Monthly Archives: February 2014

Jewelled Couscous

Cost: minimal, really – about £2 and it serves 6-10, more if you are serving it as a side to something like Slow Roasted Lamb alongside maybe some baby spinach, grilled aubergine slices, fried halloumi with mint and lime, cucumber-yoghurt salad, and/or garlic flatbreads.

A lovely friend asked for this recipe earlier this week – which was pretty surprising, since it’s from a lunch we held about two years ago! Well, Wikipedia informs me that the first written references to couscous date from the 13th century so I suppose some things never get old. Anyway, this isn’t so much a recipe as a shortcut to an extra side dish for a non-traditional roast lunch – particularly nice in summer, I think. I always like couscous because it’s quick, easy and satisfying in a way that warm carbohydrates are, and here we combine it with a colourful confetti of roasted and fresh vegetables.

[No photo as it wouldn’t have occurred to us to take one at the time…but I bet that 13th century recipe doesn’t have one either]

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Winter Fruit Tart

Cost: £3-4, serves 8

We had a lovely dinner at our vicar’s house last night, and brought dessert, tied precariously with parachute cords to the back of my bike. We’ve had some success with this in the past – a traybake seems to rattle along quite comfortably, but the other day the pavlova we set out with had turned into Eton Mess when we arrived at our host’s house. Luckily, despite my terrible cycling, the dessert arrived in one piece.

Anyway, one of my favourite desserts is a fruit tart – a thin shell of pastry, ideally with no soggy bottom, filled generously with squidgy pastry cream and topped with whatever fruit is in season. Which in February requires a bit of imagination, but luckily the bowl shops along Seven Sisters Road (where a large bowl of fruit or veg costs a pound, but the selection depends on their supply that day) had blood oranges and some forced rhubarb that glowed pink like sticks of rock.


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Roast Duck stuffed with mashed potato

Cost: £9 for duck, £3 for vegetables and about £0.50 worth of butter, cream and milk. Served 4 but I think really should have been a meal for 6-8!

For the last six months or so, since my siblings have been working in London, the four of us (brother, sister, husband and I) have become more than family – we are an impromptu dining club, taking turns to treat each other to world-class steak at Hawksmoor, neighbourhood meat artistry at Smokehouse, lobster and steak at the top of Heron Tower, tonkotsu ramen at Bone Daddies on an almost-monthly basis. But having lost my job over Christmas, we at the Low Ceilinged Kitchen household are on a pretty tight budget (expect many more low-cost recipes!) and so I thought we would have to sadly withdraw from Dining Club….unless my siblings were happy for us to taken our turn with dinners at home?

Last night they came over after work for Dining At Home Club – just as we lit the fireplace and a chubby loaf of sourdough emerged from the oven. We caught up on the weekend’s episode of The Voice over mojitos, rhubarb gin and tonics and the following menu:

Sourdough with salted butter and a tin of foie gras (a gift from a friend)
Slow roast duck stuffed with mashed potato, purple sprouting broccoli and frazzled leeks
Chocolate fondants with frozen berries and sour cream

The duck recipe is a word-of-mouth method from a chef called Johnny working for Theo Randall at the Intercontinental, who put on an amazing roast duck and pork lunch at a pop up before Christmas. He was kind enough to tell me his method, which is what mine was based on, although his duck was unstuffed and garlanded with fluffier, golden fat, unlike the glazed crisp carapace of mine. This duck yielded surprisingly little fat, with no layer of squidgy stuff in between the shattering skin and melting meat; I poured off the juices from the pan into a small jug and the top layer of fat (stored in a jar for roasting future potatoes) only measured a few tablepoons. The idea of stuffing with mashed potato is from a Simon Hopkinson recipe, but the method is different.
Duck, exterior
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