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Roast Goose and Cooking Times


We had roast goose for Christmas, and I think it was the best one yet. I forgot to take pictures though (edit: pictures from this year now below).

Our goose works on the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipes. And I’d like to explode the myth of long cooking times for goose.

Our goose takes 50 minutes. Yes that’s less than an hour, with then a 30 minute rest period.

The trick is to cut off the legs and cook them seperately (and/or differently). Otherwise you can not achieve the correct amount of cooking for both the legs and the breast at the same time. I confit the legs in goose fat.

Legless goose

Legless Goose

The breasts (still on carcass) is then cooked in a high oven – around 220 c – for 50 minutes, and after 30 minutes rests comes out very moist and very slightly pink. Just perfect and yummy.

Update: Yes. It still works. Prick the skin. Rub salt on breast and then high oven for 50 minutes. If you leave the legs on, then reduce oven to 160 c and roast for further 30 minutes. But, your breasts are likely to be on the dry side. I would then follow McGee’s advice below and just make a yummy gravy.

Goose legs confit

Goose legs confit

Harold McGee (of On Food and Cooking fame – a must have cooking book) discusses the dry breast / properly cooked leg problem on a roast turkey (even bigger problem than on a goose) in his NYT column here

McGee concludes although cooking the breast / legs  separately results in better moisture because roast turkey is a whole bird celebration, better to roast it as best you can and then rehydrate the turkey breasts (sliced thinly) in a nice gravy. – and forget about brining.

The best way to keep an unbrined turkey breast moist is to cook it separately, gently and precisely. It’s just done at around 145 degrees, and getting dry at 155.

But to me Thanksgiving is an occasion for roasting the whole bird, and as unfussily as possible. I’ve tried many methods for keeping the breast meat under 155 degrees while getting the tougher legs to 165 degrees and up. None has worked reliably….

Roast an unbrined turkey as you wish. While the turkey rests, make a delicious pan sauce from the drippings. Keep it runny. When it’s time to carve, start with the breast. Either slice it very thin, to an eighth of an inch or less, or cut thick pieces and pull them to shreds, to create as much surface area as possible. Then turn and coat the meat thoroughly with some of the pan sauce, and keep it warm while you carve the leg and thigh.

Unlike casual last-minute saucing at the table, an extended and intimate bath gives the sauce a chance to penetrate into the meat’s smallest crannies and seams. The meat fibers may have been cooked dry in the oven, but they end up on the plate with abundant moisture clinging to them.

And it’s their own meaty moisture, genuinely enhanced.


No crying onion cutting


The no cry onion solution.

Some may tell you:
-cut under water or running water (moderate success, but you get wet onions)
-whistle (it blows away the chemicals, weak success)

But the no fail solution is…
to wear goggles

Serious. It works every time. Even if your DB thinks you are a plonker.

I have sensitive eyes and I can cut onions like a demon when I wear my swimming googles. The smarting chemicals can’t reach your eyes.

Science note: it is a complex sulphur molecule that breaks down into hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide and sulphuric acid. Prechilling the onion will also lessen the effect as the enzyme which starts breaking down the sulphur compound is relatively inactive at low temps.



Dark days have rooted and coldness moored to cadaver of the past season. It is in this bitter time that I love to return to the foods of my childhood. None more so reliable, or simple or generous than the plump mellow creamy indulgence of a warm rice pudding on a wintry night.  I recently made this last week, for my BFF while she was cursing and nursing a furious gastrobug and with the cold snap in full force tonight I feel compelled to celebrate this humble pudding.


25g butter

75g short grain rice, preferably Arborio

25g caster sugar

600ml full fat milk


Heat the oven to 150°C.

Using an oven proof pan (you’ll need a lid later too) melt butter at a low temperature, but take care not to let it transform into a beurre noisette.

Once melted stir in the sugar, rice and milk. Allow to bubble but not boil and stir well.

Cover with the lid and place in the oven for 90 minutes, remembering to stir at 30 minute intervals to ensure an even consistency.

After 90 minutes remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Note: The dimensions of your pan and the idiosyncrasies of your oven will make for distinctions in final cooking time and pudding consistency. You can counter this by adding milk or cooking time.

