Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Exciting endive


This is a marvellous and very flexible thing to do with endive or chicory (or are they the same thing?) that you can adapt for vegetarians or carnivores. It's also very easy to prepare ahead and doesn't take long to cook.

So, this principle is based on a lovely thing I found in Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, where you caramelise the cut face of some endive, slather it with a creamy mixture and then bake. The ingredients here are my own concoction, but you can use whatever you've got that's close.

Caremelised endive:
For 2

2 endive
40g butter
2 tsp caster sugar
some thick-ish cream or creme fraiche
thyme or chives/parsley/coriander
breadcrumbs of any description
salt and pepper
bacon or pancetta

1 Pre-heat your oven to 200C. Slice the endive into halves.

2 Melt the butter and sugar together in a frying pan gently and when it starts to bubble, place the endives face-down in the pan and fry until brown - about 2 minutes. Don't worry if the butter goes brown. Remove and arrange face-up on a baking sheet.

3 Mix together your topping of breadcrumbs, cream and herbs and bacon or pancetta. I lightly fried the bacon I used first - needless to say, it would be just as nice without. Spread a few teaspoons of the mixture onto the top of the endive.



Cook for 20 minutes. Bingo.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

From Morocco with love



My husband is a bit sad at the moment. A book of his newspaper columns is being published this month and someone just wrote a really, really mean review of it.

It's not like he's not used to people being mean to him. He'd never complain about it publicly because he knows that's just what happens when you put yourself out there: people crap all over you. And, as he always says, it's not like he doesn't give people a kicking all the time - it's not like he's not, basically, just asking for it. But, all the same, just in private, it brought him down a bit.

It pains me when my husband is down, because he's usually such an irrepressible, bouncy, energetic, bomb-proof chatterbox. It's usually me moping around nursing this little hurt or that little slight - I am Eeyore to his Tigger.

So last night, I thought I would host for him a sort-of-morrocan feast in the garden, with mood lighting and very spicy food. Maybe even a tablecloth; definitely some strong drink. I even decorated our vine with glass hanging tealight holders - a wedding present from The Pescetarian:




One of my husband's favourite restaurants is an old place in the south of France called Chez Grandmere, which serves merguez sausages, carrots and celery cooked in a thick broth and cous-cous cooked in stock.

There's no way I was going to be able to accurately render the cooking at CG, where they cook over hot scented charcoal, working to Grandmere's secret recipes.

But I was going to do my interpretation of it, with lovely merguez sausages purchased this weekend from the Twleve Green Acres butcher stall at the Parliament Hill Farmer's Market, carrots and celery boiled nearly-whole (to retain their sweetness) in a strong chicken stock and a moroccan couscous thing with sultanas and pine nuts and a minted yoghurt.

I imagine that most of you will be weirded out by the whole vegetables, but they do really bring something earthy and exciting to a dinner like this. If you want to do it, choose smallish carrots and cook them whole, like Fergus Henderson does, in order to retain their sweetness. It's important that you cook them in a proper chicken stock - bought concentrate won't do (and you know how slack I am about that kind of stuff).



For a convincing morroccan-tasting couscous add to your dry grains:

A pinch ground cumin
A pinch ground coriander
A pinch paprika
sultanas OR chopped dried apricots
toasted pine nuts

Give this dry mixture a stir and then pour on your boiling water or stock from cooking your vegetables and leave to cook. When ready, sprinkle over a handful of chopped coriander.



I mean, it probably takes more than a dinner to cheer you up after a really bad review but at least he knows that someone loves him.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Scones


These are damned easy. Why the hell have I not made them before? Definitely give them a whirl if you haven't already.

To maximise your enjoyment, I have for you two tips:

1 When you're rolling out your scone dough, roll it out very thick - at least 2cm (I advise having a quick look at a ruler or something because 2cm is more than you think it is). This is because although scones rise a bit while they're cooking, they don't rise loads like, say, fairy cakes. So if you want a big, hearty-looking scone, right from the start they have to be pretty substantial.

