Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Fish Market Cookbook

Monday, September 26th, 2016 | Books, Food


In June we travelled to Iceland for our honeymoon, and were very impressed with a Reykjavik restaurant known as The Fish Market. So impressed in fact, that we shelled out for the cookbook while we were there.

The production values are high quality. Once you get past the menacing photo of head chef Hrefna Rósa Sætran wielding a knife on the cover, you find a hardback book, just under A4 size with a full colour photo of every dish. This is everything I want in a cookbook.

The recipes themselves are a bit more challenging however. I struggled to follow a lot of them. Perhaps they make more sense to a trained cook, but I could have done with many of the blanks filling in. The photography of the dishes is quite artistic and therefore, even though you have a photo, it is not always clear what you are aiming for.

I don’t think it is what the salted cod hotpot should look like

I haven’t written about much from the book, but here is the breaded pork tenderloin I made.

The language can also be a bit confusing. It is written in American English, rather than proper English. I was struggling to find shrimp chips, until I realised they were prawn crackers. A few times I wondered whether the translation had become a bit muddled. Some of it appears to be in need of a proofread too. The hot chocolate cake recipe for example: it says “melt the chocolate and water in a double boiler.” There is no water in the recipe, but there is some butter that is never mentioned. The word was almost certainly supposed to be butter.

This resulted in a lot of the recipes being duds for me. I simply couldn’t re-create them, and even when I could, they did not even resemble the picture most of the time.

Then there was the search for ingredients. Leeds has twice the population of Iceland, and four times the population of Reykjavik. Why can’t I find these ingredients? We did venture in to the Thai supermarket and international supermarket, with some success, but there is still much on my list that I have not been able to locate. Not that that is the book’s fault of course.

The cheesecake made an appearance at my Gran’s birthday party (left), my Grandma’s wake (right), a dinner party and one just for Elina and I.

When the recipes did work though, they were delicious. The pomelo and papaya salad with sweet cashews have quickly become a go-to salad for parties, and the white chocolate cheesecake is so easy and so delicious that we have had a continually rolling batch of them on the go for about a month now.

It might not be the most practical cookbook ever. However, it has produced a few tasty recipes and is a lovely way to remember our trip.

Which cookbooks are the most useful?

Saturday, September 24th, 2016 | Books, Food


We don’t often repeat recipes in the Worfolk household. There are so many amazing cuisines, cookbooks and ideas out there that we try something new almost every night. However, there are some recipes that are tasty enough, quick enough or reliable enough that they are reused on a semi-regular basis.

As you might imagine from knowing me, I keep them on a spreadsheet. I thought it would be interesting to analysis how many recipes from each cookbook made it onto the spreadsheet and therefore which cookbooks have stood the test of time.

I have linked through to the review, where one exists.

Recipe Count Cookbooks
13 River Cottage: Veg Every Day
11 River Cottage Every Day
6 Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites
4 Paul Hollywood’s Bread, Cakes & Slices, 30 Minute One Pot, Nordic Cookbook
3 River Cottage Bread*, The Fish Market, Curry Bible, Thug Kitchen
2 Baking: 100 Everyday Recipes, Soups, The Accidental Vegetarian, Paul Hollywood’s Pies & Puds, River Cottage: Light & Easy, Chocolate
1 River Cottage Fish Book, Kenwood, Moomin’s Cookbook, Linda’s Kitchen, Easy One Pot, Nordic Bakery
0 500 Ways To Cook Vegetarian, River Cottage Cookbook, Hugh’s Three Good Things

* indicates I am still working my way through this book.

This isn’t an exact science. I re-use some recipes more than others. If anything, Veg Every Day deserves to be higher because I use that a lot, whereas although I have marked Easy One Pot as having a recipe I would re-use, I certainly don’t go for it anywhere near as much.

It is also unfair on some of the books. A lot of the baking books for example are full of amazing recipes that I have yet to try, but one might day and find they are definitely keepers.