Variations: Heart stopping super deluxe version replace milk with double cream or try half cream and half milk for a compromise. I also like to flavour mine with vanilla; the real deal is best for flavour and aesthetics; don’t skimp on using Vanilla Bean Paste over real pods as the former process results in weighting the seeds so they tend to sink to the bottom of the pudding. This recipe offers four portions; double the quantities and cooking time for a party proportions. It’s sweet enough by itself, but also delicious with jam or with a caramelized sugar topping.

When you make this, you’ll be rewarded with wonderful warm wafts of creamy and buttery notes. As you take your first spoonful you’ll remember, that only on nights as cold as tonight can you really savour the exquisite comfort and tender condolence of  a humble rice pudding.

Roast lamb with carrots and garlic


It’s been ages since I’ve cooked roast lamb. I forgot how unctuous, warming and meaty it can be. I think the real trick to the lamb on the weekend was that it was salt marsh lamb, which gave it  herb and heather notes without having to do much! Of course, non salt is fine too. And I have to say, cheap pork is yuck, but even cheap lamb from New Zealand tastes ok (environment, food miles etc aside – and taste is the final arbiter)

The English like their leg of lamb, but they miss a trick with the fattier and so more melting (and to my mind tastier) shoulder. Yes, it is harder to carve, but that’s OK. Just practise or have more bits for leftovers (pitti panna – a swedish dish is yum with leftover lamb).

(Salt marsh) lamb (2kg shoulder)

Garlic, rosemary

Small carrots


Honey (optional)

Salt, pepper.

Preheat oven to high, 220c. Spike the lamb with a knife and stud the garlic and rosemary all over. Anywhere between 10 to 20 studs will do. (If you like it even more garlicky lay some cloves – shell on is fine – under the joint when roasting as well). If it looks like it’s not that fatty – which with shoulder would be a surprise but salt march lamb can be very active – then also lightly oil (olive or rapeseed). Generously season with salt and pepper.

Roast on high for around 20 minutes. Up to 30 minutes for a huge joint and maybe 15 mins for a very small one.

Then I pour over a glass or two of marsala, enough to have a good 1cm in the tray, and add the carrots. If don’t like carrots with a tiny bit of bite, you can add them earlier (more bite add them later). A touch of honey on the carrots if you have a sweet tooth (like DB). Turn the over down to 170c / medium and roast for another 1 hour for medium rare (meat thermometer is useful) and rest for at least 20 minutes. If you can be bothered/remember the occasional basting won’t go amiss.

Serve with coucous or perhaps a baked potato if you’re not doing the roast potato thing. The juices and reduced marsala make the gravy, which if you want to thicken you can boil down or add arrow root to. (Arrow root much better than flour as a thickener).

Our lamb came out melting, almost didn’t need a knife (which would be more typical of a 4 to 5 hours very low fire roast). The carrots absorbed the lamb and garlic flavour and I also had some aubergine on the side.

Even the 8 month year old approved.

Joy of Cookies


One of the culinary delighted introduced to me this year was Maccha Cookies by lovely BFF. One bitten, forever smitten. These wonderful sweet somethings are shortbread biscuits flavoured with the delicate and delectable Maccha Green Tea.
For the uninitiated Matcha Tea is a super fine powdered tea, it’s relatively expensive and often used during Japanese Tea Ceremonies. The wonderful thing about Maccha Tea, not only does it have an exquisite and smooth taste, but its powdered form means it versatile as food dye too, and it’s is often used to colour and flavour foods as diverse as noodles, custard, bread and ice cream.

I lifted the Matcha Cookie recipe from my BFF and recently I made my very own. (Incidentally, my BFF cannot take credit for the great recipe as she is not its author, but if you Google Lovescool you can find its origins there and thanks to the powers of the interweb, what began as modest and experimental recipe on her blog has travelled far and wide to all corners of the world).

Although I cook a great deal, it has been a long time since I made some cookies. Today’s experience was so charming that I am looking forward to doing it again tomorrow (I saved half my dough, a prudent move in case I messed up my inaugural batch). I had completely forgotten how much fun cutting out cookie shapes from dough is. There’s an innocent childlike amusement and warm satisfaction of firmly pressing in a cutter into some smooth dough and admiring the perfect shape of a cookie as you place it onto a baking tray. The process and the result are both rewards.

