As part of my new regime of austerity (turns out having two flats and getting married at the same time as you take a pay cut is expensive), I have taken to bringing a packed lunch to work every day. Some days – the good days – I bring in leftovers from the previous night’s dinner and microwave them. Today I have jambalaya. Today is a good day.

On other days, though, when I have to make something from scratch in a hurry, I have found myself to be sadly lacking in inspiration. I’m not wild on sandwiches, although I will make a cheese or an egg mayonnaise sandwich every few days. (The trick to egg mayonnaise, incidentally, is to make it the day you’re going to eat it, boil the eggs for five minutes so the yolk is set but still glutinous rather than fluffy, and use more salt and pepper and less mayonnaise than you think you need.)

I also sometimes have jam sandwiches, but I’m not going to mention that.

So far, the simplest and cheapest packed lunch I’ve found is some sliced cheese or chicken or both; some chopped vegetables (carrots and cucumber and baby tomatoes, mostly);  a handful of Ryvita or similar bread-substitute and a cheeky chocolate chip cookie, served with a carton of juice and a cup of tea. It’s nice, but it’s a bit boring and eerily reminiscent of the sorts of meals I ate a lot when I was six, so I am appealing to you, wise reader, for some alternative suggestions. Here are the rules:

– I don’t really eat red meat

– although I do eat sausages and minced beef

– it needs to be cheaper than buying lunch, and quicker than cooking a proper meal

– there should be some vague sort of a nod towards a balanced diet

– I don’t count fruit as food

There. I will give a prize for the best idea posted in the comments (or, as is quite likely, the only idea posted in the comments).

A Glastonbury-inspired quick supper

It’s been so long since I posted that I’ve got too many things to write about and I don’t know where to start. I could write about the Hop Farm Festival, or our trip to Dorset, or my brand new niece:

baby photo

(I know!)

And I have several separate blog posts to make about Glastonbury, if I ever get around to them, but I’ve just had a look at the searches that have led people here today, and one of them was “chorizo and halloumi recipes”, which reminded me that we’ve had the same dinner three times since we got back from Glastonbury, because it is easy, tasty and just about perfect for a warm summer evening. It’s inspired by a chorizo and halloumi wrap I bought from a Greek food stall sometime on the Sunday, which was by far the nicest thing I ate all weekend, and it goes like this:

Take two large handfuls of green salad leaves – whichever kind you like best, but sweetish ones rather than bitter ones – and add finely chopped cucumber, red onion (not too much) and the sweetest cherry tomatoes you can find (tip: greengrocers have sweeter ones than supermarkets, in my experience). Then take about half a chorizo sausage, the kind you buy folded in two, and a pack of halloumi (I use the whole thing; the beloved, being more of a meat fan, uses more sausage and less cheese), chop into mouthful-sized pieces and fry them together in a splash of olive oil. When the halloumi has started to brown on both sides, tip the meat, cheese and oil on top of the salad. Add some chopped lemon zest and eat with warmed pittas. Serves two.

I don’t have a photo of the recipe to show you, so here’s another photo of my niece instead:

(I know, right?)


I’m not very good at barbecue food. I’m not very good at meat in general, and I’m especially not good at meat that comes in big greasy hunks, with bones and fatty parts still attached. And although I like sausages, I prefer them gently and evenly cooked through rather than burned to a crisp (and still pink on the inside), a phenomenon which only the very skilled barbecue chef seems able to avoid.

So whenever I’m invited to a barbecue, I bring kebabs, because the best way to get food evenly cooked is to chop it up small, and because even if you don’t like one of the ingredients, it’s not long until you get to the next one. I quite often do veggie kebabs, but this weekend we had some chicken pieces in the freezer and a chorizo in the fridge, so I made about a dozen spicy chicken and mushroom kebabs, and about a dozen halloumi and chorizo.

The easiest way to get grilled vegetables wrong is to let them dry out, so I started by chopping two red onions, two orange and yellow peppers and a handful of what I think were portobello mushrooms, pouring a couple of tablespoonfuls of olive oil over them, adding a liberal amount of pepper and slightly less salt, and stirring it all together.

