppers into your receptacle:

Sprinkle in a few chilli flakes if you fancy

Top with olive oil, seal. Wait at least a few days so the flavour can fully mingle.

I continue to top my oil up with fresh olive oil as I use it. The heat from the peppers has lasted and intensified so I should really call this never ending chilli oil.

KITCHEN TIP: I have heard stories that the chillies can go mouldy when treated like this. As far as I know, if you use raw chillies you have to be really careful when you wash and then DRY them. Any remaining water will encourage mould. If you roast them as I did I think this problem is averted as you are killing any bacteria on the chillies. It would also be advisable to warm the oil or even slowly heat the oil and chillies together before bottling. I’ll let you know if I have any problems. Until then, I’ll be making many pizzas and spicing them up…

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Filed under Kitchen Tips, Preserving, Recipes

Preserving and Pickling Things…

Sometimes there just aren’t enough accompaniments and condiments in the fridge. Actually, when you live with a vinegar addict, there are never enough condiments in the fridge. At times I believe he would prefer a sandwich without the bread, just  many varying condiments and pickled items in between two slices of cheese… So I indulge him from time to time.

I really like pickling and preserving things. There’s something very rewarding about sealing something up in a jar and saving it up for just the right moment. The tomato chutney I wrote about last year in October rested and waited very patiently in the fridge until I  decided our Christmas party was the right time for it’s glorious showcase.  We scooped it up onto on rye crackers with a soft goats cheese. It was a sensational (though I do say so myself) combination, soft, crunchy and strong; and it had just been waiting, very quietly for its perfect pairing and all I had to do was open a jar.

Pickled Onions

These make an excellent gift, I gave jars and jars away at Christmas. There is nothing nicer than left over cold meats, some strong cheese and a pickled onion.

You have to start pickled onions the day before, to give them a good brine. Some recipes don’t call for this but I  like to as it tenderises them before submerging them in the vinegar and then you don’t have to wait so long to open the jar and eat! Maybe 3 weeks instead of 6. The quantity below will make about 3 medium kilner jars but if you’re making gifts double or even triple it. Check how the un-prepared onions fit in your jars before you start so you don’t get left with one lone onion with nowhere to go.

1 lb pickling onions or shallots

1oz salt

Pickling spice about 1/2 a teaspoon per jar : I make up a mix and store it in an old spice jar: use 2tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp dried chilli, 2 tsp peppercorns, 2 tsp all spice, 2 tsp corriander seed.

600ml vinegar (I use a mixture of malt and white)

100g brown sugar

1 dried bay leaf per jar

First, begin the long slow process of peeling your onions. I like to leave the long top on mine so I just slice off the flat root end and then laboriously peel the brown layers away

Now heat about 1l of water mixed with the 1oz salt until the salt has dissolved. Let the water cool down and then submerge your onions and weigh them down. I use a plate and the kilner jars. Now leave this overnight.

The next day, drain your onions and sterilise your jars. I do this by washing them in very hot soapy water and putting them in a hot oven to dry. I put lids or the orange seals into boiling water for a minute.

Now heat the vinegars, sugar and pickling spice over a low heat until it just comes to the boil. Now turn it off.
Divide your onions between the warm dry jars, pop in a bay leaf and pour the vinegar over. You can drain the spices out of the vinegar if you want as they will have released  their flavour into the hot vinegar, but I leave mine in.

Now seal the jars up and store them for a minimum of 2 weeks before you eat them.

Now for the beetroot. Measurements are approximate here as it depends on how much you want to make and how big your beetroots are! I made one jar of these because I had 2 huge beetroots and guessed at the vinegar quantity. If you have vinegar left over, store it in a jar with all the spices and then use it as a ‘starter’ for your next pickling escapade.