Magic Rolls


Being a self confessed supermarket snob; I often find myself quietly judging the contents of people’s shopping baskets and trollies. Some people look at shoes, handbags or watches, but I like to see what you eat. I pride myself being a competent home cook, but I realize I was fortunate because I did lots of my growing up in my early years in a home kitchen and in my teens, a commercial kitchen, both which were run my Mother, a formidable force of home cooking genius, which I aspire to, especially since all my best dishes are stolen from her.

When I was young, I would often be required to assist, although I did it badly and sulkily. More often than not, very little was asked of me. Typical home duties were stirring the pan of peanuts that my mum was dry roasting, grinding a mixture of garlic, chilli and sugar; separating the rice paper sheets. If I sulked at the prospect of home kitchen duties, that was nothing compared to utter misery I visibly presented when I was required to help in the commercial kitchen, quartering mushrooms, cracking eggs and the worst of worst, peeling and gutting king prawns.

When I wasn’t on duty but found myself in the kitchen, somehow I’d end up standing close to my mum and just watching her prepare food. It wasn’t a conscious action, but subconscious, I just found myself drawn to watching her and it’s through that silent observation that I absorbed the majority of my cooking skills.

My mum is magical in the kitchen, she cooks the very best traditional Vietnamese food in the world. Ever. Her dishes represent what is best about good Vietnamese cuisine, good and fresh ingredients, simply prepared and cooked. Vietnamese cuisine is unpretentious and humble, which is of no surprise, since it is deeply rooted in peasant origins.

Of all the Vietnamese dishes I make for my friends, top of the charts is “Magic Rolls.” It also used to be my then DBs favourite meal in the world. Of course that’s not what they are really called, but it’s stuck with me, as on one occasion I  made it for my BFF and her DB, she was so impressed that she delightfully exclaimed that that’s what they should be called. In the poor crop of Vietnamese cafes that we have in London they are referred to as Summer Rolls and in their home land, they are called Banh Trang, and definitely not to be confused with their cousin Goi Cuon.

Magic Rolls are great meal for a group, there’s a real lack of formality (no cutlery required, only hands and fingers allowed) and everyone helps themselves. On the platter there’s a selection of fresh salad ingredients, an assortment of pickles, and variety of seafood, pork and offal. You pick what you want and you place your ingredients in freshly hydrated super thin rice paper and then dip in nuoc mam or a savoury reduced sauce extracted from the preparation of the pork. When done right, it’s super yummy, very healthy and good fun to eat. It’s perfect party food as you can’t hurry eating it, it celebrates a natural slow pace of eating that encourages leisurely chatter, it suits a variety of diet types and the majority of the ingredients only require cleaning and minimal on duty hosting too! The hardest thing to get right is the nuoc mam and the pork.

Magic Rolls are reasonably well founded in London however, it is a tragedy, just like the terrible homogenizing on Chinese and Indian Cuisine in the UK to adapt to the average western palette, I have found it impossible to find a decent Magic Roll. In these cafes, there are so many things they get wrong with the Magic Roll and although on the surface it appears a very simple dish to make, there are many areas where disaster can strike:

1. The rolls are served to you already wrapped! Half of the experience is missing!

2. The rice paper used is too thick, which make the rolls unfavorably chewy. For the genuine article, super thin rice paper is needed, so thin it’s more membrane that paper.

3. Real nuoc mam please! Don’t you dare bring that diluted sweet chilli sauce to my table.

4. Fresh salad ingredients need to be diverse and plentiful including: round lettuce (not iceberg), fresh herbs (variety of mint, basil and if you can get it, Vietnamese coriander) peeled cucumber, pineapple, cold rice vermicelli, salad onions, etc.

5. Meat platter includes more than one of the following: preferably slow braised belly pork thinly sliced, cold cooked large king prawns sliced in half, chicken breast and pig’s liver fried and finished in the braising sauce and thinly sliced. In the cafes you don’t get any of this, maybe just some slices of cold pork. I’d advise the pork and prawns are essential, but the liver is a very welcome addition.