(Courgettes are another good addition, but I had used up all our courgettes the night before, making a lovely simple grated courgette and lemon zest sauce for pasta courtesy of a proper food writer, the recipe for which I can’t find now but will link to once I’m able to dig it out.)

The halloumi and chorizo kebabs were easy: I just alternated the cheese and meat with pieces of onion and pepper – the important thing here is to make sure the components have a similar density, so they cook at about the same time. And use slices of onion, not chunks, or the insides will make your eyes water.

I cut the chicken into 3cm pieces and marinated them for a couple of hours in an adapted version of a recipe from Nigel Slater, where you mix groundnut oil (I used pistachio oil, because it was the closest I had), chillis, paprika, spring onions, runny honey (I used maple syrup), lemon juice and crushed garlic, and coat the chicken in it.

I soaked the skewers in cold water for as long as I could before I made up the kebabs, which just about stopped them from catching fire, and I transported the whole thing on a plastic tray which I bought at our local Costcutter, having realised too late that I had nothing big enough to put them in:

Phone photo, hence the slight haze. Must buy a camera.

One tip: halloumi can be quite crumbly when it’s uncooked, and it’s easy to split it when you skewer it. I found it helped if I stabbed it very quickly and firmly, rather than trying to do it gently.

They need cooking for about five minutes on each side, although there’s nothing in the non-chicken ones that will do you any harm if they’re a bit underdone. Colourful, flavoursome and easy to share with newfound friends, they beat a burnt sausage any day.

A summery sausage supper

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here in WC2 the weather has been beautiful for the last few days, so when I suggested sausages for dinner last night, mashed potatoes and onion gravy didn’t feel like quite the right accompaniment. I googled “side dishes” and trawled through the results for inspiration, and eventually decided on a potato salad with gherkins and coleslaw.

Potato salad and coleslaw are things you can easily buy in the shops, but they’re usually gloopy with too much mayonnaise, so I plumped for a halfway house, making the potato salad from scratch but buying the coleslaw from a local deli, in the best tradition of the lovely Nigella.

Potato salad can have just about anything you like in it – the only essential ingredient is the new potatoes. For this one I added a finely-chopped raw shallot with fresh parsley and a dressing made from equal parts olive oil and white wine vinegar, with a dollop of Dijon mustard and a dollop of runny honey. I’d use a bit less vinegar than oil another time. Pour the ingredients together in a tumbler and whip them up with a fork into a paste, then pour that over the potatoes, shallot and parsley and stir.

Potato salad is nicest when it’s still slightly warm, so I made the salad first and then let it cool for just as long as it took to grill the sausages. We had a mixture of Toulouse and smoked sausages last  night, but just use your favourites. Add a spoonful of coleslaw and a gherkin and you have a meatily flavoursome summer supper for almost no effort at all.

Since (mostly) giving up booze I have been experimenting to discover which soft drinks go best with different kinds of food. My most exciting finding so far is that ginger beer is an excellent substitute for dessert wine. The ideal non-alcoholic companion to this meal is, I think, a nice cloudy apple juice.

On this weekend’s menu: hot cross buns, Easter chocolate and the rest of the wedding cake tasters that we brought back from Dublin at the weekend. It’s a tough gig but someone’s gotta do it.

All Stewed Up

I hope I’m not overextending myself with the number of blogs I’m now writing or contributing to. I do have a day job, after all. But the idea behind this one has been percolating for a while, and I didn’t want to fill Glad All Over with rants about dieting (after all, a diet is nothing to be glad about), so I’ve made a new place for them. Do pop over and visit All Stewed Up if you feel inclined. It won’t be of any interest at all to some people, which is another reason to give it its own home. For those people, I fully intend to continue posting links to songs and desirable furniture, as well as the odd review.


There’s something fundamental about bread, if you live in the west. For all the whinging about carbs, we all know that bread is the stuff of life, which is why I always bake it when people are ill, or have a new baby, or are bereaved. Bread is sensible and practical and delicious. If I had to live on one foodstuff, it might be bread.

This recipe is for my mum’s bread, which means it’s older than I am. Here is my mum:


When I tried to get her to write the recipe down a couple of years ago she didn’t know any of the quantities, so she just gave me the list of ingredients and told me to experiment until I worked out how much of everything to use, which means I don’t know any of the quantities either. But the good news is, it doesn’t much matter: every single one of my experiments produced an entirely edible loaf.

