British home cook, lapsed vegetarian and huge Food Lab fan.

  • Location: United Kingdom

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Cooking With John

Such a beautiful piece, thank you for sharing.
For many years I didn't particularly care about Christmas, then in 2011 we found out my mother had a benign but potentially fatal brain tumour that needed immediate surgery.
What followed was the best part of two years of hell: she was hospitalised from Oct 2011 to March 2012, suffering two strokes and a pulmonary embolism following her operation, and we managed to "bust her out" of hospital for 3 hours on Christmas day 2011, in a wheelchair, unable to walk or use her right arm and with a catheter bag attached. 2012 was not much better as (although she was home) she had had to have another operation and we still did not know at this point whether she would recover. Those years I just wanted to kick Christmas and everything it stood for.

Now, Mum's got the all clear, is fully recovered, and Christmas is literally the most magical time of the year for me. I cannot wait to spend that special time with my family because they are really what matters to me. You can't change what's happened in the past, but you can take something positive forward from it - I hope you carry on some of your husband's traditions, and create plenty of new ones too.

Celebrate Fall With Roast Chicken and Butternut Squash Fregola

I'd just like to say I made this last night with boiled Thai jasmine rice (just boiled in salted water and strained) rather than the fregola as I can't eat gluten, and it was delicious. I liked the slightly sticky texture of the rice with the squash and the sauce from the chicken.

Everything You Can Do With a Jar of Honey

I need to get round to buying some decent honey, but my husband has been all over the idea of the honey on spicy sausage pizza since I mentioned it to him a few weeks ago! Thanks for the reminder.

Japanese Cotton-Soft Cheesecake

@varenikje - Just use more cornflour? Or use your standard GF flour? I'm in the UK and like Doves Farm plain white flour blend. Given the provenance of the recipe, I imagine rice flour might work too. I'm gluten-free and certainly going to try this recipe!

What I Ate When I Couldn't Eat Anything: Facing Gestational Diabetes as a Food Lover

Gosh, gestational diabetes sounds like a drag! I hope yours clears up once the baby is born and you can get back to eating tasty food.

I'm not pregnant, but I actually found this really helpful as someone who had to give up gluten a few months ago. I'm not a huge egg fan, but savoury breakfasts and roast cauliflower in "pasta" bakes both sound good!

(Interestingly, I found your comments about lobster, crab etc. amusing as in the UK they recommend not eating seafood apart from fish while pregnant! Not judging, just interesting that we all recommend different things...)

Staff Picks: The Pantry Staples We Can't Live Without

We always have "Henderson's Relish" ( It's a similar concoction to Worcestershire sauce but is vegetarian and gluten free. We don't have it around for any special reason, other than that my Mum's family is from Sheffield (where it is made) and it's what I've always grown up around - I don't think I've ever actually had Worcestershire sauce! It's great splashed on chips (fries) or pizza, makes wicked cheese on toast and adds a nice savoury flavour to almost anything.

Our other pantry staple is a tin of dried, crushed chipotle chillies that I got from Fortnum & Mason (a high-end department store in London). That tin cost me £3.95, but I'll be damned if I wouldn't fight someone to the death for it. Chipotles are notoriously hard to find in your run-of-the-mill supermarket in the UK, so I treasure this tin dearly and throw a little pinch in every time I want to add a smoky flavour to anything. I'll sometimes soak them in a little bit of water too, if the original recipe asked for chipotles packed in Adobo sauce.

The Food Lab: How to Grill or Broil Tofu That's Really Worth Eating

We live in an apartment and don't have a grill like this.
Any extra advice for doing under the grill in the oven (I think you call it a broiler in America?) or in a cast-iron griddle pan?

Mexican Atole: The Perfect Winter Drink

I have never heard of this! Fantastic, I'll be trying it when I get my tortilla masa in the post.

How to Make Salted Dulce de Leche Brownies

Seconded @TommiFromKiel - we have "Golden Syrup" in the UK which I was thinking of using as it's sweet and I imagine a similar texture to corn syrup, but I'm not sure how it would affect the flavour.

How to Make the Best Baked Jalapeño Poppers

Thank you to Kenji for challenging you to this, and you for writing it - I am loathe to deep fry anything so it's good to have options!

This Week at Serious Eats World Headquarters

I don't know about Stateside, but here in England "the finished/final product" is a really common turn of phrase to indicate the end result of something. There's no emphasis at all on what "product" means in that sense.

Nice gingerbread house, I am far to clumsy to stick cereal on the roof like that.

The Food Lab: How to Make the Best Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

I'm getting a tortilla press for Christmas as it has been a lonely few months without tortillas of any kind (the corn tortillas sold in the UK are adulterated with wheat flour, which means my newly gluten-free self can't eat them!). Although tomatillos and various types of peppers are still difficult to come by in the UK, this won't stop me: I'm definitely making this the first tortilla-based dish I eat in the New Year. You're a star Kenji!

The $29 Thermopop Digital Thermometer Measures Up

Having received a Thermapen as a gift a few years ago and (cry) losing it in one of several house moves, I just told my other half it would be appreciated if he could tell Santa I'd like one of these babies for Christmas!

Thanks so much for your dedication to finding good equipment.

Chocolate Chocolate Teacake From 'Huckleberry'

I know coffee brings out the flavour of the chocolate, or somesuch, but I really don't care for it (nor it for me - and who wants cake that makes them fee ill?).