2 Don't let them hang around. If you're having people over and you want to give them a cream tea, either make up the dough the night before or in the morning, store it in the fridge and then about an hour before you want to eat, roll out the dough, cut and bake.

So here we go:

for 12 small scones or 6 large

225g self-raising flour
large pinch salt
40g butter, cut into small pieces
1.5 tablespoons caster sugar
about 150ml milk

1 Preheat the oven to 220C. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Then rub the butter into the flour until the flour looks like breadcrumbs

2 Add the sugar and mix around a bit

3 Add the milk one sploosh at a time and mix round with a knife until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Smoosh this around a bit with your hands until it seems to be all of a piece.

4 Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to a thickness of AT LEAST 2cm. Cut out scone shapes with a scone-cutter. Funnily enough, scones sort of shrink about 0.5cm  in width as they are cooking, so go for a slightly larger pastry cutter than you actually want your scones to be.

5 Put the scones on a lightly greased baking tray and bake for between 12-16 minutes on a high shelf

You could turn these into fruit scones by adding some currants or mixed peel between stages 2 and 3.

If this all seems a bit boring and easy, Delia Smith has a slightly more advanced scone recipe, which utilises buttermilk.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Half-American pancakes for the weekend

I have deleted this post because I made these pancakes again this morning and realised that they are DISGUSTING. The perils of cooking with a cold.

The ham (below) really is nice, though - confirmed by Giles.

A ham is not just for Christmas

I'm an impatient luncher - 1pm seems to roll around just as I'm in the middle of something actually semi-important. To break for a laborious chop-boil-fry-blend-arrange lunch means that I often sidestep the whole business and eat only a tiny piece of cheese. Then I wonder why I feel faint but also quite snappy come 4pm.

My solution to this is to usually either have a cold roast chicken or joint of beef on the go in order to hack bits up to add to a salad or put in a sandwich or just eat slathered with piccallili (have I spelled that right?) standing in the kitchen. Today I thought I'd bake up a ham to nibble at over the next four days or so.

I got a nice 1kg organic bit of gammon and soaked it for 8 hours to get rid of the worst of the brine and then
baked it with a mustard, maple and sugar glaze.

My glaze:
2 tbsp English mustard
1 tbsp maple syrup, either mixed in with the mustard or drizzled over the gammon
2 tbsp demerara sugar

For the method and the cooking times I was working to this Delia recipe, which suggested really quite frighteningly short cooking times for my gammon - a measly 20 mins per pound, which worked out at only about 55 mins for my large piece of pork.


Here's my gammon


Taking the skin off to slap on the glaze - not actually that easy


Glaze on... back in the oven...


Yum


I, like most British people, am a bit scared of underdone pork, so I left it in the oven for an extra 25 minutes. If I get trichinosis, you'll be the first to know. Actually, the Royal Free Hospital's A+E department will be the first to know, but I'm sure they've got WiFi.

Anyway, if you're the kind of person who doesn't like to play Russian Roulette with their food, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver both have fantastic glazed-gammon recipes, which include a good long stint of boiling before the gammon goes in the oven.

A great thing to do with the skin, which you remove half-way through cooking in order to spread on your glaze, is to put it in the oven alongside the gammon, well-covered with salt and grount-nut oil and roast for about 45 mins until you get crackling - turn once during cooking.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Death becomes me


It's got to the point where I can't really bluff through it anymore. The fact is, I've got a terrible cold. Awful. I haven't been able to taste anything since about 11am on Monday when the snot in my nose reached a critical mass.

It's my fault - I failed to deploy my First Defence when I first felt that fatal "uh-oh" back-of-the-throat tickle. Anyway, not being able to taste anything (plus a coldy weakness in my brain) means that even if I could drag myself to the kitchen to cook something, I wouldn't be able to tell you if it was nice or not. So I'm going to have to talk about something else today.