Pickled Beetroot

4 medium fresh beetroot

200ml malt vinegar

1 tsp of spice mix mentioned above. (In beetroot you can also use cinnamon sticks and cloves for a lovely rich flavour)

1-2tbsp golden caster sugar

Sterilise a jar as mentioned before

First boil your beetroot whole and unpeeled in water for around 30 minutes or until tender to the point of a knife

When they are ready, run them under cold water or let them cool down before you peel them. The skin will come away easily but I still use a peeler to minimise the purple fingers!

Now slice your beetroots into the shape and size you fancy. I did mine in half and then into 4, you don’t want them to be too chunky. Rounds are also nice because you can see the lovely pattern inside the beetroot…and they fit into a sandwich better.

Tightly pack all your beetroot pieces into your sterilised jar

Warm your vinegar sugar and spices in a pan and then strain it over the beetroots.

Seal the jar and wait at least 2-3 weeks. Or if you’re Tom, open immediately and consume within 3 days.

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Filed under Kitchen Tips, Pickle, Preserving, Recipes, vegetables, Vegetarian

Almond Milk Jelly

Here’s another recipe from my Supper Club Feast. I’m releasing them slowly, in drips, to keep you on your toes.

This is not necessarily a winter pudding, it will make a lovely light desert for spring (now that it has arrived) and is a perfect way to use the last of the pomegranates that are still just in season.

Jelly had always been on the agenda for the Supper Club and was, I think, the first decision I made. It was decorative, light, wobbly and unusual. The one I made was a lovely delicate creature, flavoured with almond essence and only slightly sweetened. It actually surprised me just how easy it was. Now it seems, the jelly possibilities are endless.

Sadly I have no picture for this. The one I took looked like some massive sea anemone which was so far from the elegant truth.

I served it with pomegranate seeds and pears poached in red wine and mulling spices.

Almond Milk Jelly

500 ml (17 fl oz) organic whole milk

2 tsp powdered gelatine

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp pure almond extract

Seeds from 1 pomegranate

First test your jelly receptacle(s). Make sure the amount of milk fits, you don’t want to be caught short with jelly as it does start to set quite quickly especially as it hits the side of the mould.

Now add the gelatine to 150ml of the milk and leave it to soak for 5 minutes.

Warm the remainder of the milk, caster sugar and almond essence in a pan. It needs to be below boiling point, not very hot but not only luke warm either … When it has reached this very approximate temperature slowly mix it into the gelatine infused milk and whisk to make sure there are no lumps. If you get lumps, put it back on a low heat and whisk like mad until they have dissolved.

Now pour it into your prepared mould (or moulds) and refrigerate until it has set (at least a couple of hours)

TIP: To remove your jelly, find a bowl larger than your mould and put a small amount of of boiling water in the bottom. Lower your jelly (open side UP) into the water making sure the water doesn’t rise too high and spill over into your jelly. Leave it for about 5 seconds then remove the mould from the water, put a plate on the open top, flip the plate and the jelly will slide out. It’s pretty robust so don’t worry that it might slide into a disappointing puddle.

Serve it with the pomegranate seeds scattered over or around. The combination of milky, delicate jelly and the sweet pop of the seeds is truly lovely.

Alternatively you could put the seeds into the mould at the start and pour the jelly over so they become suspended in a wobbly jelly force field.

TIP: To remove seeds from a pomegranate cut it in half, take a large bowl and a wooden spoon and smack the un-cut side of the pomegranate hard with the spoon over the bowl and the seeds will fly out at a most satisfying speed!

OK… here’s the sea anemone…

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Filed under Catering, Christmas, Fruit, Kitchen Tips, Pudding, Quick, Recipes, Supper Club

Feasting, Scrooge, and a Christmas Party

It’s all over… I ache, and my hands are a sight to behold with burns, grate marks and beetroot stains…but it was all worth it!

I have been cooking since Friday.

I started with the pork pies as I knew they would give me a huge sense of pride right at the beginning of the marathon but I also knew they would be tricky, nerve wracking and time consuming. They didn’t disappoint on all fronts!

Next I tackled the sweets, late at night with a glass of wine I stuffed orange flower scented almond paste into sticky prunes and dipped them in dark 70% cocoa chocolate… my gosh they are delicious (if I do say so myself!)