Is there something else I could replace the coffee with, for the same intensifying effect? I'm thinking maybe some kind of alcohol, or a fruit juice/puree (Prune? Raspberry? Orange?). Any advice much appreciated!

"Chorizo" Tacos From 'The VB6 Cookbook'

Thank you for this recipe, I never would have thought of cooking tofu this way! I used Cauldron Marinated Tofu (available in the UK) as they already have a nice flavour and some "chewier" bits to them, crumbled up with some salt and pepper, cajun spice powder and some dried chipotle. Fried it off for 10 minutes, then added a diced green (bell) pepper for an additional five before adding the chilli powder and lime juice.

As has been mentioned numerous times around the site, what is labelled "Chilli Powder" in the UK is different to the US (it is mainly just ground, dried chillies). This week I found that Sainsbury's sell a spice mix called "Garlic, Pepper & Chilli Seasoning" and that did the trick just fine without being too hot.

Culinary land mines

I think coriander (cilantro) tastes of soap - I like it IN things, but copiously piled ON things is a waste of an otherwise good meal.

I am growing to like parsnip more, but I will definitely wince a bit if I accidentally bite into some that's masquerading as a piece of potato (for example, in soup).

I also have a strong aversion to warm quiche: warm eggs + cheese + pastry is just not a good combination. As such, I avoid anything on a menu labelled as "tart", as in the UK at least that seems to be common code for "horrifyingly warm quiche".

Taste Test: British Digestives

Called it. I thought you were doing chocolate digestives, but I stand by my assertion that Sainsbury's Basics are the best, especially as they fit neatly into a cup of tea for dunking.
I made the mistake of buying McVitie's last week, tasty but absolutely useless for dunking.

I would never eat Hovis digestives as biscuits, oddly enough, only slathered in butter and with a piece of cheese, even though they're the same thing...

@Scrofula - I got a craving the other night and buttered a few digestives and topped the with homemade blackcurrant jam. I heartily recommend it!

What food would you miss most as a vegan?


Milk and other dairy I could do without, as there are plenty of alternatives (I quite like a brand of oat milk they sell in the UK called Oatly), and you can even get almond cream, etc. I rarely eat eggs, and I'm sure there are egg-free versions of things I do enjoy like mayonnaise.

But if someone paid me £1000000 tomorrow to never eat cheese again, I would turn them down in a heartbeat. Fake cheese just seems "wrong" to me, and I couldn't do without. Cheese is just too good.

Staff Picks: What's Your Least Favorite Dessert?

I don't have a massively sweet tooth so don't eat dessert often, but the two things I definitely don't like are jelly/jello and bananas in fruit salad.

Jelly/jello (and anything else of that texture really!) is a textural issue, I never know whether to chew it or suck it - I imagine there's a knack to it that I don't have as I generally look like a teething baby.

Growing up my Mum used to put sliced bananas in a fruit salad with oranges, apples, grapes an orange juice. The orange juice made the outside of the bananas all slimy, yuck.

Open Thread: What Are Your Super Bowl Pizza Plans?

I won't be watching the Superbowl (in the United Kingdom - never watched American Football before) but this weekend I'm going to be making Kenji's Foolproof Pan Pizza to make up for all the boxes we've got to pack ahead of our house move in a fortnight!

This Week at Serious Eats World Headquarters

As a digestive fan and former university student, my bet is on the Sainsbury's Basics ones. Tasty, cheap and they fit straight into a cup of tea for dunking without having to bite a bit off first. (I can actually hear the sounds of many Americans scratching their heads in confusion)

The Hovis ones (no chocolate on top) are very nice with a bit of butter and/or cheese, or even plain as a savoury snack.

A few brands have started doing them with chocolate chips in rather than a layer of chocolate on top, you can also now get double chocolate ones which are chocolate flavoured biscuit (I refuse to use the word cookie) with chocolate on top, and I think McVities now do caramel digestives with a layer of caramel between the biscuit and the chocolate.

Staff Picks: What's Your Recipe Deal-Breaker?

@CandiRisk - that explains it! And here I thought I was just going nuts.... I'm off to Sainsbury's later so I'll see if I can see that.

Staff Picks: What's Your Recipe Deal-Breaker?

Personally any Indian-style curry dish that involves dry frying, grinding and otherwise manipulating spices. I get that it brings out the best flavour but it's a fuss, I get overcome by fumes and I always burn something. I either sub for curry powder or use Patak's balti paste (not the large jarred sauce) depending on what I'm cooking.

I'm also wary of any American recipes which use chilli powder - I'm not sure if the stuff you guys have is better/different/weaker but much more than a teaspoon/tablespoon max of the stuff we have in the UK ruins anything. I don't mean it's too hot (though it can be, I've seen recipes that call for 1/4 cup!) but it just tastes plain wrong.

Along that line, I'm getting used to volumetric measurements but some things just don't make sense measured that way. That could put me off if I couldn't figure out a sensible equivalent. Oh, and as I generally cook for one or two (occasionally 4 if making enough for leftovers), I avoid cooking anything that can't be scaled down or freeze well.

Finally, as much as I'd love to make chile verde, some things like tomatillos are just plain impossible/very difficult to obtain in the UK.

Planning Christmas Dinner

I'm having a similar issue with my parsnips (except they cook at a lower temp than the turkey) - I was planning on doing what msecondo said, popping them in once the turkey's out/resting and then being carved.

I hope it all works for you!


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