My favourite things from the USA, for 4 July and beyond


Happy 4th July to my dear friends in the US, I hope you have a fabulous day. I always fancied 4th July celebrations, from a clam bake to a peach cobbler.

Whilst there are many things (well, honestly, one thing) coming out of the US that are most definitely not on my favourites list (not even my mild dislike list) then there are a great many things in food and drink that I do love. So in tribute, these are the things I’d be celebrating:


Pancakes at Clinton St Baking Co


Proper fluffy American pancakes at breakfast

Love these, favourite breakfast ever. I would be hard pressed to pick between those at the Clinton St Baking Co and Kitchenette as my absolute favourites, but many places do a reasonable pass at this classic breakfast dish.


Martha's American Food - great cookbook gift for a food lover of all things US of A


Martha Stewart

Because if I could go to anyone’s clam bake, I’d love it to be Martha’s. I think all I know about American traditions I had my first lessons in from Martha.


Time for a Tom Collins?


The Tom Collins

I do like my gin, and I like a cocktail. Or two. And I do love a Tom Collins, particularly in the summer. Which was invented in NYC in 1874 apparently. I knew I loved New York.


Amazing burgers at Annie's Burger Shack


The burger

I don’t mean a McD’s, but I do love a really good burger. But it has to be a good one. If I was heading out locally, then I love Annie’s Burger Shack in Nottingham, and for the full on US aluminium clad diner, then the OK Diner just outside of Stamford is brilliant.


Heston's Pulled Pork with Asian Slaw


Pulled pork

Sorry to keep with a meat theme, but I love pulled pork, or slow cooked brisket…really any of those really long, slow cooked Texan BBQ style dishes. That said, my favourite recipe is by Heston, and comes with an Asian style slaw, so a bit off the original, but delicious.


Alice Waters Art of Simple Food


Alice Waters

Because I love her food economy manifesto of “good, clean, fair”. When I’m not eating burgers and pulled pork, I want to cook from Alice’s books. And maybe one day eat at Chez Panisse.


I think I might opt for a cheeky Monday night burger, or possibly even pancakes and bacon at dinner time. Still works with a Tom Collins for me.

Are you celebrating 4 July? I’d love to know if so, and what you’re doing.


The Friday Five – American Food Writers I’m Thankful For


I know Thanksgiving was yesterday, but still in a spirit of feeling thankful, then these are the five food writers from the US that I really appreciate. Some have place on my shelves, some have been and gone, and some are just such icons of  the US that they deserve a mention!


Martha Stewart Cupcakes - a great gift for a food lover who loves Martha


When I think of the US, and particularly US holidays and high days, then it’s always Martha Stewart I think of. I want a 4th July clam bake because of Martha, and I don’t even like clams. Followed by peach cobbler, and I’m not that fond of peaches! I know it’s easy to be rude about Martha, but I have a lot of admiration for her, and no list would be right without her to me!


My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz - great gift of a cookbook for a food lover


I love David Lebovitz’s writing and recipes, or maybe it’s just the fabulous tales of eating, baking and bakeries in Paris. But his writing style really appeals to me, the photography is always beautiful and his recipes are for things I’d like to make. My Paris Kitchen is definitly on my wish list.


Moosewood cookbook - great gift of a cookbook for a food lover who likes it vegetable based


I received The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen many years ago from my American godmother. It was the most exotic cookbook I had at that time, not been particularly big on vegetarian cooking at that stage. It must date me that tofu was exotic at that time, but then this book is just celebrating its 40th anniversary. Now, I didn’t have a first edition for sure, but this has probably stood the test of time. Sadly, it left my shelves some years ago (sorry, Brigi) but probably should think about finding another copy!


Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child - great gift for a food lover who likes their French with an American twist


Must include Julia Child in this list, because I love authentic, one off people and she was surely one of those. I think she did for French cooking in the US what Elizabeth David did for Mediterranean cooking here, crossed with the style and somewhat acerbic delivery of Fanny Craddock.


Chez Panisse Cafe by Alice Waters - great gift of a cookbook for food lovers who love iconic cooks


I have huge admiration for Alice Waters, not just for creating amazing restaurants that I’d love to eat at, and matching fabulous cookbooks, but for the work she does in the US on food issues. I know she does lots of work with kids and schools to promote better eating, particularly about growing your own food. For now, I’d have to settle for cooking from the books, but when the recipes are as good as hers then that’s no bad thing.