Based on these figures, it seems sensible for me to recommend River Cottage and Mary Berry cookbooks. River Cottage consistently does well. The original River Cottage Cookbook isn’t really a cookbook, it’s more of a book about self-sufficiency, so it is not surprisingly it did not do well. The River Cottage Fish Book did not score so well either, but it was fun read. At the other end of the table, both of my favourite River Cottage cookbooks are storming ahead.

Mary Berry is also on the recommendation list because I am working through my second cookbook of hers at the moment and that is also going to score well. Plus they’e excellent for easy meals and dinner parties as they almost always contain instructions for making in advance.

UPDATE: Since writing this, I have finished working my way through Mary Berry Cooks that added 8 new recipes onto my spreadsheet. That puts it in third place behind the two River Cottage books.

Pan-fried pizza

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016 | Food

As my quest to make a better pizza continues, it occurred to me that when I cook flatbreads I fry them in a dry frying pan, so maybe I could apply the same idea to my pizza.

It turns out that I am not the only person to have had such a crazy idea. A recipe from Pizza Pilgrims details how to do it. I didn’t actually read their instructions, but immediately took heart that it could be done and set about trying it for myself.

I heated my sauté pan on the hob, put the pizza base in, dressed it as it was cooking, and then put the sauté pan under the grill to cook the top.


Results were mixed. I did get a crispier base, but not as crispy as I wanted it. Maybe the pizza itself was too thick: it is difficult to get it fully cooked all the way through. Also, I only have an electric grill, which is a rubbish kind of grill. I am an adult: give me some flames!

My next plan is to build a clay oven on the balcony.

How to plan a dinner party

Thursday, September 15th, 2016 | Food


You probably know how to cook a meal for a group of people. You do not need the many gems of wisdom on offer from Pippa Middleton. Nevertheless, I have a clear and well-defined process for how I prepare for a dinner party, and I thought it might be useful to share that so that we can compare notes.

Decide what to cook well in advance

I do my grocery shop weekly and I don’t really want to have to spend any other time shopping. Therefore, ideally I want to know what I am going to take a week in advance of the event so that I can get it included in that. If I need something fresh I might go out a day or two before to get it, but I want all of the dry and store cupboard ingredients to already be there.

At the planning stage, I make sure everything will work together. Like most people, I have just one oven and four hobs. Therefore everything has to fit on them at one time. This is a limit that is easily reached if you have your starter and your main overlapping.

Draw up a plan

I get pretty detailed with my plan. I tak an A4 sheet and divide it into 5-minute segments. In each of these I can list actions like “turn potato on” and “remove chicken from oven”. If required, I can put multiple columns into the sheet to deal with each part of the meal. This means I don’t have to worry about what I am supposed to be doing while in the heat of battle because I just need to check what is on the plan.

This normally includes two sections before the clock starts rolling: morning prep and evening prep, both discussed below.

The other thing you need is a clock. This is a strange thing to have these days. Many people have replaced their clocks and watches with using their phone to tell the time. However, if you don’t want to be constantly checking your phone every few minutes, you will want a nice big visible clock so you know when each 5-minute segment is up. The solution: more technology. I have an alarm clock on my iPad that I put in a prominent position in the kitchen.


Morning prep

The first stage of prep I do for the party. This is anything that can be done on the morning, or even the day before. This could include baking bread, making a marinade, preparing batter mix for Yorkshires or baking and chilling a dessert.

Evening prep

Second round of prep. This is stuff that I want to do as late as possible, while still doing before my guests arrive. Things like chopping vegetables and pealing potatoes for example. I want to do these as late as possible to keep everything fresh. However, it’s not as important as talking to my guests, so it is stuff I want to get out of the way ideally just before they walk in the door.

This section should include as much stuff as possible, such as:

  • Laying the table
  • Lighting candles
  • Putting some plates in the plate warmer
  • Getting all the utensils and making trays out
  • Cleaning the kitchen
  • Preparing a pan full of potatoes so I can literally just turn the pan on
  • Slicing bread


Nobody has a kitchen as big as they would like, so I find it important to keep it as clean and tidy as possible. That means ensuring it is clean and tidy before I start. I make sure that the dishwasher is empty and after it runs its last cycle in the afternoon I tend to wash everything by hand to ensure I have everything I want to hand: the only things that go in there are things I know I definitely will not need.