I was on a roll that night and because we had decided that of course we could throw our traditional Christmas party for 30 people the next day, I made 2 batches of pastry, 1 for the sausage rolls and 1 for the mince pies.

On Saturday I made the next pork pie, the pork stock for jelly (more on that debacle later), wrapped the sweets in waxed paper squares, 50 wild boar and venison sausage rolls, 50 mince pies and the pickled beetroot slices. We had a party inbetween.
Sunday was the mega marathon. I did the Tudor mince pies, jellied the pork pies, made the pheasant main dish (to marinade overnight) and 2 almond milk  jellies. With a break in the midle to watch the 1951 Alistair Sim Scrooge with that memorable line: “Oh Peter Peter, come and hear the pudding singing in the copper!” (You thought I was going to say “Gawd bless us, everyone” didn’t you!?)

Monday was veg: I peeled and trimmed all the little carrots, scrubbed, chopped and pre-roasted the artichokes, made the pearl barley salad, de-seeded the pomegranates, poached pears in wine and spices and made a syrup, baked the vegggie main and got everything packed into a hundred and one boxes and and traveled on down to another, slightly less well equipped kitchen…to feast.

I want to say thank you to all my wonderful guests and incredible waiters. Your enthusiasm and clean plates were a joy. Thank you for making the first supper club such a magical memorable event. Watch this space for all the recipes so you can recreate the fun at home (!)

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Now for the next one….

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Filed under Baking, chocolate, Christmas, Crafts, Decorating, Kitchen Tips, Meat, Supper, Supper Club

A Long Overdue Quince Update

So here is the LONG overdue quince update. The sad news is… they all died! I had heard on the grapevine (and in many online quince tips) that the quince is a hardy creature, capable of being left alone for up to 2 weeks without spoiling. All lies. I kept mine for about a week and a half, bought a big shiny new Kilner jar to make a start on pickling the quinces to serve with ham, and when I had washed, scrubbed, dried and then started peeling, the rotten secret was revealed… Brown specks are OK within a quince, but mine were pretty much all brown inside, and the lovely fragrant smell had all but disappeared. The flesh should be firm and yellow inside with the texture of an apple, a few brown spots are OK but not the mass of brown I discovered. However, I did learn something…. Quinces are easy to peel. Every blog and recipe I looked into warned me off the daunting task, it’s just like peeling a thick skinned apple, takes a little more time, but a regular peeler is fine. Another thing I realised is that they are really dense, they are difficult to slice so make sure your knife is really sharp. All the other discoveries are going to have to wait until next year….

I thought I’d share the misery with you so you can be prepared… and so will I.

So the picture below is the before and after picture when washing. Quinces have a soft fluffy outer down that you have to scrub off, I put all mine in the sink and used a clean sourer to gently wipe the fluff off into the water.


The pictures below here are what you DO and DON”T want. The quince on the left has a few brown specks, all of them looked like this when I first picked them, some more than others and some very pure yellow. I didn’t notice that the majority had suddenly developed a kind of quince acne until I’d washed and started peeling. The one on the right, is an over-ripe dull brown on the inside quince. It was terribly depressing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, the brown spot had taken over the majority of my beautiful quinces so I’ll just have to hold out for next year. It’s such a shame as I was looking forward to Membrillo, pickled quince, quince chutney, quince pie, roasted quince with cream and vanilla, quince jam, quince upside-down cake, quince pickle, quinces on quinces on quinces…………… *sigh*

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Filed under Fruit, Kitchen Tips, Preserving, Pudding, Recipes

Party Party!

There’s nothing I  relish more than a good birthday party. So many opportunities to cook!  On Saturday we held  our birthday Ping Pong Picnic Party in the Park with mulled cider on a camping stove and lots of delicious cheeses. And birthday cake of course.