I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving, and have many things to be thankful for. Breaking bread, or cake, or anything else with those you’re thankful for has to be the best thing about the day, and any one of these would bring a US flavour to any of your meals.


The Friday Five – entertaining entertaining


I am preparing for a houseful this weekend, I think 27 at last count. Youngest is 18 months,  and the oldest…well, the birthday boy is belatedly celebrating his 70th. And it’s the first time the two extended families have met. Which means the food needs to facilitate good conversation and good memories.

There are plenty of family favourites to work from, but if your entertaining needs a dose of inspiration then how about some of these?


Martha's Entertaining - perfect gift for a food lover who loves to entertain


Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations – I love Martha Stewart. I wish I had the time to make my events as wonderful looking as hers but I don’t, but at least I can pinch a few ideas and take things up at least a notch! This is about the full thing: the food, the drinks, the table settings, the decorations. Sadly we don’t have the weather or, in my case, the garden acreage for some of these things, but lovely to look at!


You're All Invited - perfect gift for a food lover who loves to entertain


You’re All Invited: Margot’s Recipes for Entertaining – this is much more about the food, and oh what food! I like that this says it covers dinner for 15 or drinks and canapes for 50, or even just a good family lunch. I’m a great admirer of Margot’s, think she’s been a little overshadowed by Fergus, but this book shows that she really is fantastic cook and writer.


Friends at my table - perfect gift for a food lover who loves to entertain


Friends at My Table: A year of eating, drinking and making merry – I’ve written about Alice Hart’s book before, and it’s definitely on my wish list. It’s about seasonal food with friends, which I can’t think of much that is better in the world. I just need someone now to hold a Vietnamese bridal shower for!


Entertaining Solo - perfect gift for a food lover who likes to entertain small numbers


Entertaining Solo: Delicious Recipes for Single Cooks who Like to Entertain – I thought this was a bit of an oxymoron at first, a party for one. But it turns it out is more about turning out great food when it’s just you in the kitchen. I take it that it means something a bit more unusual than just a big bowl of chilli and all the accompaniments!


Instant Entertaining - perfect gift for food lovers who love to entertain, quickly


Instant Entertaining – I don’t own any Donna Hay cookbooks (should I?) but I always love the photography. And I like the premise of this book which is about fitting entertaining into our everyday lives, which she acknowledges are incredibly busy. As Shirley Conran said, life is too short to stuff a mushroom, and this at least gives some very decent alternatives.

Personally, this weekend I am happy that there are some dishes that I made on quieter days that are sat in the freezer just waiting for days like this. That, and an early morning delivery from Ocado. Yes, you still can’t beat a few sausage rolls going into the oven at the last minute! Wish me luck!


Getting ready for the 4th July


I am a great champion of British food, but it doesn’t stop me enjoying food from all around the globe. And I’ve always wanted to be in the US for a 4th July celebration. Heck, I don’t even like clams, but I’ve always wanted to go to a clam bake on the beach. Preferably one Martha Stewart has organised.

Here’s a few things that I might add to the shopping list to spice up a 4th July evening here in the wet Leicestershire countryside until Martha sends my invite.


Maker's Mark Bourbon


This is a special edition bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon which would add something to the evening. There were great bourbon based cocktails on offer the night we ate at WD-50, and I think could get a taste for them.


A1 Steak Sauce


I don’t think I’ve ever had A1 steak sauce but I think I probably should have a bottle on standby for this particular BBQ.


Marshmallow Fluff for s-mores


Then there’ll need to be marshmallow fluff, perfect for very quick s’mores I guess.


Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix


I’d want corn muffins, and this is America’s favourite mix. Of course, I’d rather make my own but if you want a true American taste, then maybe this is the route to it.


Duff Goldman Zebra Cake


Duff Goldman is one of my favourite US exports, so happy to see his product line here in the UK. In a gloriously over the top way, I’d mix up his zebra cake and serve that.

Nothing too serious, and probably unlikely to see any of these at Martha’s but what the heck!


The Friday Five – An American Cooking and Reading List


I may have mentioned before that there are one or two cookbooks in my house, and that I always think I could find space for one or two more. And whenever I’m in the US, there is always serious temptation put in my way. I resisted all but one this year, and restrained myself with just taking photos to remind myself of stuff to put on my wishlist for another day.

