In Praise of Cheating

Valentine's caramel chocolate tart

I’m going to make some wild assertions on love and romance, and then I’m going to tell you to cheat. And I’m going to finish it all off with a chocolate and caramel tart that would make the angels weep. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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All You Knead Is Leek Bread

Sausage and leek bread

My mother’s kitchen smelt of leeks, frying gently in butter. So when I seek succour, I fry leeks, gently, in butter.

Earlier this month, I sat at a big farmhouse table, in a house none of us live in, drinking wine with my aunt and my sister and we talk of how my mum smelt. To my sister, she will always smell of Chanel Chance, the perfume she wore as we got older. To me it is Chance mixed with the Clarins facewash she used and the Silk Cut cigarettes she smoked.

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Cranachan Shortbread Sandwich

Cranachan shortbread

It may seem churlish to find a problem with cranachan; as if I’m trawling perfectly acceptable British classics, and picking holes in them. But I promise you this isn’t change for change’s sake.

This isn’t desconstructing a crumble or reconstructing an eton mess or, god forbid, spiralising sprouts for your Christmas lunch. Really, it is enabling cranachan consumption. I will come clean: I am a cranachan enabler. This recipe simply provides a buttery, crumbly vehicle to enable you to eat more cranachan, quicker.

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Honey and Sea Salt Shortbread

Honey shortbread

I have become obsessed with tiny kitchen miracles: little, unassuming, simple recipes, that for whatever reason become so much greater than the sum of their parts. A paltry number of ingredients that give way to deliciousness or complexity that almost defies reason. This shortbread is a tiny kitchen miracle.

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This is the House that Eggs Built Shakshuka

Shakshuka

Learning to cook will, for me, always be bound up with two other things: grieving for my mother, and my relationship with Sam. One death, one birth, both preceding my first foray into the kitchen by such a small margin that I struggle to unpick the different strands of my own narrative.

It was around this time of year, and it seems appropriate that, as I celebrate one and remember the other, I cook a dish that connotes limbo. Sadness and joy. Patience, and quiet triumphs. That dish is Shakshuka.

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Leftovers Pie for Boxing Day

Leftovers pie

I’m going to keep this short, because if you have flung yourself into the festivities, or simply survived them, and are now sizing up piles of leftovers wearily and warily, the last thing you want to do is read a blog post. If that’s not the case, please feel free to trawl my archives and fill your boots. But it’s important not to waste valuable Quality-Street-eating or telly-gazing time on blog-based mirth. So know this: this Leftovers Pie will save your Boxing Day.

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Fudging It: Last Minute Christmas Ginger and Cherry Fudge

I wish I were someone who was organised and neat, someone who excelled at making organised and neat lists, and then methodically ticking off each item on completion. But that will never be me.

And that is why, despite my best efforts, I found myself in Newcastle on a rainy Northumberland Street on 22nd December trying to decide whether I should spend £15 on a jar of pork scratchings, or just scratch my own eyes out and be done with it.

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Christmas Anxiety Brownies

Chocolate orange anxiety brownies

For the last week I have had acute Christmas anxiety. So I made brownies. Christmas brownies. The best brownies, possibly, that you will ever taste.

When I say ‘Christmas anxiety’, I don’t mean indecision over which cheeses to buy, or what to wear for Christmas Day, or even whether I’ve bought particularly rubbish presents (although, also all of those).

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