This is a really dark, moist, flavoursome bread: as a child desperate for white sliced bread I used to try to avoid it, but now it’s one of my favourite things to eat. There are only two of us at home so I tend to make a smallish loaf, but you could up the quantities if you wanted to.


1lb wholemeal bread flour

A biggish dollop of molasses or black treacle

A handful of caraway seeds

Lukewarm water (less than half a glassful to begin with – you can add more as you, ahem, knead it)

A biggish pinch of dried yeast


Pour all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix them with your hands until you have a ball of quite sticky dough. Cover the bowl with clingfilm or a tea towel and leave it somewhere warm for 30-60 minutes, or until the dough has roughly doubled in size (but don’t worry if it doesn’t expand that much – as long as it has perceptibly risen by the time you put it in the oven, you’ll be OK).

Grease the inside of a 1lb bread tin and transfer the dough into it. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t sit perfectly level in the tin; wonky edges are part of the charm of home-made bread. Put the tin in an oven preheated to around 200 degrees for twenty minutes, then turn down the oven to 160ish for another half an hour.

(You might want to fiddle with those temperatures and timings depending on your oven: mine is a fan oven, so increase one or the other if yours isn’t. Turning the temperature down partway through cooking seems to prevent the crust from becoming too tough.)

After around fifty minutes, take the bread out of the oven and tip it out of the tin (you may need to employ a knife here if the greasing hasn’t done its job properly, in which case try not to scrape the coating off the inside of your tin, or it’ll be even stickier next time). Tap the underside of the loaf with the edge of a knife or the back of a spoon: if it sounds hollow, it’s cooked. Leave it to stand on a wire tray (I use the grill tray because my bijou kitchen doesn’t have space for anything that isn’t multifunctional) for at least twenty minutes. Eat while still warm with salad and gooey French cheese for a perfect summer supper. Then toast it the next day for breakfast: you’ll need your grill (or toaster, if you are one of those people with space for a toaster) turned up high, because the moistness of the bread means it’s fairly resistant to heat.

Caroway seeds are Mum’s original flavouring and are great, but you can experiment with other additions: black onion seeds, for example, give it a lovely hint of fire. I’d like to try it with dried chillis, too, but I haven’t gotten around to that yet.

Here’s this morning’s loaf:

Loaf of breadTip: slice it thinly, because it’s heavier than your average loaf of bread, so a little goes a long way.

Number 22

(In the light of my sniffy comments about The Rosendale and Pizza Express, it seems only polite to record a happy dining incident in Herne Hill.)

I’m not big on seafood or red meat, so my relationship with tapas has been a tentative one over the years. I like manchego, and boquerones, and patatas bravas and tortilla, but show me an octopus or a pork cheek (what?) and I’ll likely run and hide. However, since the Great Cooking Revolution of 2009 I’ve gradually become more adventurous, so I’m a better prospect for a tapas date now than I’ve ever been. And I’d heard good things about Number 22 on Half Moon Lane, even if it does pretend it’s in Dulwich (it is a two-minute walk from Herne Hill station. It is as much in Herne Hill as a thing can be).

Anyway, it was better than I was expecting, and I would be giving it a round five stars (out of five) if I hadn’t been cold all the way through the meal. I am a naturally cold person, which is why one day I am going to go and live somewhere tropical, but I was wearing a wool dress and tights and furry boots and a scarf and I was still too cold; a problem I exacerbated when I ordered the saffron and passion fruit panna cotta for pudding, having gotten my Italian deserts mixed up (I was expecting a pannetone, and by the way, wouldn’t a saffron and passion fruit pannetone be AMAZING?). A chilled pudding is not what you want when you’re too cold.

But rewind, rewind, because I’ve left out all the good stuff. And there was lots of good stuff. The interior is halfway between a wine bar and someone’s living room, with the obligatory bad art for sale on the walls (this is such a feature of Herne Hill eateries that I would feel bereft if it weren’t there). The tables are well-spaced for such a small place, and we had a nook of our own whose only disadvantage was that we had to stand up and wave to get a waiter’s attention, so tucked-away were we. But rather that than one of my pet restaurant hates: the waiter who comes by and interrupts the conversation every few minutes to ask whether everything’s OK, as though you might not have the wit to let them know otherwise. They always seem to arrive just as I’m at the punchline of a joke. I can’t help suspecting they do it deliberately. I’d always rather too little attention from waiters than too much.

