Apple glut? Here’s something from Guernsey for you to try



Craig Hamilton was offering around some cooking apples on the Twitters recently and I said “I’ll take a tonne off you”. So he duly dropped a 25 kilo potato sack brimming with bramleys round my house. Fantastic. I’ve risen to the challenge and got busy with my apples. Mum and Dad were coming up, so the first thing I wanted to do was to make a gâche melée with her.


Gâche melée is a local thing from back home in Guernsey. Our other key local cake is called gâche but the two are totally unrelated. If you’ve ever had Dorset apple cake, then you know the sort of thing this is: stick to your ribs appley goodness. Here’s one I made earlier (I thought I’d focussed the camera but it seems I totally forgot).

What does it taste like? Pure comfort food. It’s what you eat on a late summer night when you’ve been swimming in the sea til past dark. It’s bonfire night on a plate, and the taste of lengthening nights as you head to Christmas. It’s a bowlful of my childhood. And standing around my table peeling apples with my mum and my little boy was one of the nicest mornings of cooking I’ve ever done.
There are a range of recipes for gâche melée here:

Like Mum used to make

My Mum’s method is as follows

1/2 lb butter / suet / margarine
1lb sugar
2 eggs
1lb plain flour
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
3lb apples


You’re basically looking to do is make up a cake mix, and then add the apples to it.


1. peel & slice the apples
2. cream the butter and sugar
3. beat in the eggs
4. fold in the flour and spices
5. fold in the apples
6. cook


This recipe does one loaf tin and a a springform sponge tin worth. We’ve always used metal dishes (enamel or non-stick) – some of the other recipes discuss baking trays and the suggestion is that pyrex is no good. Mum used to use a big roasting tin for hers.


Mum’s notes say gas mark 3 for about two hours, but you can get away with higher and quicker. Standard issues skewer test to check it’s done.


If you make more than you can eat, wrap it up tightly and pop it in the freezer.


So that’s the recipe – try it if you’re bored of crumble. And let me know what you think.

A posh restaurant style poached egg: home cooked comfort food at its best

I just poached an egg. I just poached a proper grown up actual poached egg. Now let me tell you something about poached eggs: I can’t cook them. Let me tell you something else: I bloody love poached eggs, me. So much so, that I keep a little league table of bloody brilliant poached eggs. It looks like this:

1. Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, 18th May 2008.
It was the second best poached egg I’ve had, taste wise, but it comes out on top because of the mise en scène: I was on honeymoon, it was on room service, there were orangutans just outside. That’s pretty good going, right?

2. Bedford Lodge Hotel, Newmarket, 10th April 2010.
The morning after our friends Andy & Claire had got married, so a lovely occasion anyway, but with the added benefit of the best poached eggs I’ve ever tasted.

3. My House, Birmingham, 23rd August 2010.
Literally just a few minutes ago I made amazing poached eggs, that didn’t split all over the shop, they looked pretty and tasted amazing.


You see what I mean? Poached eggs are very me. So why the hell couldn’t I cook them until tonight? 

Context and making meaning out of food


When we teach students about textual analysis we often talk about “context” and how that can help shape meaning. By that we mean things like how someone comes to a media text (a TV programme, a film, a song, a newspaper article etc.), how and where they are consuming it, what their personal background is, and what the political and social backdrop is to them being presented with the text. Generally speaking, we media teachers contend that all of these things help individuals to make meaning from texts.

When I was in China last week, I came up with a good allegorical story for this: my chicken sauce story.

Everywhere I went in China, people wanted to feed me. Not because I’m wasting away, but because that’s what you do with guests who have crossed twelve time zones to come and have a chat with you. I think we all know that the Chinese food we have in the UK is anglicised, and also that generally speaking it represents a sub-set of Chinese cuisine (most of the Chinese food we eat in the UK is based on Cantonese cookery, with a few other specialities thrown into the mix).

By the time I visited Jiatong University, Shanghai I’d tried a lot of food that I’d never come across before. Every meal was a mini-adventure. What would be the latest dish to make me say “wow”? How brave would I be when confronted with a goose’s foot, or a chicken with it’s head on? What the hell is this dish? We had a superb meal at Jiatong’s Faculty Club (the staff dining room – we used to have one at BCU, but it’s now a conference hall… it was never as good as the Faculty Club though). The meal included a very simply presented chicken. With it’s head on. The chicken was accompanied by a mysterious sauce.

Quite thick, but starting to separate, the sauce had a kind of beige brown colour. “Good chicken – try the sauce” my colleague Duncan told me. “Wow, that’s nice, what is it?” I asked. “No idea… but I like it”. We debated what it might be. It looked like it might have some sort of peanut base, like a satay, but it didn’t really taste of peanut. It wasn’t spicy, that was for sure. On the third taste I worked it out: it was chicken gravy. 

