Wild Garlic and Asparagus Frittata

It’s asparagus season; it’s also wild garlic season. Two of my favourite things, and they go together so well. And frittatas, they’re definitely a go-to weekend brunch staple. Easy to make, and very tasty, and you can fill them with pretty much anything. So what happens when you combine them all? Wild garlic and asparagus frittata sounds delicious to me.

We have a tonne of wild garlic growing in the garden, so I went out and picked a bunch, and at this time of year, there’s pretty much always some asparagus in the house, so we’re all set.


Wild Garlic and Asparagus Frittata, serves 2.


  • 4 large eggs
  • Large bunch wild garlic, with stalks and bulbs if available
  • 100g asparagus (thinner pieces work better than thick, I think, but either will do)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil

Break the eggs into a bowl, add a generous pinch of salt and some black pepper, the beat until well mixed. Put the eggs to one side while you get everything else ready.

Remove the thicker stalks and bulbs from the garlic and chop them finely. If you only have leaves, and don’t have stalks and bulbs, don’t worry about it – just skip this part. The leaves alone will give a good flavour.


Thinly slice the garlic leaves. The easiest way to do this is to stack them lengthwise, and roll them up into a cigar shape and cut that into fine slices.


Remove any woody ends from the asparagus, and chop the spears into 2 – 3 cm long pieces.


Blanch the asparagus: bring a large pan of water to a rolling boil, drop the asparagus in and simmer for two minutes. Drain the asparagus and plunge immediately into cold, iced water to stop it cooking further.


Take a cast iron pan, or other frying pan that can be placed under the grill (or “broiler” if you’re over on the other side of the Atlantic), and heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil over a medium heat. While you’re at it, turn on the grill to heat up.

Gently fry the chopped bulbs and stalks for a few minutes until they start to soften. Add the garlic leaves and stir for another minute.


Drain the blanched asparagus spears and add them to pan, stir-frying them for a minute or so until they warm through. Add a sprinkle of salt and some black pepper, and then pour in the eggs. Keep stirring the eggs for a minute or so while they start to cook. Stop stirring when there are a decent number of clump forming, but the egg is still very soft and liquid. Make sure the asparagus is evenly distributed around the pan – ideally you want a piece in every mouthful.


Once the frittata has cooked on the bottom and around the edges, it’s time to move the pan to under the grill to cook the top through. This should only take a minute or two – the top should be just set.


Lift out of the pan (it will probably stick a little bit, don’t worry about that) and serve.



Pork cheeks are a delicious and much under-rated cut of meat. I usually get a couple in my regular meat box from The Well Hung Meat Company, and most often I sous-vide them (62˚C, 48 hours), then roast them in the oven to crisp up a little. This month, I decided to try something a little different.

Guanciale is an Italian cured meat made from pork cheeks. Now, I’ve been reading a lot about curing just lately, but hadn’t yet ventured forth and actually made anything. So, this seemed like a fine opportunity to start.

I must have read a dozen recipes for making guanciale, and finally settled on a cure consisting of 3% sea salt, 3% black pepper, 1.5% fennel seeds (percentages are of the total weight of the pork cheeks).


I ground up the salt and spices in the grinder, liberally coated the cheeks with the cure and then packed them in zip-loc bags. They then sat in the fridge, weighted down, for four days, turned over every day.

After four days, I took them out, washed them, and then covered them with more black pepper and fennel. They were now ready for hanging.


I hung them in the shed, and then went away on holiday for two weeks – that was a good way to make sure I left them alone and didn’t prod and poke them a couple of times every day to see how they were doing. They’re ready when they lose 30% of their original weight, and in the end, it was about four weeks before we hit the magic number. I brought them in – they looked magnificent!


The rind was rock hard – I couldn’t cut through that. I carefully cut it away with a small knife, and then cut some thin slices of the meat. I sampled a piece raw – very soft, with a delicate, slightly sweet flavour, with a bite of black pepper from the cure. Very tasty.


Next, I fried a few of the slices in a pan – these crisped up very quickly, the whole thing took less than a minute. These were absolutely delicious. Crisp, sweet and full of flavour.

I think my first stab at guanciale was a resounding success. I’ve wrapped one cheek in paper and put it in the fridge, the other, I’ve left hanging in the shed for a little while longer. We’ll see how that one matures.

Crab and Prawn Sandwiches

These are Crab and Prawn Sandwiches with a difference – they are a layer of crab, sandwiched between two prawn sheets. I got the idea from the excellent Ideas in Food blog, where they posted about making prawn noodles, using transglutaminase to bind the prawn meat together in sheets. (For those unfamiliar with it, transglutaminase is an enzyme used to bond proteins together). I thought it might be a nice idea to make thicker sheets, and use it instead of bread to make a sandwich.