You may have noticed that I've got the radio tuned to Capital FM. Well, I say "tuned", but it's a digital radio so you just press a button and there it is. Anyway, it's on Capital FM not because I drive a white van in my spare time or am a third year at boarding school in the home counties, but because of my last job.

I wasn't that crazy about my last job - as evidenced by the fact that I'm not doing it anymore - and when I was there, in order to drown out various things that made being there especially unbearable, (the sound of my desk phone ringing, people asking me to do things etc), I used to listen to the radio through my computer, on headphones. It's possibly the most anti-social thing I've ever done in an office - aside from consistently refusing to wear shoes.

Anyway, the only radio station that came through loud and clear without endless "buffering" was Capital FM. So that's what I listened to for at least three hours a day, five days a week for about a year.

Then I left and quickly realised that because of that constant association of work with Capital FM, I now can't do anything unless I'm listening to it. I can't write, cook, tidy up or really concentrate on anything (except TV) unless Capital FM is on, somewhere. Strange. But true.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010



This postcard always makes me laugh, even though I can almost always be bothered with food.

Hollandaise



So, it's asparagus season again! Hurrah. And, just as snails are an excuse to eat epic amounts of butter and garlic, so asparagus is an excuse to eat hollandaise. Which, come to think of it, is only really epic amounts of butter and eggs. Is every seasonal food really just an excuse to eat butter and/or garlic?

While you're thinking about that, let's talk more about hollandaise. I've never made it before today and, on a whim, I decided not to reach for Delia Smith - usually my go-to girl when I'm scared and confused in my kitchen. I reached for another cookbook and found myself with a recipe that turned out to be a bit weird.

I mean, it worked out okay in the end... I suppose... I mean, it's mostly butter, how wrong can it go?:




but it wasn't hollandaise like old Ma Walker makes. It was more the consistency of mayonnaise... and I detected one or little lumps in it. This cannot be right.

First of all, the recipe said that when you clarify butter the residue settles at the bottom of the pan you're melting the butter in, but mine sort of floated on the top AND settled at the bottom.

Then it instructed me to rest my bowlful of egg yolks and vinegar over a pan of simmering water. Result: very nearly scrambled eggs had I not whipped the bowl away just as I realised what the hell was about to happen.

In all, it was stressful. And stress is not something I like to feel so near a 5-ring gas stove. I'm not even going to post the recipe, so umimpressed was I. Serves me right; back to Delia I go.

Summer drinking

I don't really talk about drinks here because I am the world's least sophisticated drinker. The cheaper the better. The only question I ask of alcohol is: can it burn holes through carpet? If so, pass it along. Quickly, now.

But with the summer - or this approximation of "summer" we have here - comes a new kind of drinking and the possibility of a sundowner, rather than just yopping the cork out of a £5.99 Merlot as the second hand flicks over to 6pm and sinking down at the kitchen table with some scraggy, dishwasher-cloudy wineglass (or just a ladle).

Anyway, raging through the larder yesterday for something that would constitute a cheerful drinky to a) celebrate the sunny evening and b) mask the worst effects of my headcold, I stumbled across a bottle of Martini Rosato, which is just like Martini Rosso (mmmmm) only made with pomegranate and lime.

It makes a very fetching summer drink just poured neat over a lot of ice with some lemon (or lime):






So this summer, if I ever get round to having people over, I'm going to dispense with Pimm's. All that chopping up fruit and dicking about with lemonade drives me nuts and I don't want to have to keep running back to the kitchen and hacking up orange ("Ouch ouch! My eye!") while I'm trying to have a nice time. My guests can have Martini Rosato and like it. Another decorative thing to do for a party - thanks to Rita Konig's Culinary Trickery - is to deploy prosecco in tumblers full of ice. It's a very refreshing drinky, even if it can't burn holes through carpet.




NB - apologies for over-staged photo. I just can't get over how nice other bloggers' pictures are so I'm trying to make an effort.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Pig's cheek stew with cauliflower mash

Waitrose has a clever thing at its meat counter called "forgotten cuts", where they sell the odds and ends of animal, which have become so fashionable in the last four or five years.