Below are several of my favourite party food recipes from a few past birthday celebrations…

Mulled Cider

Lemon Polenta Cake with Pistachio Cream

Spinach and Feta Filo Parcels

Party Biscuits

‘Caspars’

Chicory Leaves with Gorgonzola, Pear and Walnuts

Don’t f0rget to decorate the kitchen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mulled Cider

For 2l good dry cider use 100ml cloudy or freshly squeezed apple juice

1 apple studded with cloves

1/2 an orange, sliced thinly

1 cinnamon stick

Put all the ingredients into a pan and warm gently.

Drink, preferably outside, under a tree, in Autumn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The apple, orange and cinnamon will last for at least 4 rounds (that is 4 lots of 2l of cider) but after that the spiciness will have weakened, so make sure to have spare, this goes down a bit quickly especially at a big party!

Lemon Polenta Cake with Pistachio Cream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cake

330g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

130g fine polenta, plus extra for dusting

300g caster sugar

4 large free-range eggs, beaten

300g ground almonds

1½ tsp baking powder

4 tsp plain flour

Grated zest of 4 large lemons and juice of 2

Syrup

100g caster sugar

Juice of a large lemon

Icing

150g mascarpone

100g ricotta

150ml double cream

2 tbsp icing sugar

4-5 tbsp lemon curd

Handful of chopped pistachios to decorate

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees, gas 3

Butter a 23cm springform cake tin, line the base with baking paper, butter again and dust all over with a little polenta.

In a big bowl or your food mixer beat the softened butter and caster sugar together until light and fluffy, then gradually add the beaten eggs

Fold in the polenta, almonds, baking powder and plain flour with a metal spoon.

Add the lemon zest and juice, combine.

Spoon into the cake tin and smooth the top.

Bake for 1¼ hours until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean

Meanwhile, make the syrup by heating the sugar and lemon juice in a pan until the sugar has dissolved

When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and poke holes into the cake with a skewer. pour over the warm syrup and let the cake cool in the tin for 20-30 minutes, then remove from the tin and completely cool on a wire rack.

When the cake is cool, make the icing. In a bowl or your mixer, beat together mascarpone, ricotta and cream until smooth and thick. Sift in the icing sugar and mix well in. Spread the icing over the top of the cake and then drizzle over the lemon curd, you can swirl the curd into the icing with a skewer. Finely chop your pistachios (or you could use almonds) and sprinkle over the top of the cake.

Watch it disappear in milliseconds.

Spinach and Feta Filo Parcels

6 sheets of filo pastry

6 shallots

2 tbs chopped fresh parsley

500g cooked drained and chopped spinach (squeeze all the juice out so you have a sort of spinach paste or use frozen which is pre-chopped, you’ll still need to squeeze it)

200g feta cheese

50g butter, melted

salt and pepper

Nutmeg

Cook or prepare your spinach (if using frozen, thaw out, drain and squeeze then use. If using fresh, wash it, then put it in a pan over a low heat with the lid on, you will need no more water than this, then drain, squeeze and chop finely)

Pre-heat the oven to gas 4 / 180 degrees

Chop the shallots finely and sautee in a little olive oil for 5 minutes or so.

Chop the feta into 1cm squares

Mix the spinach with the shallots until heated through, add the parsley feta and a good grating of fresh nutmeg to taste. Season.

Slice each of the filo sheets in half length ways, you want strips about 10cm wide and 30cm long (or you can make little hors d’oeuvre sized parcels by slicing each sheet into 3)

Brush a little butter along the edges of the pastry and put about 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture into the right hand corner.

Now for folding:

Take the pastry by the bottom right hand corner and and bring it to the opposite corner above the mixture.

Brush the edges with a little melted butter then take the bottom left hand corner and lift it straight up and over. Continue until you reach the end (it should take about 5 folds.) Make sure to press the edges together so the filling can’t leak out.

Brush a baking tray with melted butter and the top and sides of each parcel too and bake for 35 minutes until pastry is browned and crisp.