Then I clean as I go. If I find myself with a spare minute as I bring a pan to boil I will wash something up. Or, when I clear the table I will load it straight into the dishwasher, rather than dumping it on the side for later. This does take a bit of time away from my guests, but also makes for a far less depressing end to the evening when I am left with a far smaller pile of clearing up to do.

Anglesey Come Dine With Me

Monday, August 15th, 2016 | Food, Friends


For our holiday in Anglesey, Norman suggested that we take it in turns to cook dinner. This soon turned into a Come Dine With Me style event with teams and menus. Though I will add that we stopped short of scoring!


Chris & Cara kicked us off. The starter was roasted tomatoes and honey-and-breadcrumbed butternut squash. This was amazing. Delicately roasting these produces fantastic results. I might have to steal the idea for our next party. The bulgur wheat was also good.

The main could have been better. You might think it was the high level of intoxication that let Chris down, but the biggest problem was that we couldn’t find any fresh fish on Anglesey! The only thing the island seemed to have was frozen cod fillets, that did not defrost in time. The homemade tartar with dill was very good.


Kieran & Shweta took day two. I might be doing Shweta an injustice by suggesting they were a team of two (or maybe not). She cooked up a kedgeree. Mine have always come out rather soggy, but this suffered no such problems. They even had a paired champagne to serve with it.


Elina and I tackled day three. We started with a hot and sour prawn soup served with a variety of breads and prawn crackers. For the main we did black bean chilli in sweet potato skins and citrous-soy marinated fish with a side of spicy blackberry chutney and cashew nut salad. Finally we finished off with Swedish super-gooey chocolate cake served with homemade ice cream and a sprig of mint.


Wales as shut while everyone watched the football.


Norman and Tom took to the stage for the final entry. They slow-roasted a harissa-spiced lamb over the barbecue and served it with cous cous and roasted vegetables. This was all complemented with a yogurt sauce. Dessert was baked apples.

Hollandaise sauce

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016 | Food

One of the things I was particularly impressed with about the food in Iceland was that everywhere did a good hollandaise sauce. It seemed to be the standard sauce that everywhere from fancy restaurants to service stations did. Perhaps they just mass-produce or buy it in in jars, but it all tasted very good.

I recently picked up Michel Roux’s book on sauces and decided to give hollandaise a go. It is difficult to get right. My first attempt was a total disaster as everything separated. On the second attempt, I combined the book with a video tutorial to better results.


I cooked it over a ban of barely-boiling water to keep the temperate as low as possible. It is hard work. You have to whisk for five or ten minutes, then gradually add the clarified butter while you continue to whisk even more. Next time I might do this final whisking using my stand mixer, but that isn’t really an option while you have it over the heat.

I ended up with a super-thick sauce that could easily have been mistaken for a custard. Next time I might add a little more water.


The result is something special though. We didn’t even have a dinner to eat it with: we just spread it on bread and ate it, and it was delicious.

Le Cordon Bleu’s Complete Cooking Techniques

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016 | Books, Food

I was recommended Le Cordon Bleu’s Complete Cooking Techniques who said it was more than just a cookery book: it really took the time to explain the techniques used in cooking. It is available new for around £65, but it you are happy with a used copy you can pick it up a hardback copy for £0.01. There is £2.80 shipping on that, but still a bargain.

It is a comprehensive book. There are five full pages discussing the different equipment you may find in a kitchen and what they are all used for. Each section (fish, beef, cheese, vegetables, etc) has a full spread on what to look for when buying them. It takes you step by step through cleaning fish, which colour photographs to illustrate each stage. The margins contain suggestions containing extra tips for doing it like the pros, examples of cuisines that use the technique and histories of the foods.

There are very few recipes in the book. In the chicken section for example, it shows you how to prepare a bird for roasting, jointing and cutting the pieces, and different methods for cooking chicken. It is up to you what you do with those techniques. There are some recipes in there, but they feel more like they are there for illustrations, and perhaps a little out of place. Some of the techniques are recipes in themselves: making a terrine for example is pretty much the whole process of terrine-based dinner.