Usually it's just pork belly and kidney and I'm like "Yawn, not forgotten by me, laddie-me-lad" but the other day they were offering a pack of pig's cheeks. And I said to myself "Hello. Now that really is interesting." So I bought them. Here they are.



I always consider recipes that work first time (for me) as "easy" recipes, since I am so liable to get things wrong. And when I say get things wrong, I mean be too lazy to read the recipe properly, or to measure ingredients out correctly, or put the kitchen timer on. But since this recipe went right first time, I categorize it as being an "easy" recipe. I also had with it a cauliflower mash, inspired by the fashion and food blogger Liberty London Girl, who was busy poking fun at me the other week for my fear of carbohydrate. But I put a potato in it. Ha! (DID YOU LIKE MY HYPERLINK?)

So here we go. This stew makes the pig's cheeks taste quite like beef, but in a nice way. The recipe is a bastardisation of a thing I found in a Gary Rhodes book, the name of which now escapes me.

For the pig's cheek stew:
For 2

4 pig's cheeks
2 carrots, quartered
2 stick celery, quartered
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium onion
1/3 bottle cheap red wine
1/3 pint of stock
4 black peppercorns
Assorted herbs: parsley, sage, thyne and bay leaf. But do not worry if you don't have any/all

1 - Brown the pig's cheeks in a large frying pan for about 4-5 minutes each side. I think it's important here to fry in either ground-nut oil or lard and NOT olive oil because the olive oil will burn and taste horrible. Remove the cheeks to a casserole dish.




2 - Fry the onions, carrots, garlic and celery for 10 minutes over a very low flame. I know it's boring and it seems like nothing's happening but if you cook them any hotter they'll burn, you know they will.


3 - Add the red wine and the stock to the vegetables and bring to a brisk simmer. Then add to the cheeks. Stir round and then add the herbs and four black peppercorns. Give it another stir and put the lid on and cook on a low heat for 2 hours. Season to taste with salt after it's cooked.


Here are some herbs. I happened to have a lot hanging around so I put a lot in, but this would work just as well with whatever you've got - thyme OR bay leaves or sage or whatever.





For the cauliflower mash:
For 2

1 cauliflower
1 medium sized floury potato (like a King Edward)
1 tablespoon of cream
1 large pinch of salt

1 - Boil the potato and cauliflower until soft - the potato takes about 25 minutes, if chopped into 4 and the cauliflower takes about 5 minutes.
2 - Put the potato and cauliflower into a blender and WHIZZ. Add a tablespoon of cream and a large pinch of salt. I had to blend my cauliflower and potato mix in two batches.



So there we go. Not very summery, but then it's not really summer yet.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Don't mind me, I'm just trying out a hyperlink

Which hasn't worked. It's supposed to go to Jamie Oliver's website, but it just hits a brick wall. Does anyone know anything about this shit?!

...... [Later]........

Ha! It works!!! Many thanks to my technowhizzkids who helped out by posting advice below. This is going to usher in a brand new world of Recipe Rifling.

xxxx

Friday, 14 May 2010

Better late than never

A visitor to this blog reminded me that I haven't posted those wedding photos that I promised. So here are one or two...


Me and the Hamburgler. She isn't actually as tall as that, she is wearing mega shoes. But even without them she's pretty tall.



All-important back view of the dress...



Cake! Obviously

I'd post more but then it would start to be like a spread in Hello! And also my teeth being in their ongoing state of mangling - by my damned handsome bastard dentist - look at the moment like a tankful of pirahnas. They are higgledy and piggledy. So frankly they're not really for public consumption.

I can stick some more shots of the food up though? But how interesting would that be really? I can't tell you how to make any of it because I don't know. Although I was thinking about getting the wedding cake recipe off Angela Hartnett because it was just amazing. A sort of banana carrotty cake thing. It made me slightly angry it was so delicious.

