Saturday, 21 January 2012


Mr Redding bought me some fantastic Christmas presents – most of them from Sally at Persepolis!  I am now the proud owner of an ‘I Love Peckham’ hoodie, cactus soap (which is fabulous) and, most beautiful of all, a tagine. I have hankered after a tagine for years, ever since visiting Marrakech in 2000. And this one is the real deal, handcrafted, hand decorated, a veritable thing of beauty.

I knew straight away that the first dish I cooked in it would be lamb meatballs, or kefta. Traditionally eggs are added at the end but that didn’t appeal, so I just served them as they came with couscous. I cooked the couscous with chicken stock, then seasoned well and added lots of chopped coriander and some lemon juice. I found cooking in the tagine very interesting. Sally recommended I used a diffuser, and the ‘we sell everything’ shop in the Aylesham Centre provided me with one (I actually had a choice of three!). The tagine took a long time to get up to temperature but once it was there the residual heat just kept on going…the saying about turning round oil tankers came to mind. But I came to realise that the tagine is a fabulous vessel for cooking, and the top of the cone stays cool…it is all so well designed, which is why it is still in use after centuries I suppose!  I can see me using it for more western style dishes too...
Serves 2


500g lamb mince
Small onion or shallot, chopped very finely
2 tsp ras-el-hanout
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp baking powder
Handful finely chopped coriander
Ground black pepper and salt 
Medium onion, finely sliced
Clove of garlic, crushed
Can of chopped tomatoes, drained
Ground black pepper and salt 

Put all the kefta ingredients together in a roomy bowl and knead together well with your hands until the fat starts to melt and the mixture becomes slightly sticky – this will take at least five minutes.  Put in the fridge for ten minutes.
With wetted hands, shape the mixture into walnut sized balls. Heat up the tagine, or a wide sauté pan, and add two tablespoons of olive oil.  Fry the kefta until they are nice and brown all over. Remove and leave to drain ion some kitchen paper. 
To the remaining oil and sticky bits in the tagine add the onion and garlic. Cook slowly for at least ten minutes until thoroughly softened and slightly browned. Add the chopped tomatoes and a good grind of black pepper and a sprinkle of salt.  
Return the meatballs to the tagine, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes Check for consistency and if the sauce is a little thin allow to reduce uncovered. Sprinkle with some chopped coriander and serve with couscous or flat bread.

Sunday, 15 January 2012


We all love a good onion ring by the side of a great burger or a magnificent steak. I love onions and I always find the battered single onion ring a little unsatisfying – too much batter, not enough onion, and so often you get that really annoying sensation when you bite into the onion ring and the whole ring comes out leaving you with a batter shell….. 

The best battered fried onions I have ever had were at a chinese restaurant in Kuala Trengganu in Malaysia. They were ethereal, little clumps of finely sliced onion coated in the lightest, airiest batter imaginable, and I have tried time and time again to recreate them. I’m not quite there yet but this is what I am currently serving when I cook Mr Redding a lovely steak from the East London Steak Company… 

It’s all a bit ‘cooking by feel’ so there is no list of ingredients. For one portion I slice one onion into fine rings and separate them out. Put the onion rings into a roomy bowl and add a couple of tablespoons of plain flour, a good shake of salt and black pepper, and a couple of teaspoons of baking powder. Add enough water to create a batter that is holding the rings together but is loose enough for them to move about. Fry at around 160 degrees for five minutes, until golden brown.   Eat IMMEDIATELY!!!

Monday, 2 January 2012


There is no crocodile in this pie. When I was growing up we didn't have turkey for Christmas - instead we had a couple of chickens and a shoulder of pork, with a large ham cooked to add to the leftovers for Boxing Day. We also had the usual accompaniments of stuffing balls, chipolatas and bacon rolls.  Even though there could be 10-12 people around the table there was always a lot left over after Boxing Day and crocodile pie was my Mum's way of using them all up. I was a very trusting child and when Mum told me that the pie was made from the crocodiles at the end of our garden I believed her (crocodiles being very common in Essex) but when I began helping her with the cooking I was initiated into its mysteries.

It is very difficult to give quantities for this as it all depends on the amount of leftiover meat you have - you can also use up those cold chipolatas, bacon rolls and stuffing balls. As a rough guide try and have equal amounts of white chicken meat, dark chicken meat/pork/game and ham. Mince or lightly food process half the meat with an onion and chop the rest into small dice. Combine the meats in a large bowl with a good sprinkling of dried thyme and sage and a grind of black pepper.

Traditionally the next stage is to make up some packet chicken and leek soup but alternatively you can make up a sauce by cooking together a tablespoon of flour and butter and stirring in a pint of chicken stock and milk. Add enough of the sauce/soup to the meat to bind it together and make a moist filling.

Line a shallow pie tin with shortcrust pastry, add the filling, and cover with more pastry. Decorate appropriately and glaze with egg. Cook at 190 for 45 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Crocodile pie is traditionally served with mashed potatoes, carrot and sprouts. Crocodile never tasted so good....