I took some prawns, and mixed them with a slurry of Activa GS.


I put the prawns into a sealable bag and smashed them with a meat hammer until they were spread in an even layer throughout the bag.


I left the prawn in the fridge overnight for the transglutaminase to do its work, and then cooked them in my Sous Vide Supreme for thirty minutes at 55˚C. Once cooked and cooled, they were now in a solid block.


I took some crab meat and mixed it with a little mayonnaise for the sandwich filling.


Finally, I cut a couple of squares from the prawn block, sandwiched the crab meat between them, and cut the resulting sandwich into smaller slices. 


The sandwiches worked out very nicely, but I think the prawn slice was too thick – they were very dense and intensly prawny. I’ll definitely make these again, but next time, I’ll beat the prawn sheets thinner – probably about half the thickness of these – or perhaps even thinner and then try rolling them up with the crab inside, and cut into pinwheels.

I’ve still got half of the prawn sheet left, which for now is in the freezer, so I need to think of something interesting to do with that, but that’s for another day.

Gin and Juice

Dave Arnold, the food world’s very own mad scientist, has a book out – Liquid Intelligence – The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail. This isn’t a book for the faint-hearted – it’s not a simple book of recipes. Sure, there are recipes in there, but there’s much, much more to it than that. In the book, he describes all the equipment a bar person might need: everything from a simple spoon to a rotary evaporator. He describes all the techniques you need, from clarification to carbonation. And most importantly, he tells you exactly what is  going on in your drinks – the science of making a cocktail.

If you ever want to see what a real-world mad scientist looks like in action, then you should watch him making a simple Gin and Juice.

But this book is not just about the science, there’s art there too. Each drink is carefully crafted so that not only do the flavours balance perfectly, but the drinks looks beautiful too. His Gin and Juice is a perfect example – whilst most bartenders simply strain their grapefruit juice to remove the bits, Dave Arnold clarifies his so that it is crystal clear. In his bar, he uses a centrifuge to do this, but his book includes instructions on how you can achieve the same result at home without any fancy equipment. I just had to try this.

I started with four grapefruits and juiced them. Even ignoring the bits of pulp that ended in there, this stuff was pretty opaque.

So, first step was to add some agar, and then I left it to set to a very soft gel. Once set, I froze the juice in the freezer until it was solid, and then took it out and left it to defrost slowly in the fridge. This bit takes forever. The next day, I checked in on my juice and it was still a solid block, no sign of any melting whatsoever. It wasn’t until the day after that that I started to see liquid come off, and the whole thing took about two and a half days in total. But it was well worth the wait, this stuff was beautifully clear.

And it tasted just like grapefruit juice. Clarifying hadn’t destroyed any of the flavour at all – if anything, it improved it slightly by removing a touch of that harsh bitterness that you sometimes get with grapefruit.

Next, mix with gin (Tanqueray, of course) and a little water, and add a pinch of salt. The final step is carbonation, so I poured the mixture into my iSi whipping syphon and then placed the whole thing into the freezer to chill for a couple of hours.

Later that evening, we were ready to try the drink. I took the whipper out of the freezer and gave it a good shake – it was full of cold icy slush now. I carbonated it with three cartridges, giving it a good shake and then fully venting between each one, leaving it to stand fully charged for a minute or so each time. Finally, I poured it into chilled glasses.

The carbonation was spot on – the bubbles raced up through the perfectly clear drink – it looked for all the world like a glass of champagne. And it tasted absolutely marvellous. The grapefruit flavour and gin go together so well, I think I’ve just found myself a new favourite drink.


This cocktail may have taken three days to make, but it was worth every second. I still have half the juice left, so I will be making another one very soon now, and I think it’s probably time to start juicing some more grapefruits.

If you’re at all interesting in making cocktails, I can’t recommend Liquid Intelligence enough. It’s very well written, highly informative, and beautifully presented. Add a copy to your Christmas wish list today.

Whipped Pancakes

Sue had a sudden craving for pancakes the other day. I love pancakes, they’re so easy to make – just a flour, egg and milk batter, with a little sugar and pinch of salt stirred in, then fried in a little butter. What could be easier?

I’ve recently developed a new technique for making these though, that makes them even better. Rather than ladelling the batter into the pan with a spoon, I pour it into my iSi whipping syphon, charge with a couple of N2O chargers, and then give it a good shake. I squirt small rounds into the pan and the pancakes come out deliciously light and fluffy.

These are delicious with butter and a little honey, or a sprinkling of caster sugar and some lemon juice.