While we're all just waiting around

So, I'm planning to write about pig's cheeks in a bit. But not until tomorrow, realistically, because I'm cooking them for dinner tonight. And for lunch today we're having chicken soup, and I know you won't give a rat's ass about that. So I'm at a bit of a loss of what to write about. And I know that if you're going to do a blog you have to do it every day or people think you're a lazy tosspot who's only doing a blog because your husband is on telly and so you can't be arsed to get a job.

I hate soup, have I mentioned that? Urgh, hate it. What, honestly, is the point of soup? I am not a baby. I have a lot of very large, some very sharp, teeth. I can chew stuff. I like chewing stuff. I don't need my food boiled up and then WHIZZED, thanks.

Whenever I am flicking through a recipe book in a shop, if it's got an entire section on soup I don't buy it. I will eat soup that has good bits in it, you know, beans, barley, chunks of meat, entire quarters of carrot - all that jazz. So that's what we're having for lunch. It's only acceptable because I found this huge chicken in Waitrose, amazing, free range, slow growing bird - looked like it had a pretty good life - and it was reduced by £5 to £8 or something crazy. So I took it home and roasted it up and we've been eating it cold since then. Except this lunchtime, when it will be hot. In soup.

But I've been writing a thing for a magazine about other food bloggers and it's made me realise that I am just like totally missing a trick. So many of them write about restaurants! They're crazy for them! They go in and take photos of their food before they eat it and then post them on the internet and write about them.

And they go to foodie parties and get actual journalistical stories and break news on their blogs. The reason that this is all new to me is that I haven't been able to bring myself to have a really good look at other people's blogs because they're always so much better, with cooler photos and more interesting shit on them than mine that I get depressed and have to go back to bed for three or four days.

But with this in mind, maybe while we're passing the time before I go to the shops and buy the stuff I need for my pig's cheek thing (carrots, celery, cheap red wine) I should tell you about a food party I went to last night?

Okay, so it was a party for Tom Aikens at Somerset House. He's got some new restaurant thing opening there. There were lots of red lights everywhere and the music was really loud and there were canapes but we couldn't seem to access them, so Giles agreed to do an interview on camera (for "Tommy TV" or something) in exchange for 4 mini cheeseburgers AND THEY NEVER BROUGHT THEM.

But the foie gras and tomato chutney thing and the chicken skewer I had were both really nice. I think it will be a good restaurant. And Tom Aikens who, when I was a baby hack, had a reputation as not being especially nice, is charming! A really cheerful, smiley guy. I was amazed. We had a little joke - titter titter - about both being redheads and how shit it is. We compared freckles in the scary red light. He was wearing Converse, which I always think is the mark of a good fellow. I don't know if he's always been like that or it's because of Giles or maybe a touch of bankruptcy is good for the soul, but I give him 9.5 out of 10.

Then I had a couple of fags (or did I just mean to?) with my old mate Rob Sharp from the Independent and worshipped Elizabeth Day from the Observer for a bit and talked world domination strategies with Zoe Strimpel from City AM. And then we drove home and ate cold chicken as I nursed a really painful attack of heartburn.

And THAT, ladies and gents, is why I don't write about restaurants or food parties. Best left to the real food bloggers.

Peace out. Pig's cheeks soon.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Crispy pork with lemongrass and chilli



I've been trying for a while to re-create a Thai minced pork dish that , seven years ago, I used to eat at least twice a week for lunch.

It hasn't been going very well because I don't know what it's called - either in Thai or in English - and so I can't find a recipe. I tried to just, you know, wing it once and piled in fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and whatever else I could find in my cupboards onto my minced pork. And it was disgusting. Genuinely the worst thing I've ever cooked - apart from that time at university when I made pasta with a black peppercorn sauce meant for steak.

But then as a wedding present a friend got me Books for Cooks 9 and while flicking through it I found a recipe for Crispy Pork with Lemongrass and Chilli and I thought that it must be an approximation of my Thai thing and so I made it today. For lunch.