I like the attention to detail the book brings. It has a “finishing touches” spread in which it talks about the garnishes of herbs and decorations you can add to a dish to finish it off. It also contains a host of useful tables: approximate cooking times, what cut suits each cooking method, what herbs to use with what dish.

The downside is two-fold. First, I already knew a lot of the stuff in the book. Not because I had ever read it but because you pick it up as you go along. I am interested to know why you should add herbs at the very end (heat destroys their delicate flavour) but after 100 recipes telling me to add the coriander just before serving, you pick that stuff up anyway.

Second, there is very little actionable stuff in the book. I feel I know a little more about cooking, including why I am doing things, but I don’t know what I will do now to put these ideas into practice to reinforce the knowledge.


Nordic food

Friday, April 8th, 2016 | Food

I like Nordic cooking. The reason is quite long.

If Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Scandimania and The Hairy Biker’s Northern Exposure are to be believed, there is something very exciting about Nordic cooking. But there really isn’t. That in itself is novel.

You see, I’m from Britain. A country not known for its spicy food. As the timeless Good Gracious Me sketch ably demonstrates.

But it goes further. When Fearnley made his show TV Dinners he searched the country for people who really went all out for their dinner parties. However, when he floated his boat up as far as Yorkshire, he went ot see a man who did an amazing Sunday roast. The conversation went sometimes like this:

Hugh: “That is a beautiful piece of beef. What are you going to do with it?”

Yorkshireman: “Just roast it.”

Hugh: “Just roast it?”

Yorkshireman: “That’s right.”

Hugh: “Are you going to season it with anything?”

Yorkshireman: “No, I’m just going to roast it.”

In a country known for its bland food, I live in the county that thinks the rest of the country goes a bit too crazy with all that fancy seasoning nonsense.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because when I tell you that Nordic food is fucking bland, I want you to appreciate the true enormity of that statement. They are not messing about here. Traditional Nordic dishes have taken bland to a whole new level.

Check out this photo of me preparing a Nordic stew:


Normally, a stew would consist of some meat, with some vegetables, and seasoned with some salt and pepper, and a bay leaf or two. Not this recipe. You put a much of red meat in a pot, and you boil it for five hours.

Most dishes are served with boiled potatoes, but I like to go wild, so I whipped up some traditional root vegetable mash to go with it. It is like regular mash, except it comes with bits of swede and carrot in it that in no way make it look exactly like sick.


Or, if that doesn’t float your boat, why not fry up some potato cakes?


If you really want to go big, why not make a meatloaf? Simply get as much mincemeat as you can, shape it into a bread loaf, wrap it in bacon, and cook it for a few hours.


Every mouthful wiped about a week off my life expectancy. It was totally worth it. If you want to add some variety of your diet, you could add some fish. However, even in that case, the Nordic recipe turns it brown.


Unfortunately, even my sauté pan was not big enough to fit the breaded sea bass in.

Whether these Nordic classics will make it onto our regular rotation remains to be seen. I do like these recipes, however. They are simple. Most of them involve piling ingredients into a pot and leaving it for ages. There are odd parallels between having to build a fire pit to stay alive in a frozen forest and the stress of modern day life: both greatly benefit from recipes that can be slow-cooked with almost no interaction.

Family Mother’s Day

Friday, March 11th, 2016 | Life


How did my mum spend Mother’s Day this year? Mostly in the kitchen, cooking.

What can I say, she is a Worfolk, you can’t make her relax. We had family visiting from Canada, so a family party was in order. We did our best to help: my sister made breakfast and a pavlova, and I contributed a cheesecake and a tray of cup cakes, but there is only so much cooking we were allowed to do!

After the food we got together for a group photo.

The Hairy Bikers’ Northern Exposure

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 | Distractions


The Hairy Bikers in Finland? We had to watch that, of course. We also watched the Swedish episodes for good measure.

I had never seen The Hairy Bikers before I watched it. I have mixed feelings. At first I was put off by the somewhat low-brow comments and humour they seem to display. But I have since warmed to them, and both Elina and I agreed that they did a good job of representing Finland.