Jamie's turkey and sweet leek pie

Did anyone see the turkey and sweet leek pie that Jamie Oliver did on his Christmas special? I have been dreaming about that pie ever since and I never make pie.

Armed with a truck load of turkey left from Christmas day, I ventured out into the cold to find me some leeks and - a first for me - ready made puff pastry. Three shops later and recovering from the fact that two people in different supermarkets had never heard of puff pastry I brought my bounty home.

This is a super easy recipe made more so by the ready made pastry (father forgive me for I have sinned). I already had boiled up the carcass for an all-cure stock in the morning – bones, celery, carrots, onion (with skin), bay leaves... you know the score – so used this in the recipe too. Timewise this is not a mid-weeker but one for a weekend feast.

One thing I have noticed with Mr. Oliver is his portion control is like my aunt's from Sicily. I made 3/4 of the recipe and still ended up with enough for 8 (The other pie was out of shot). For this I cannot hate him.

This was one heck of a tasty pie and a real winter warmer, served with a pile of mash and buttered peas.

Sir Jamie of Oliver we salute you!

REVIEW: Bar Du Chocolat

In the alternative playground that is Brighton I am always surprisingly stumped for a place to go for a good, honest cup of cha that is not some Godforsaken chain (spit).

When a good friend of mine surprised me with a lunchtime visit to Brighton, I micro-panicked as the Mock Turtle tea room was a bit of a walk, so stumbling across the tucked away Bar Du Chocolat was a bit of a lucky find. It comes from the people who bring you the cake and chocolate emporium, Choccywoccydoodah (WARNING: totally bone website design).

For those of you who don't know, Choccywoccydoodah is a feast for the eyes. Amazing chocolate sculptures that defy gravity and sanity are on display in their main shop window and are definitely worth a peek. I mean, I think I saw Jesus chocolate this year.

I had a chocolate & coconut cupcake topped with a sugar rose and practically a jug of hot chocolate to wash it down with. Apologies for the bad photo but I only had my phone, but you can see how pretty they are and the cakes looked fantastic. Bar Du Chocolat is more of a boutique than a café with red chaises lounge, voluptuous, nudy murals and rhinestones a plenty. It's real tongue in cheek decadence which matches their style of cakes a treat, making it a very fun place to pop in for a cuppa and as Brighton as it gets.

Choccywoccydoodah are famous for their wedding cakes and I have been to two receptions now where they have made a real visual impact (and no doubt an impact on the father of the bride's wallet) but have had little impact on taste. In fact, one wedding the cake was left uneaten at the tables - can you imagine the horror? The cakes have been dry and well, very ordinary. My cupcake was ok but much the same as the aforementioned wedding cakes but the hot chocolate was good.

Despite that, it's well worth a trip for a cake and drink for the decor alone and then a jaunt to the main shop in Duke Street for the visual feast.

Buon Natale!

Ah, the eating feast that is Christmas. The one time of year that elasticated waistbands are acceptable.

Despite my Italian heritage, Christmas round ours has always been a mainly English affair, despite the lack of the cuisine throughout the rest of the year. But the thought of a sprout-less, turkey-less and christmaspud-less dinner is unthinkable.

Christmas Eve for the Italians differs from region to region (as does most things) but in our neck of the woods eels and baccalá (a dried cod packed in salt, no matter how much you soak the thing it still remains salty) are served. We love it so much we named one of our mountains after it! I remember when my aunt and uncle came down from Essex for Christmas back in the day, they would bring down a bucket of live eels. Imagine looking into your bath as a four year old and seeing a swarm of wriggling black eels!

Christmas day sees better fare (in my opinion!). They normally serve a lasagna and follow it with a capon, potatoes and salad.

Don't get me wrong, I love Italian food (every other day of the year). It's like a member of the family.

Despite our English adoption of the main feast we never go without a huge glut of traditional Italian sweets and cakes. Deep fried ravioli with a chickpea and chocolate filling (Cagionetti they are called. I've always known them as "i cegi" but that's the crazy dialect for you), pastry bows dusted with icing sugar, almond torrone and of course the vital, fragrant panettone are always made room for.

Oh, and the other thing we don't have is Father Christmas. We have a witch, La Befana, who comes along on her broomstick on the night of January the 5th to fill stockings with gifts and sweets (for the good ones!).

REVIEW: Bluebell Railway Afternoon Tea

I like steam trains, infact I would go so far to say I LOVE them.

The Bluebell Railway is a gorgeous little gem about a half hours drive from Brighton. One of the best ideas they have had in a while is to get hold of some original Pullman trains and offer a variety of dining experiences from the full evening shebang on the Golden Arrow Pullman to lower key affairs like fish and chip afternoon or the real ale train. Always one for a spot of afternoon tea and a bevvie of cakes and sandwiches I leapt at the opportunity for a cream tea onboard the first class lounge car. Cakes and steam trains in one hit? Too much!

You will see in the pic the sweet little mix of goodies and whilst not all homemade I feel (tut), they were enjoyed by staring out the window at the rolling hills of England and fields full of Partridge (bagging one was not exactly an option here), only interrupted by the charming toot of the whistle. The tea was kept topped up and the stands were refilled. The £30pp was well worth it for the whole experience. Even the egg sandwiches were good. And that's saying something.

Now if this was the sort of travelling experience you would get from London to Brighton even I'd be tempted to commute. Unfortunately being rammed on like sardines with the mobile yapping suited and booted and the culinary delights of a squashed coronation chicken sandwich from the service cart is enough to keep me away!

Me and this blog

Howdy do.

I'm a Brighton based graphic designer with an Italian background meaning I am passionate (read argumentative) about everything from design, squirrels, Fiat 500's and in particular food.

Don't get me started on cheap mince, pre-packed meals, Delia Smith's shortcuts to cooking or the wrongness of Spaghetti Bolognese (and oh my, people who call it "Spag Bol"). I think good food is the backbone of a good life and being Italian means that I spend a lot of time at the table with my family eating, discussing what is to be eaten next or arguing about how best to prepare this, that or the other.

Having grown up with the privilege of great home cooking (thanks mum!), home grown and reared ingredients all served up with a huge side order of love, it would be impossible for me not to feel as I do.

People who say that they don't have time to cook and fuel themselves with the garbage that is convenience food are alien to me. Some of the best meals I have had have been whipped up in 15 minutes with the three remaining ingredients in the cupboard - it takes longer for take away to arrive people! On the other hand, I think fine dining should be left to the professionals - I don't want my friends waiting hungry at the table while I flambé individual strips of citrus rind á la Gary Rhodes. My food is about rustic passion, instinct and above all enjoyment.

I want to share some recipes, cooking disasters, local food finds and champion food heros.

So, what is this blog about apart from food?

Restaurant reviews: Oh I'm a critical one. If you go out to dinner and pay over £15 for a main it has got to be better than what you can prepare at home, no? Always with an eye out for the details of the design and interior aspect of restaurants I have seen some genius and some downright dirty.

Design: I get totally excited by great design. Clever design. Design that makes you wince that you did not come up with the impossibly simple but genius ideas yourself.