These fell into two camps really, some traditional cookbooks and then another group that I would say were more food writing. This week I’m going to share the cookbooks, as hopefully will have read more of the book I did bring back before next week’s post.


The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook

The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders – I loved both the title and front cover of this book, and obviously I’m a bit of a jam fan. I don’t know Blue Chair Fruit, maybe need to spend some more time on the West Coast, which is where they are based. I want to make Strawberry- Blood Orange marmalade with Rosemary, or even the Black Fig and Candied Citrus Jam. I don’t need another jam book, but when did need come into this?


The Art of Fermentation


The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World – one heck of a title, and lousy photo from me. But this one fascinated me when I saw it in Eataly, as it’s about food, not just beer or wine. Quite a lot of theory at the start, but then pretty extensive recipes covering everything from mead to pickles. I would say great gift for a seriously adventurous cook always looking to try something new.


Clinton St Baking Company Cookbook


Clinton Street Baking Company Cookbook – I wrote about our fantastic breakfasts at Clinton Street yesterday, and I was sorely tempted by the book. The book covers more than just breakfast, as the restaurant does, but all incredibly tasty sounding, and the sort of thing you will want to cook and bake again and again.


The Hamptons: Food, Family and History


The Hamptons: Food, Family and History by Ricky Lauren – yes, she’s one of those Lauren’s so I am sure their life on the Hamptons was pretty idyllic. I’ve always wanted to go to the Hamptons, always wanted to go to a clambake on the beach, followed by peach cobbler. This book is probably the closest I’ll ever get. That, or a subscription to Martha Stewart Living!


Martha's American Food


Martha’s American Food – oh come on, like I could leave Martha out! I’m sure it’s clear that I am devoted to British food and producers, but that doesn’t stop me enjoying other stuff too. And I do love Martha, and that wholesome American country eating image. See previous note ref my obsession with the clam bake. I don’t even like clams! I do like that this book covers all American eating, and then from the four corners of the country, so great variety. I’m pretty sure this will end up here and be well used!

As it ended up, I was underweight on my luggage so could have added a few of these in! Next week I’ll write about the food writing that I had my eye on as well, as there were some really great books out there.

Just need to find some more space, and time to read them!





The Friday Five – Independence Day and some good American cooking

Bring on the clam bake!

I don’t have a Friday any closer to the 4th July, so thought would use this Friday’s Five to look at some of the great food coming out of the US. It’s too easy to dismiss American cooking as all being about trashy, fast food, but there is so much going on that it is far too bigger generalisation. And, lets face it, sometimes a fabulously cooked burger is just what you need. Like anywhere, and anything, we shouldn’t damn all American cooking on the basis of McDonalds alone!

So, these are my favourites to sum up some of the great stuff I’ve come across on my trips, or have on lists for future trips (very hopefully in some cases).

Ad Hoc at Home: Family-Style Recipes by Thomas Keller – it was so hard to pick just one book by the man behind The French Laundry, but decided to go for something that I could hope to cook from, whilst I worked up to getting a reservation at the restaurant. Lets face it, I’m not going to replicate the restaurant home, and I’m possibly not going to get a reservation. But, a bit like the lottery, someone’s got to get in! I love that this book has a chapter entitled Lifesavers, which sounds fabulous.

How to Feed Friends and Influence People: The Carnegie Deli… A Giant Sandwich, a Little Deli, a Huge Success – trips to New York for me are not complete without one trip at least to the Carnegie. Some may have more film exposure, like Katz’s, some may be cooler but some are one-off, originals and this is my fave. I adore their corned beef hash, but it defeats me everytime! The cheesecake is to die for, and even if I had no idea before ordering what a cheese blintz was, I love them. Sort of cookbook meets business guide meets social history. Oh, and you get a coupon for a free slice of cheesecake!

Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook by Alice Waters – another of those drivers of modern US cuisine, and another of those restaurants still on my to do list. I’ve chosen the book of the cafe, for more informal dining choices, but still retaining her food philosophy. I mean, who wouldn’t want a Meyer Lemon Eclair or Wood Oven Baked Porcini Mushrooms? I think Alice is a truly American revolutionary, and hence why she is so well admired by so many of our top chefs.

The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant by Judy Rogers – two words: spaghetti fries. From that (naughty) moment on it was love at lunch, and somewhere I would head back to on a trip to San Francisco. Of course it’s not the newest, hippest restaurant on the San Francisco block, but I adore it, and I’m sure beloved by many.

Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook – I couldn’t do the US without Martha. I love Martha. I know she did wrong, she did her time, but I still love the life her books convey. I want to hold a clam bake on the beach on 4 July, I want to bake peach cobbler, and I want to have time to run up some pretty bunting with my other hand. Photography is always beautiful in Martha’s books and the recipes are America on a plate to me. Others may come along, but Martha was there first in my heart and no one else cooks and sews and crafts with such style. If only there were more time!

There’s such diversity across the US, that doing it justice in 5 books is really hard. I’ve featured some before, like cooking with the first ladies of Country and Western (some amazing titles in that selection) and could feature all sorts of things like BBQ and baking, raw food and burgers, so expect some more at some point. In the meantime, I think we all need a Long Island Iced Tea, or pink lemonade, and raise a toast to our cousins across the pond.

Great shot of getting ready for the clam bake at the beach, or at least in my imagination, by Laura Padgett over on Flickr.


The Friday Five – All treats, no tricks, for Halloween


I think it’s probably clear I don’t need much encouragement to buy a new cook book! But even I think and pause when it’s around lesser holidays. I mean, I have a couple of titles devoted to Christmas which is, lets face it, just one day. So why nothing for other one day events? Well, with one heading our way, and great enthusiasm for it in this household from MGG, here are five options for inspiration around Halloween.


Halloween Fun & Food - gift of a cookbook for a food lover at Halloween


1. Halloween Fun & Food – this does the lot! Not just spooky recipes but games and decorations for the home. Work through this lot and it’ll be a Halloween to remember! I like the sound of Spider Web Pizzas, sure the kids would love both making and eating these! Plenty of punch recipes, for big kids and small!

2. Halloween by Martha Stewart – I’ve got a bit of a thing for Martha Stewart, and before I had MGG then me and Martha were on good terms in the run up to Christmas. Funnily enough though, I ran out of time for all those twiddly things when MGG was little. Now she’s 7 I think I could start again, and maybe Halloween is a good place to do so. Knowing Martha, there will be the most amazing recipes for good and unusual stuff, as well as wonderfully artistic and tasteful decorations.

3. Ghoulish Goodies – the kids will love this one just for the cupcake on the front! Bet you get requests for that one! In addition to creature feature cupcakes, it promises monster eyeballs, bat wings and witches knuckles. I would love to do these instead of ready packaged stuff from the supermarket and I’m sure kids would love an unusual cookie, rather than another gummy blob. Definitely a good one for the bakers amongst you.

4. Madam Witch’s Halloween Witchery – I love this one just for the title really. Again, it’s a combination of recipes and crafting, but this looks the opposite of Martha. Not very slick looking, but fun and definitely home made!

5. Wormy Apple Croissants and Other Halloween Recipes – again, another great title for getting the kids involved. And if you start with Halloween, you may just get them really into food and cooking all year round. One day wormy apple croissants, the next it’ll be beef wellington!

As Halloween falls on a Saturday then it’s the perfect day to prepare your own treats, rather than the prepackaged stuff. It’ll give the kids something great to do all day, and then something fab to eat all night.


The Saturday Session

4th July, an excuse for some comfort cooking!
4th July, an excuse for some comfort cooking!

I love Saturdays, it’s when I get to cook properly, thinking about it, without just needing to feed everyone. And particularly I get to bake, which I love. So the Saturday session is just a chance to reflect on some great recipes, as the best gift you might be able to give your foodie, or yourself, is just the time to do something different in the kitchen.

And as today is July 4th, it seems appropriate to have some American themed recipes. I was looking for Nigella’s brownie recipe, but got waylaid by the recipe for pancakes with bacon and maple syrup. At least once on any trip to the US, this is my indulgent breakfast at choice. I wish I’d been organised enough to make it for this morning’s breakfast!

But for a taste of the US, and suitable for my cream tea tomorrow, then I’m going to go for Red Velvet Cake. I’m never sure of the history of this cake, but it definitely seems to be an American thing to me. I love this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, and the observations about the cake. There are better tasting cakes, but nothing can beat people’s reaction when they see the colour. It would also make a perfect Halloween cake for kids!

So, start flipping those burgers, get The Boss on in the background, and bake up a storm. For once, it looks like we might have weather worthy of those Independence Day gatherings you always see on Martha Stewart!