The reason I've got such a desire for this thing right now is all because of the election. You see, my first job was as a researcher at The Week, which is a news digest magazine. You might not believe it to look at my vacant little face, the dim spark in my callow eyes, but I used to be, like, well into politics, bruv. And my job at The Week meant that I had to read all the papers, every single day. ALL of them. Every day. And not just the fashion pages and the first paragraph of some crappy feature about Prozac. I mean all the politics pages, all the leaders, each columnist on every comment page from start to finish, right from the dull opening paragraph to the tedious conclusion. Everything. I used to be able to guess the columnist 9 times out of 10 from the opening sentence. Like a newsnerd's version of Name That Tune.

It's why these days I only read the fashion pages and crappy features about Prozac.

Even if I hadn't been interested in it, I couldn't help but know everything there was to know about the politics of the time; when I was there it was all about the dodgy dossier, Hutton, Iraq, Alastair Campbell's departure from No. 10, all that Sexator stuff: Rod Liddle and Alicia Monckton, Boris and Petsy Wyatt, David Blunkett and Kimberly Quinn. This last was triply exciting for us as Kimberley Quinn used to receive, and probably still does, a personally-posted free copy of The Week, which was mailed to her house every Thursday by whatever poverty-stricken Arts graduate was sitting on reception that day.

I sat through 2 years of it all in that little office on Westbourne Grove, reading the papers, photocopying, making coffee, cutting out and blu-tacking up Giles's columns to the wall, sweeping up, finding my boss's glasses, piling up old newspapers against the far window which used to bulge and leak whenever it rained.

And then, when I was feeling rich (because it cost £6 with rice) I'd go to the Thai takeaway round the corner on Chepstow Road (I never knew and still don't know what it's called) and purchase this flaming hot, dark, rich porky thing and scoff it at my desk with a large glass of water reading - as a bit of light relief - the fashion pages and crappy features about Prozac.

So say "24 hour news" to me, and I reach for the nam pla. Yesterday's departure of Gordon Brown and the arrival of David Cameron, David Dimbleby's timbre, the speculation about ties, outriders, policy, who's got what in the cabinet, the minutiae of Buckingham Palace protocol, made me forget all the bad things about working in an office. For a couple of hours last night I longed to be back in that room in Westbourne Grove, eating my expensive Thai lunch and watching BBC News 24 on the fuzzy telly in the corner of the office with the boy who sat opposite me and talking about what was going to happen next.

But you can't ever go back. The office has long gone, anyway - moved somewhere else, I can't remember where, and thus the Thai place is no longer round the corner. But as a pretty fair substitute I can sit in my kitchen eating an approximation of the Thai thing with my husband, listening to the lunchtime news on Radio 4.

So here we go:

Crispy Pork with lemongrass and chilli - from Mince! 100 Fabulously Frugal Recipes by Mitzie Wilson, via Books for Cooks 9

For 4 as a starter, for 2 as a light lunch

For the sauce:
4 tbsp fish sauce
juice 2 limes
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil

For the pork:
1 tbsp sunflower oil
500g pork mince
1/2 onion, chopped
1 lemon grass stalk, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 spring onions, sliced
2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander
fish sauce
Tabasco

1 - Make the sauce by whisking ingredients together
2 - Cook the pork and onions together over a medium heat, breaking up any large lumps of mince until it looks fine and crumbly (about 10 mins)
3 - if your mince is very fatty you can drain some of it away and return to the heat
4 - Cook for another 5 minutes. The recipe says "until crispy and golden" but I didn't really achieve that. You might.
5 - Add the lemongrass, chilli and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in your sauce, coriander and spring onions. The recipe say cook for another 2 minutes, but I blasted it for a bit longer, about 5-7 minutes, with a bit of water so that the spring onions and garlic were a bit less scary.

Have this with large leaves of iceberg lettuce, which you wrap the mince up in like some insane Atkins fajita. Serve with PMQs.