But mainly I want to talk about the food, because the food was terrific. We ordered padron peppers and chorizo and potato skewers with bread and oil to start, and then rabbit, clams, seared tuna with fennel and orange, tortilla and deep-fried goat’s cheese for the main course (unlike in traditional tapas bars, Number 22 times everything to arrive together, so they have the dishes divided into appetisers, tapas and extras), but the waitress told us the goat’s cheese was best with the bread and oil and suggested we have it alongside the appetisers rather than with the main course, which we did. I like it when the staff know better than you and politely tell you so.

All the appetisers were good, although if I had to nitpick I’d say that the bread was a bit dull (but then, is Spanish bread a thing? I don’t think it is, really), but the mains were really spectacular. The tuna was cooked in that way that proper cooks cook it, where you just wave it over the heat for a split-second, and I was nervous about eating it because I thought it would be chewy and jellific, but in fact it melted in the mouth like a pâté de foie gras, only more ethical (just). The rabbit was moist and delicious, the tortilla had exactly the right consistency, and the clams, which I only tried out of curiosity, expecting to hate them (I traditionally gag on shellfish), were completely delicious and the surprise star of the night.

It’s not cheap – our bill came to just over £80 with service, and that was without wine, although it did include a bottle of beer and a brandy, and a ginger beer, which I would heartily recommend as a non-alcoholic alternative to dessert wine – but for a special occasion it’s as good a suburban restaurant as I’ve eaten at. Just maybe go in the summer, or pack a spare jumper.

Eating out in Herne Hill: another lesson from history

That last post about swimming was Glad all over’s four hundredth. If I’d known, I would have written something more momentous. This blog’s about to be three years old, which means it gets an average of 2.5 posts a week, except that that’s misleading because there’s always at least one post a day during December, which means there are fewer the rest of the time. But there you go – three years and it’s still alive, and thoughtful and attractive people like you are still looking at it, which is the main thing. I always thought blogs should ideally be about something – should have some kind of focus or area of interest around which posts are written. Actually I still think that about every other blog. But Glad all over isn’t about anything. Sorry.

Anyway, that gives me the freedom to write about whatever I like, so today I’m going to write about eating places in Herne Hill. There is a Spanish restaurant and a Thai place and I haven’t tried either of those and I should and will, but at midday on a Saturday there is a paucity of places to eat in SE24, especially when you are a party of six of whom one is eleven years old. The pubs aren’t particularly child-friendly, except for The Florence, but there they have a rule that insists parties with children, even a single sober and very grown-up eleven-year-old, have to sit out back in the slightly scummy conservatory area, rather than in the nice warm bit where the bar is. Anyway I don’t like The Florence. It’s home to a rugby-shirted Clapham-ish crowd that I’m happier avoiding, and the music is too loud.

There’s Pullens, which is lovely but never not full at the weekend. There’s Café Provençal which has a charming East-Dulwichy sort of atmosphere but not particularly good food. And there’s Pizza Express, which I’m afraid is where we ended up, having ruled out all the other options. The Pizza Express in Herne Hill is new, having taken over the empty space previously occupied by Three Monkeys, the much-missed Indian restaurant which closed down within weeks of being taken over by Mela. I don’t need to describe it to you: it’s exactly like every other Pizza Express. They’ve even managed to rip out the feature staircase and gallery that was a highlight of Three Monkeys, to make it even more blandly unsurprising.

What did surprise me today, though, was that when I asked for a mozzarella and tomato salad, the waiter told me they’d “run out”. Now.  Am I mad, or is it entirely inconceivable that a pizza restaurant would, shortly after midday on a Saturday, have “run out” of the constituent parts of mozzarella and tomato salad? This is not a swanky salad with special and hard-to-find ingredients: it’s made with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil – three things that form the basis of pretty much every single dish on the Pizza Express menu. Had I been feeling livelier I would have questioned the waiter’s confident assertion, but I wasn’t, so I didn’t. But still. Pizza Express, eh? Next time, remind me to disguise the eleven-year-old as an OAP and go straight to the Half Moon, where the pizzas are cheaper and nicer and you can watch the football.