A bit of flower added to cooking juices, and warmed through. Unmistakeable. Only we had mistaken it, because the chicken had a head on, we were in Shanghai, half the people at our table didn’t speak English, and we were being served it alongside a variety of other weird and wonderful dishes. Something so obvious was discounted before I started, and I moved on to consider other, more exotic angles. The context of this meal made me come at gravy from a new angle. And you know what? It was great gravy.

Done my christmas baking, four weeks late

Ever since I was a baby my Mum has made the most amazing mince pies.  They are topped with an almond macaroon type thing, and I have not met a single person who doesn’t think they’re the best thing ever.  The last two years we’ve done Christmas up here, so I’ve made my own, but this year we went to Mum’s so I didn’t get a chance to bake my own.  My parent’s then followed us up to Brum, complete with a supply of pies which were finally finished last night so I haven’t had a chance to bake my own until today.

They’re piping hot right now, so here’s a photo of the 2006 batch:


How to make: 

well leaving out the instructions for pastry and mincemeat, get your pies set up ready to go.  To top 8-10 pies you need:

3oz (85g) caster sugar
3oz (85g) ground almonds
2 egg whites
a drop of almond essence

Whisk egg whites until stiff. Fold in sugar, almonds & almond essence. Pile on to mincemeat and whack them in the oven. Enjoy!!
Oven setting 375 dgs / gas mark 5   Cooking time 30 mins

If you have enough in the house for one last batch of mince pies, give them a try.

Incidentally, this recipe is from the awesome 70’s cooking book The Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book which I noticed being used on Come Dine with Me the other day, and which probably taught most 70s cooks how to make spag bol and trifle.

Jon’s 5-bean chilli

I never made a veg chilli and didn’t have a recipe, but I made this one up as I went along one night and it worked so well I made it again and again and again…


Olive oil – a good glug
4 x garlic cloves
2 x medium red onions
2 x stalks of celery

Either fresh red chillis or dried chilli flakes: I use one decent tea spoon of dried chilli flakes to replace 1 whole chilli.  1 = stew 2 = very mild 3 = interesting 4 = medium 4+= hot
Cumin – 1 heaped teaspoon
Paprika – about 3 teaspoons

1 x tube tomato puree
3 x cans toms (I use 2 cans chopped 1 can plum: adds a bit if texture)
3 x veg stock cubes
2 x bay leaves

1 x can kidney beans
1 x can borlotti beans
1 x can pinto beans
1 x can haricot beans
1 x can canellini beans

Water – half a pint ish

1 x square of dark chocolate

1 x big stock pot!

Creme Fraiche, sour cream or yoghurt


1. Finely chop garlic and onion, and fresh chillis (de-seeded!) if you’re using them
2. Cut the celery in half lengthways, then chop finely
3. Put  a healthy swig of oil in the pan and get the fire going, medium, under it
4. Start to soften the garlic, onion and celery.  Don’t colour it if you can avoid it, just get it softening – the longer and slower the better (10-15mins) but if you’re in a rush just fry it off
5. After the veg has cooked for a few minutes add the paprika, chilli, and cumin, give it a good old stir
6. When the veg is nearly done, add the whole tube of tomato puree and mix it in and it makes a really nice spicy paste
7. Whack in the chopped toms, and the plum toms – don’t smash the whole ones up yet, let them cook whole
8. Crumble in the stock cubes, mix
9. While that starts heating up, drain all your beans, and add them to the pot
10. Add some water – depends on how thick your sauce is and how long you can wait to eat- you want to loosen it up, and then we’re going to cook it down so it’s really thick again
11. Add bay leaves and a pinch of salt
12. Bring to boil
12. Put on the lowest heat you have available, chuck a lid on it, and leave it to simmer
13. Check every 5 minutes or so so it doesn’t stick, give it a bit of a stir.  Add a little more water if needed depending on cooking time.
14 Leave for as long as you can wait!  I left it for an hour first time, I leave it longer when I can
15. When your nearly done chuck on some rice, and check the seasoning – if it’s not hot enough you can always add a little extra chilli especially if you use the dried ones
16. Add a square of good plain chocolate towards the end, and give one final check for the seasoning
17. Serve with rice and a huge dollop of creme fraiche/sour cream/yoghurt

I’d say this makes enough for about 6 – 8 people (pad it out with bread and salad if needed) including enough for seconds at each serving.
It’s even better the day after you make it and keeps for a good few days in the fridge and I reckon a month or so in the freezer (I freeze left over chilli con carne and it’s magic!).
If you can’t handle it with rice the second night, you can make enchiladas out of it: warm some wraps, stick some of the chilli (heated up first) in the middle and roll them up
Chuck in a baking dish, pour some more chilli over the top and add loads of cheese, then bake for 10-15 minutes.

Cheap as Chips
The beans and tomatoes cost about 40 – 80p a can depending on where you get them, so total cost is about £4 assuming you have the other ingredients in your cupboard.
Co-op does a really nice range of beans, they’re organic ones and cost about 60p.  You can also use dried ones but have to soak them , and could replace any of the beans with a  different type like butter beans  – but keep a mix going I reckon is best.