Party Biscuits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This recipe is from the bbc website. They are VERY sweet, but that’s what you want at a party. Classier biscuits to follow…

250g plain white flour

85g golden caster sugar

175g unsalted butter , at room temperature, cubed

2 tbsp lemon juice

250g white icing sugar

1 tbsp raspberry jam

Heat oven to 180 degrees / gas 4. Put the flour, sugar and butter into a food processor. Whizz until the mixture forms crumbs, then pulse a little more until it forms a ball.

Put in the fridge for at least an hour

Dust a clean surface with a little flour, then roll out the dough to about the thickness of a £1 coin. Stamp out rounds using any biscuit cutter or a water glass, then if you want them ina ring shape cut out the middles with the end of a piping nozzle. Lift onto baking sheets and bake for 10 mins until pale golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Put the lemon juice into a bowl  and sieve in 175g of the icing sugar; stir together to make a smooth icing add a DROP of water if it’s not liquid enough).

Into another bowl sieve the raspberry jam (or you’ll block up your nozzle!) and add 2 tsp boiling water, mix, then sieve in the remaining icing sugar.

Spoon the lemon icing over the biscuits, then drizzle or pipe the pink icing over. I piped people’s initials on the biscuits but you can just drizzle with a teaspoon to make splotchy wobbly lines or dots or anything else you fancy!

Leave to set for at least 20 mins. Will keep for up to 2 days in an airtight tin, longer if left un-iced.

 

 

 

Caspars

I invented these biscuits for a brand new perfect baby boy, Caspar or Mr C as he is known to his friends. Obviously he couldn’t eat them but his parents were happy to have something to give to visiting friends and family. I think they make a perfect gift, very pretty, delicate and light. And they taste delicious!

Almond, Lemon and Honey ‘Caspars’

4oz butter

2oz castor sugar

1oz muscovado sugar

4oz plain flour

2oz ground almonds

2tbs honey

zest of 1 lemon

handful of flaked almonds

1 tbsp poppy seeds

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees or gas 3

Beat butter and sugars together, add honey and combine

Add flour almonds and lemon zest and mix until a rough dough

Form into a ball and chill in the fridge for at least an hour (this dough freezes very well too)

Dust a clean surface with a little flour and roll the dough out to the thickness of a £1 coin.

Cut out with a water glass (or biscuit cutter) and sprinkle over a couple of flaked almonds, a few poppy seeds and a scattering of castor sugar

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and place the biscuits on

Bake for 15 mins but keep a close eye on them. They are done when they are golden brown but they’re very delicate so be careful when lifting them onto a wire rack to cool

Chicory Leaves with Gorgonzola, Pears and Walnuts

A very simple pretty snack to serve at a party, we had these at my mum’s birthday and they went down very well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 heads of red chicory and 3 of green

200g gorgonzola

2 tbs yoghurt

3 pears quartered and sliced very finely (put the slices into ice cold water with the juice of a lemon to stop them browning)

100g walnuts, chopped and toasted for 10 mins in the oven (gas 4 / 180 degrees)

You want to make small batches of these as chicory browns quite quickly, have about 8 on a plate and 8 in the fridge at all times

Mix gorgonzola and  yoghurt together to form a soft loose consistency (add more yoghurt if needed)

Slice the end off the chicory and separate the leaves. You probably can’t use the first 3 leaves as they will be too thin and floppy

Put around 2 teaspoons of the cheese mix into a leaf, tuck a pear slice in next to it and sprinkle with walnuts.

We also had excellent parma ham from the fabulous deli with finely sliced melon, home-made hummus, mini goats cheese and red onion tarts (recipe later) and my sister’s amazing bulgur wheat salad (recipe please R!)

Eat, drink and be merry…Have a great party! Remember to invite me and I promise to bring edible gifts.