Sunday lunch at the Rosendale: a warning from history

I don’t write about restaurants very often, because most of the places I go out to eat are perfectly nice without being amazing, and thus not really worth mentioning, since I am not a food blogger. But I am making an exception for The Rosendale, because if I can save one person from enduring a Sunday lunch like the one I had yesterday, it will have been worthwhile.

Years ago, The Rosendale was a pub which did pizza. Good pizza – the type you’d travel for, although I only lived around the corner then, so I didn’t have to. Then I moved away, and by the time I came back it was a gastropub and getting good reviews all over the place. So we ate there, once, and it was good. But somehow it took us two years to go back, even though it’s a fifteen-minute walk from home, and this time, it was bad.

The service, to be fair, was only mediocre. After a long period during which nobody came to take our order (even though there were only two or three other groups there), we were presented with a basket of stale bread. Well, maybe it wasn’t all stale, but the piece I got was definitely past its best. As I spread it with butter so soft and tasteless it might have been margarine, I thought “they wouldn’t serve stale bread; this must be the texture it’s supposed to have”. But then I ate it, and no, it was just stale.

Next came beef carpaccio sliced so thickly as to look more like a couple of steaks, and a gazpacho soup so tart it set my teeth on edge, and such a disconcerting shade of ketchup-red that I could only assume it had come out of a tin. It was accompanied by greasy garlic croutons, which, in a charming touch of consistency, were also stale. What it didn’t come with was a spoon: I had to grab a waitress and ask for one.

The beloved’s main course of rabbit was, to give it its due, very good. My roast beef with all the trimmings, in contrast, was possibly the most inedible plate of food I have ever been presented with, not including the time a Spanish woman cooked me a pig’s trotter to welcome me to her home. The beef was tough and tasteless, the roast potatoes (which were the reason I’d ordered it) were dry and almost certainly reheated (or if not, then just very badly cooked) and, inexplicably, the Yorkshire pudding had the actual consistency of a mushroom. I’d noticed a plate going back into the kitchen with a barely-touched Yorkshire pud languishing on it, and at the time I’d thought “what kind of a maniac would leave a Yorkshire pudding uneaten?”, but in the end I had to do the same. The mixed veg had all been steamed together, which meant that the carrots were underdone but the broccoli and beans were fine, which was fortunate because they were the only part of it I enjoyed.

The puddings looked good, but we were too disspirited by the whole experience to stay and find out. At £40 a head for two courses with wine, they need to get better at cooking quite quickly. As for our Sunday lunch, the next time I want to leave the washing up to someone else I think I’ll head into Herne Hill for a perfectly adequate roast for half the price at The Commercial, or even a proper old-fashioned pub pizza at The Half Moon.

Starbucks (again)

My unfashionable fondness for Starbucks was reinforced today. I went in this morning and picked out a cheese and marmite panini (panino?), which I handed across the counter so they could toast it for me. A few minutes later one of the staff emerged from the steam and handed one piping hot package to me, and another to a man in a suit standing behind me. The suit looked like a bacon man, and as I left the shop I peered inside my bag to check I hadn’t accidentally got his bacon sandwich, which it turned out I had (an advantage to worrying about nearly everything is that sometimes you discover a problem before it’s too late to fix it).

The suit had disappeared, but I went back into the shop, explained, and handed over the rogue bacon bun. They made me a new sandwich, which you would expect, but they also said sorry (several times), and gave me a voucher for a free drink at any Starbucks, to make up for it. Since I only drink tea and I can get that for free in the office I will be passing the voucher on to someone more likely to make use of it, but it was the thought that counted. Tiny bits of good customer service like that are enough to make me unswervingly loyal to a brand, just as I am with Virgin since they replied to my complaint about our TV service going kaput for two days by calling me, giving me a refund and passing on the name and extension number of someone whom I could call back directly if the problem reappeared. YES. Thank you, Virgin. I like you even better than Starbucks, and I like them loads.