Comfort Food Tuna Bake

pataThe colder evenings creep ever more slyly in, and the salad bowl has now been firmly relegated to the back of the kitchen cupboard. Appetites now call for something more substantial.

After a long week of work and commuting, with grey skies, colder temperatures and much drizzly rain here in London, I’ve decided to welcome in the weekend with comfort food. I”m making up a big oven dish of one of my childhood favourites, a tuna bake, for supper tonight.

There seem to be a hundred variations on this dish, but mine is basically pasta, tinned tomatoes, garlic, onion, a large tin of flaked tuna and melted cheddar, with a handful of breadcrumbs if I have them, for crunch. Sometimes I add red peppers or sweetcorn – it depends what I have. This is a store cupboard staple and it’s very flexible.

Baked in the oven until bubblingly blistered and cheesy, it’s devoured from a bowl in front of an old film, with a glass of red wine.

Simple food, as wonderfully warming and comforting as a pair of old fluffy socks on a cold, wet day.


Scrumptious Apple Cake

With the colder mornings this week, and strong, autumnal winds, down come the apples.

We have a young apple tree which bears the fruit variety called Scrumptious.

It’s a small, firm fleshed, juicy, sweet red apple, as good for cooking as it is for eating. I never see this variety for sale in the supermarkets or greengrocers here in London, which is such a shame. The flavour intensity and versatility of this apple is wonderful.

I made my first apple cake of the season with these apples today. Topped with brown sugar and cinnamon, it’s the warming taste of autumn with our first apples of the season.

Miso salmon noodles

It’s a rainy, grey evening here in Greenwich, London. Squally showers keep battering the windows, and the weather calls for something warming tonight for dinner.

I have the salmon steaks marinating in red miso paste, rice wine, honey, garlic and soy. These will be pan fried, kept warm, and added at the last minute to the big, fat udon noodles and vegetables. Ladled with miso broth, this should be a warming, comforting but healthy supper on this drizzly Monday evening.

Single girl weekend food

Whilst dearly beloved is away driving children to Uni, I’m playing at being a single girl again for the weekend.

This mainly involves scruffing around in mismatched fluffy socks and jogging pants, building detailed “to do” lists that immediately get ignored, listening to several hours of audio books and raiding the fridge at frequent intervals.

In an attempt to not binge on biscuits or other hip-spreading fodder, and restricted by the somewhat healthy contents of the cupboards, this has resulted in some interesting concoctions.

Tonight’s dinner – as I was transfixed by my book and felt unwilling to cook anything elaborate for one- was rice, tuna, tomatoes and a sprinkling of seeds, with a dash of soy sauce. It reminded me of the stuff I’d put together as a student…

Nothing much changes when it comes to single girl weekend food!

A child of autumn

As the season swings gently into autumn I find myself breathing and reflecting deeply upon life. I have always loved autumn.

September, with its misty mornings and slowly darkening days always seems a time for slowing down, for gathering in and nurturing the spirit in preparation for winter.

A time of slow cooked stews and aromatic, warmly spiced bakes. Of long walks in the crisp mornings and curling up on the sofa with a book and a favourite soft blanket.

In terms of food, my thoughts are already turning to more substantial, comforting meals. Rich bean and lamb casseroles, lentils, soups, and soft, slightly charred roasted vegetables.

I’m most definitely a child of autumn.

Fruit love

As soon as I awake, my first thought is for food. Maybe I’m a glutton, maybe it’s a primeaval thing, but I always wake up hungry. My usual craving first thing in the morning is for carbs.

I normally reach for toast and butter, croissants or cereal as a breakfast of choice in order to quell those hunger pangs before the day starts.

However, in the summer months if we have fruit in, there’s no competition. A breakfast bowl of Tim’s honey yoghurt, a few strawberries, a handful of succulent blueberries, some walnuts and a scoop of mixed seeds and I’m in heaven.

Soon it will be cold enough for oatmeal again, so I’m making the most of the last of the fresh fruit and the light, warm mornings.

Griddled aubergine, mint, nut and feta bake

I had plans to make a nut roast for dinner tonight, but my loaf tin was in another apartments kitchen and there was no easy way of getting it back in time. I was really in the mood for nuts this evening, so I figured that I could improvise with what I had.

What I had was a bag of mixed nuts, two plump aubergines, glimmering balefully at me from the vegetable bowl where they’d sat for the last week, feta, mint, onions and tomatoes.

I sliced and griddled the aubergines and layered them into a baking tin. I sauted the onion and garlic, chopped the nuts and some fresh mint, and mixed these with a handful of hastily made breacrumbs. Moistened with vegetable bouillon and some chopped feta this came together as a loose, nutty ‘stuffing’ mixture which I layered twice more with the griddled aubergines and tomatoes like a lasagne.

All topped off with a final scattering of sumac and feta (well ok, more of a smothering.. I love feta) and behold! The birth of a new Luffy creation!

It’s true what they say that necessity is the mother of all invention…

The perfect cheese butty

There has always been much debate about what constitutes the perfect cheese sandwich, that beloved lunch of most Brits.

Sliced bread, doorstops from a whole loaf, white, brown or malted? Do rolls or baps count as authentic? (Apparently not).

What type of cheese works best, cheddar, Leicestershire, Camembert, Gouda? Hands down for me it has to be cheddar, sliced thickly, never grated. Life is too short to chase tiny parings of cheese around a plate.

Is it acceptable to add mayonnaise? And tomatoes, cucumber or pickle? Absolutely, say I, pile them on as you wish. A good, tangy mature cheese can hold its own with whatever else you care to throw at it. I personally always add a slick of mayo if I have it; something to do with the nostalgia of salad cream from the sandwiches of my childhood.

Let the debate rage. I’m going to be too busy munching on my butty to worry about who agrees or disagrees 😊…

Gnocchi with courgettes, fresh tomatoes and peas

We needed a simple supper tonight, one that would use up the bowl of fresh tomatoes that had been sitting for slightly too long by the cooker. I was ashamed that I hadn’t used them sooner and was determined that they wouldn’t go to waste.

I’m always astounded by the acidic sweetness that adding fresh tomatoes to a dish creates. I really don’t know why I don’t cook with them more.

This was a simple coming together of roughly chopped tomatoes, slightly charred courgettes, a chopped and sautéd red onion, some garlic, a scatter of lemony sumac, fresh coriander and a handful of peas. Simmered gently for a few minutes in order to allow all the flavours to shine through.

Then tumbled together in a bowl with the gnocchi and a handful of freshly grated Parmesan, and served with a smile that hinted at the many hours of cooking in a hot kitchen it had all taken….

Duplicitous culinary behaviour indeed. I am without shame…

Bravely unusual breakfast

Husband and I stayed at the Lalit Hotel at Tower Bridge, London a few nights ago.

It’s a glorious riot of Indian loveliness, with sumptuous embroidered fabrics, rich textile art and contemporary Indian style. The staff are simply delightful. 

Breakfast was in the vast Baluchi restaurant in the hotel, originally the grand vaulted hall of a grammar school. 

Feeling brave, I abandoned my usual toast and oatmeal, and ordered the Indian breakfast (although I was a little dubious about spiciness first thing in the morning as the pale, wilting northern flower that I am). 

The resulting giant dosa, filled with gently spiced potatoes and served with masala and Indian scrambled eggs was a revelation.

Crispy and feather light, with a rich and filling potato interior, any concerns I may have had about eating curry for breakfast were soon dispelled. 

I need to wear my big girl pants and be brave with my breakfast choices more often.