I made piccalilli yesterday and somebody asked for the recipe, so here goes:

My piccalilli recipe is based on Gary Rhodes’ version from his New British Classics, although my version has evolved a little over the years. I put rather less sugar in than he suggests, and to be honest, it would probably do no harm to reduce it further. The actual vegetable ingredients can easily be varied depending on what you happen to have lying around. I’d class the cauliflower and onions as essentials, but the cucumber is optional, and I sometimes add other things – red pepper is a nice addition, for example.

  • 1 cauliflower
  • 3 large onions
  • 8 large shallots
  • 1 cucumber
  • 600ml white wine or cider vinegar
  • 300ml white malt vinegar
  • 1 tsp chopped dried red chilli
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 50g English mustard powder
  • 25g ground turmeric
  • 3 tbsp cornflour
  • salt and pepper

Cut the cauliflower into small florets, and chop the onions and shallots into 1cm dice. Gary Rhodes then salts these and leaves them to stand for 24 hours, before rinsing and drying them. I have done that in the past, but I’ve found little difference in the result if I skip that step.

Peel and de-seed the cucumber, and cut into 1cm dice. Sprinkle with a little salt and leave for a quarter of an hour. Rinse and dry, then add to the other vegetables.

Put the vinegars into a pan, together with the chilli and bring to the boil. Take off the heat and leave to stand for thirty minutes, and then strain and discard the chilli.

When the vinegar is cool, mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add a little of the vinegar and mix until you have a thin paste. Bring the rest of the vinegar back to the boil and pour it into the sugar/spice paste and stir well. Stir well until well mixed together with no lumps. Return to the pan and simmer for about three minutes. Pour over the vegetables and mix well.

Stored in sterilised jars in a cool place, this should easily keep for a month or two.

Cooking The Prawn Cocktail Years

The Prawn Cocktail Years
The Prawn Cocktail Years

Having long stated that my favourite cook book ever is Simon Hopkinson and Lyndsey Bareham’s The Prawn Cocktail Years, I recently realised that it contained many recipes that I had still never tried. So, I have set myself a challenge – to cook every single recipe in the book over the next eighteen months or so.  To document this little adventure, I’ve set up a new blog: Cooking The Prawn Cocktail Years. If you fancy following this  experiment, including the story of how I spent this past weekend wrestling a Black Forest Gâteau into submission, please do wander over and take a look.

Nut Butter

It’s been a while since I tried making my own peanut butter, and so the other day I thought I’d give it another whirl. It really is incredibly simple to make, and as I have just rediscovered, the results are delicious. I really don’t know why people buy this stuff ready-made – the home version is quick, easy and so much better.

So, what do you need? You need a small food processor and a bag of raw or pre-roasted peanuts. That really is it. I’d also recommend a pinch of salt to bring out the flavour, and some people like to add a little honey for extra sweetness.


The process is very straightforward. First of all, you need to roast your peanuts. Spread them out on a baking tray and place them in a pre-heated oven at 180˚C (360˚F) for about ten or fifteen minutes. Note: if you are starting out with pre-roasted nuts, you should still do this step as the nuts are easier to blend into butter when they are warm – you just won’t need to keep them in the oven for quite so long. Take the nuts out once they’ve started to brown a little and put them to one side to cool slightly.

Peanut Butter
Peanut Butter

Whilst the nuts are still warm, put them in your food processor and start chopping. You should to do this in short bursts and use a scraper to push the nuts down from the sides of the food processor. Make sure you don’t overload your processor here – if it’s more than about half full, it won’t blend the nuts properly. If you have too many to fit, just process them in a couple of batches.

At first the mixture will look like a bowl of chopped nuts – if you want to make crunchy peanut butter, remove a few of the nuts at this stage and then add them back at very end), but it will soon start to resemble peanut butter. Keep on blending until you have a smooth mixture. If your nuts are especially dry, you can add a little groundnut or coconut oil to help the process along, but that’s not usually necessary with peanuts. Finally, add a pinch of salt and, if you fancy it, a little honey to taste.

And that’s all there is to it. Eat on bread, crackers, or with a spoon straight out of the bowl.

Once you’ve mastered the art of plain peanut butter, you can then start to experiment. Try adding some chunks of chocolate to the food processor along with the nuts (I used Green & Blacks Milk). A little Marmite or other yeast extract also works surprisingly well for a more savoury butter.


Of course, you don’t have to use peanuts. Cashew nut butter is made in exactly the same way and is also extremely delicious, although I find that as cashews are drier, they definitely need some coconut oil adding. Pistachios are high on my list to try next, and I bet mixing hazelnuts and chocolate in this way would beat Nutella hands-down!