january in my kitchen

in my kitchen this month…..


…..I’m really enjoying lots of fresh, crunchy food after a few weeks indulgence. The apples may look more suited to an Autumnal kitchen than a January scene, but they’re the last of the apples from Granny’s orchard. And their still crisp, sweet flavour says it all about the sort of food I’m craving so far this year.

Very welcome this week in healthy salads packed full of flavour, the apples have been sliced and added to walnuts, slithers of raw beetroot and parsley with a dressing made with cider vinegar. Or added to a sort of coleslaw that I made to go with home-made bean burgers.


Before you jump to conclusions about my virtuous New Year diet, I have to come clean and admit that they were also cooked to a puree on the wood-burning stove to eat with pork chops marinated in a maple syrup, rosemary and garlic brine. The brine tenderises the chops wonderfully as well as adding a glorious flavour and it’s one of the dishes I regularly cook from Diana Henry’s Salt Sugar Smoke.

This swinging between warming comfort food and raw veggies, with a good few spicy dishes in between sums up the food in my kitchen so far this year. Much as I’m craving home-grown veggies and fresh tastes, there have been some cold, grey days when a treat is surely in order. Talking of which, the last quince is saved for a tagine with lamb shanks which I’ll make soon.

In my kitchen…..


….. it all seems suddenly bare now that the decorations are down, and the gingerbread house is derelict; there are missing windows, a back wall and the marshmallow picket fence has come under attack from hungry 6 year olds. Typical of Ruby though, she doesn’t want to see it totally demolished. A hoarder ( we have so many cardboard boxes from Christmas presents around the place that she’s adamant she NEEDS to make things with) she’s also a child with far more willpower than her Mum when it comes to saving precious chocolate/sweet things. She still has an Easter egg in her room for goodness sake – well, a chocolate bunny. Apparently TOO BEAUTIFUL to eat.

Similar to the balance between healthy and comforting food, although part of me relishes the simplicity of the bare kitchen now that the decorations have gone, Ruby’s pictures are bringing some cheery brightness. The wire herb hanger is now devoid of the very scruffy home-made Christmas biscuits that added colour. Can you spot the rogue custard cream by the way?


So while the ribbons dangling from the beams no longer have Christmas cards, at least we have a picture of bright pink candyfloss. Yes, I think it probably did start off as a Poppy.

In my kitchen……


…..there are some very tasty hand-toasted nuts. I was kindly sent some samples from Chika Russell, who has set up Chika’s to provide West African inspired snacks. Now based in Notting Hill, Chika spent her childhood between London and Anambra, a Nigerian village where she was surrounded by a big, warm, noisy family whose focal point was food. Huge slow-cooked stews, fried plantain and roasted yams were served with masses of fresh fruit and vegetables. How I would love to be transported to that kitchen…

The sweet potato crisps and nuts toasted by the village ladies over an open fire inspired Chika to set up her own nibbles business and I love the way that she’s drawn on her rich heritage as well as the fact that they’re all produced using traditional techinques, by hand in small batches and in accordance with Fairtrade and organic principles.

Chika’s snacks include unpopped corn, plantain crisps and sweet potato crisps. The peanuts, toasted by hand, are very tasty but I’m saving some as nibbles for Friday night cocktails. Well, we have been reasonably virtuous all week, resisting the Sloe Gin and Quince Ratafia. Maybe I’ll add a squirt of lime in accordance with my very mixed (some may say weak/dodgy) New Year healthy living.

Would love to be included once again in Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’s great IMK where we get to peep into kitchens around the world. Looking forward to the virtual warmth of kitchens on the other side of the world.