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Filed under Baking, Biscuits, Cake, Cheese, Drinks, Fruit, hors d'oeuvre, Kitchen Tips, Pudding, Recipes, vegetables

Baked Ham with Flagolet Beans and Celeriac Mash

Nothing says Autumn like a hearty stew. Ham is one of my favourite things to cook as it makes for an excellent frugal Sunday lunch dish. Celeriac is in season at the moment and very cheap. It is an excellent (if ugly) ingredient. It is the root of celery and has a lovely subtle celery flavour, it pairs well with potato and can be used to make soup or an amazing gratin with cream and nutmeg (recipe soon!)

Not only is this dish cheap, it is also totally delicious and will last for a lunch then a supper the next day or can stretch, with side dishes (curly kale or savoy cabbage would be good) to feed 6. Brilliant.

The following recipe was inspired by a recipe in one of my favourite cook books, Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries for Ham with Butter Beans.

I often substitute any bean in a recipe with flagolet as I love their silky texture, light green colour, nutty flavour and how they stand up well to slow cooking . The picture below is courtesy of Delicious Magazine, click here to see their excellent tips on storing, soaking and using beans.

If you do not fancy the mash with this, just double the quantity of beans.

Gammon is the hind-quarters of the pig that typically uses the term ‘ham’. Ham ‘hock’ or ‘hand’ is also referred to as ham but this is the front leg and is normally sold on the bone. This is good for a large carving ham, suitable for Christmas or a big party. Nigel Slater states to use ‘boiling bacon’ in his recipe but I have never known the difference, even my lovely local butcher looked confused and offered gammon. Does anybody know the difference? Do let me know… His boiling bacon recipe does not require pre-soaking whereas I would always suggest this with gammon to rid it of it’s excess salt.

Soak your gammon overnight in water, the next day, put it in fresh water and bring to the boil. Discard water.

If you are using dried beans, soak these overnight too then boil for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until tender…and begin…

Ham with Flagolet Beans and Celeriac Mash

1.5kg unsmoked gammon

olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic

1 tsp paprika

optional: 2-4 chorizo sausages sliced into chunks (the uncooked kind, not the pre-cooked slicing kind)

2 or 3 sprigs of thyme

a few carrots or 1/4 of a butternut squash

1 tin or 200g dried  flagolet beans

2 tins chopped tomatoes

Celeriac mash recipe below

Pre heat your oven to gas 4 or 180 degrees

Slice the skin off your gammon (don’t worry if it is uneven) now slice off the fat in one piece leaving a thin layer (you want this to crisp up in the final stage).

Heat oil in large oven-proof pan and add gammon fat, onions and chorizo if you are using it. The chorizo will seep it’s delicious paprika scented oil into the onions.

Peel and chop your carrots or squash into 1cm pieces

Once the onions are softened add thes carrots/squash to the pan with the thyme sprigs and all 4 garlic cloves whole. Stir to coat for a minute.

Remove the gammon fat from the pan and put to one side.

Add flagolet beans chopped tomatoes and 100ml water, stir to combine and bring to the boil.

Now push your gammon down into the bean sauce and tuck the fat in next to it. Put the lid on (or a double layer of foil) and bake in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

In the last 30 minutes:

Remove from the oven and turn the gammon so the thin layer of fat you retained it visible above the sauce, leave lid off and return to the oven so the sauce can thicken and fat can caramelise.

Make your mash!

Celeriac Mash

You want to make this as you would normal mashed potatoes just use 2/3 celeriac and 1/3 potatoes. I used 1/2 a small celeriac and 2 medium potatoes.

celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks

potatoes, peeled and cut to roughly the same size as your celeriac chunks

butter

salt and pepper

Peel your celeriac . Celeriac has a tough outer layer and you need to remove at least 5mm of the outer flesh to get to the pure white underneath otherwise you will get lumps when you mash. Peel it once, then peel it again.

Put your potatoes in cold water and bring to the boil, then add the celeriac

When both are soft to the point of a knife, drain and mash with butter and salt and pepper.

Serve with thick slices of the ham, and spoonfuls of the bean sauce.

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Filed under Baking, Kitchen Tips, Meat, Pulses, Recipes, Supper, vegetables