Quail's eggs


Are quail's eggs seasonal? I just don't know. All I do know is that I went to the butcher on Kentish Town High Street the other day and he was selling some on his counter top. And I thought "quail's eggs!" I haven't had any of those for ages (neatly forgetting the zillions I guzzle regularly at Jin Kichi in Hampstead).

There are two tricks to cooking quail's eggs passed on to me by the mighty Mark Hix. Actually, make that three tricks.

1 - Boil for two minutes and then plunge into very cold water, which stops them cooking and makes the yolk go that lovely fondant consistency
2 - When you peel them - which can be a bugger - start at the pointy end rather than the fat end. It makes the white less likely to rip
3 - Eat with CELERY SALT, which you make by baking some celery leaves (just lop them off a bunch of celery stalks) in a hot oven for 3 minutes until brittle and flaky and then pounding together with some salt.

The best thing to do with quail's eggs, to my mind, is to have them as a starter. They have an interesting gamey flavour, which I think is lost if you put them in any sort of salad. Much better in my opinion to leave them as they are.

Girls eat about four as a canape and boys about 6.

By the end of all that peeling you'll be an expert.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Escape from Blue Palace

Aloha! Or whatever the fuck they say in Greece. Look, I totally won't bore you with a million photos of my honeymoon because it's only the modern equivalent of getting you all round to mine for a 4 hour slide show of holiday snaps. And anyway, I know you don't care about Knossos or sea views or any of that smulchy crap: you want to know about that damned food.

So, okay, here we go: eating in Greece is as tricky as eating anywhere else in the world: big hotels will insist on serving you 19€ cheeseburgers or dim sum and sea-view lunch joints (even on teeny tiny islands) will fob you off with limp, cold dolmades straight from the fridge and a sad chicken souvlaki with giant puffy white rice and carrots and peas out of a can.

Fine for some but not OK for us, right? So, I whittled down for you the best places to go in Agios Nikolaos (Crete) and Santorini. Specifc? Yes, but I only had a ten-day honeymoon and we had to sift through a lot of shit to find nice places.

We stayed first in a huge mega hotel called the Blue Palace. Nice, if you do want that 19€ cheeseburger or dim sum at 4am, but in terms of food, about as real as sour-flavour Haribo. Nearby, in Elounda  was a restaurant called Vritomartis (do not confuse it with the naturist hotel if you are looking it up), which did fantastic dolmades and actual fresh fish - for only about £10,000! A snip. Here is a nice view of the sea from Elounda harbour:


Then in Agios Nikolaos there is a brilliant place called Pelakonos, which has a sort of tree-house feel and has delicous spinach pies, more fish and shrimp saganaki, which is shrimp in a kind of spicy cheese and tomato sauce.

Here is Pelakonos:


... isn't it nice? And here's a shot of the food:


yum.

[N.B. I would like to point out that although I disapprove quite strongly of taking photos of your food in restaurants (it freaks the kitchen out, it freaks other diners out) I took a photo here because we were the only people having lunch. This is no reflection on the quality of the place, it was just early May and very quiet.]

Anyway, after about a week we did a runner from Crete and went to Santorini, which is what people are talking about, I guess, when they rave about Greek islands. It is, it must be said, teeming with Japanese and American tourists. I didn't mind, as all the prevalence of Japanese and American people usually means is that a place is a) clean and b) picturesque.

We stayed at Perivolas, a hotel at the end of a mile-long stretch of "Traditional houses" - that is, rooms made out of caves carved into the side of the cliff - in Oia (pronounced "Eee-yah"). Whitewashed, all clinging to the side of the teetering cliffs, these hotels were just bloody gorgeous. The main town of Oia was beautiful, quiet and mostly traffic-free.

Here's a nice view from our cave-room:



... and one from Oia:



and Giles hard at work (seriously):


The two places we found here to eat were Dimitris, in Ammoudhi bay and Krinaki in Finikia. None of this is useful or makes sense or is interesting unless you are planning to take a holiday in Santorini. But if you were, what a stroke of luck this post would be.