6. Pickles: pickled carrots, mooli and leeks, but as with 5, they are often absent.

When I make Magic Rolls I attempt to make it the way my Mother makes it, unfortunately, I can only grade my rolls with a respectable B, saying that my Mother would be less kind to me, and probably frown and give me a D. There’s always something missing, that’s not quite right with mine although I have got most of the meal perfected, I often struggle with getting my pork and nuoc mam from good to pitch perfect, but if my flapjack adventure was anything to go by, I’ll have this one nailed by the new year.

This is the Greatest Flapjack in the World, Tribute


Many years ago, my then DB made World’s Finest Flapjack (WFF).

This is not a claim I make lightly. I like flapjacks very much and consumed many of them in my lifetime so far. Saying that, I have a fond loathing for the ones you can find in train stations and news agents. Those cellophane wrapped squares of misery are the very distant relations of this wonderful snack. A good flapjack is a home made flapjack. Like so many tasty home baked treats, a flapjack has the exuberant quality of Ready Brek – its makes you feel warm from the inside out.

How my then DB came to make the WFF was pure chance, and despite numerous attempts during our ill fated relationship to reproduce said WFF, he always failed. Rather miserably, may I add. Always too crunchy, often brittle and not the right balance of sweetness. It was my bane of discontent for quite some time and I can be rather petulant when things don’t go my way. I often ribbed my then DB, of this malaise, complaining how unfair of him to only be able to make the WFF only once. I often proclaimed with much melodrama, it would have been kinder to have never let me savour their genius. As time went on our search for the WFF became our un folie à deux.

Why wasn’t he able to reproduce the WFF? Well, my then DB had a cooking habit of never following a recipe, he always needed to meddle. And whilst often, an marked improvement was achieved of which I was much appreciative of, he never was disciplined enough to recall or record what he did. This all came to a head with the WFF, which as the fiasco continued, started to resemble the level of experimentation one reads in George’s Marvelous Medicine. My then DB took to desperate measures and took to surreal depths of analysis, trials and study. There was various sugars, syrups and oats all over the place. The kitchen turned into a mad scientist’s laboratory. Was it a different brand of rolled oats? What was the ratio of sugar to syrup? Was a variety of different sugars used? Will treacle make a difference? Or perhaps molasses? What oven temperature? How long? Anolon versus Teflon?  So on and so forth. The stakes we’re increasing to biblical proportion, but as for so many others, like the Holy Grail, the search for the WFF eluded us. It remains for my then DB an El Dorado of sorts.

That was many years ago. My pangs for WFF never went away. It rears it unsuspecting terror with random violence, and none more recent than in Winter 2008. I decided to take up the gauntlet. I started researching online; visiting forums, asking strangers for the perfect flapjack recipes, checking favorite recipe websites and cookbooks. But none yielded to the title of WFF. After much trial and error, I felt, most recipes over complicated the ingredients, and most failed because of the relationship between the proportion of sugar (liquid or solid) to the cooking time and heat. I considered it prudent, that although I was aiming for a grand slam, that it may be wise to set my targets a little lower, and settle for a Decent Flapjack (DF) first. With this in mind, I took my recent knowledge and decided to simplify the recipe altogether and reduce the ingredients to three essentials: butter, golden syrup and rolled oats. After studying a huge amount of recipes I had a good idea of the ratio and settled on  150g, 5 very generous tablespoons and 250g, respectively. There were two main oven temperatures and baking periods I needed to test. I made my two test batches. The air was palpable.  The first failed, but the second test did very well, a very DF indeed. The tried the recipe again, to ensure it wasn’t a fluke and I was awarded with a consistent result (175 degrees for 15 minutes).

I’ve since made the recipe about ten times and each occasion has yielded the same results. My DF recipe offers a firm texture, neither brittle or chewy. It’s a sweet but not too sweet morsel. It can rustled up within minutes (count ‘em: three ingredients only, very economic and child friendly). Most importantly, it does make you feel warm from the inside out. I have mine accompanied by a strong milky tea for breakfast and it makes a welcome start to the day.

I think its best if I back away from the gauntlet at this stage and quit while I’m ahead. Although my Decent Flapjack doesn’t reach the heady heights of the World’s Finest Flapjack, it does make a worthy tribute.