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Love Food Hate Waste: left over Christmas Cake

12 Jan

Do you still have a house guest left over hanging around after Christmas? No…check your cake tins, I once found a remnant of forgotten Christmas cake lurking in a tin in March! It probably had so much booze in it that it would have been edible but I just couldn’t face it. That story probably means I’m a very slovenly house keeper, but since I make my own Christmas cake I’m more keen than every to use it up and not let it go to waste.

If you have thrown out any left over Christmas cake shame on you because you are missing a real treat. Warm Christmas cake with Christmas pudding ice cream. Oh yes dear reader, it may be January, chocolate rabbits and eggs may have appeared in the shops already and this may not even be a recipe but you will thank me for it!

Ingredients & Method

For the Christmas Pud ice cream I used a tub of butter scotch ice cream but vanilla would be fine; allowed it to soften and then stirred through the crumbled remains of a Christmas pudding. Re freeze, and you’re done.  Don’t worry if you haven’t got any left, serve this with any ice cream you like.

Cut a portion of Christmas cake, place in a bowl and warm it (I use the microwave for speed).

Serve with a dollop of ice cream.

I find this a particular pleasure with a drop of whisky, when all the decorations have come down, Christmas and New Year seem a long time ago, the Weight Watchers ads are on TV and things feel a bit grim. Perfect pick me up I’d say! Thrifty too if you’re feeling the pinch after the festive season.


Jamie Oliver’s Dan Dan Noodles

9 Jan

The Man and I have a major cook book habit; whilst this means we are never short of inspiration, it does mean we tend to forget books we have had for a while. Whilst this means that yes there are a number of  infrequently used books taking up a lot of shelf space,  it also means that you get the joy of rediscovering a cracking book you had sort of forgotten about, in this case Jamie’s America.

I loved this book when I we first got it, but haven’t  cooked from it a great deal as I’m easily distracted by new cook books. However, after out trip to New York I decided to have another look and see what Jamie made of it. The book provides a number of Mr Oliver’s (i.e not necessarily totally authentic) takes on key New York dishes and I settled on his Fiery Dan Dan Noodles* as a feisty, New Year pick me up of a dish at the end of the dreaded first week back at work!

I was really pleased with the end result, a quick, tasty, spicy dish that I thinks will become part of the Hungry Sparrow repertoire. The only issue I had, and this may be due to me using a not very spicy chilli oil and Szechuan pepper that is loosing it’s spice but I didn’t find is as searingly hot as Jamie warns it might be, which was puzzling as I’m sure I halved the recipe quite carefully. The Man and I do like spicy food but I’m sure we haven’t burned our taste buds off too much.


  • 1 stock cube, chicken, veg or beef
  • 250 g wheat noodles (quite thick ones)
  • 200 g of minced beef
  • 1 tbsp of honey
  • Could of handfuls of green veg (I used broccoli and pack choi)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp of Szechuan ground pepper
  • 3 tbsp of chilli oil
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 1/2 lime quartered ( put the rest in a gin and tonic as you are preparing and cooking)


  • Put the stock cube in a big pan of water and bring to the boil ( this will be for the noodles later)
  • Dry fry the beef in a large pan until dark and crispy ( about 10-15 minutes), add the honey, stir for 30 seconds, then set aside.
  • Place the noodles in the now boiling stock and cook as the packet direct, with a couple of minutes to go remove a cup full of the water and throw in the veg and cook until done to your liking.
  • Drain the noodles and vegetables then return to the hot pan with cup of stock, garlic, soy sauce, Szechuan pepper, and chilli oil.
  • Divide this between two bowls and top with the crispy beef ( re heated if you like) and the chopped spring onions.
  • Serve with a quarter of lime to squeeze over the top.
  • Don’t bother trying to eat tidily, this isn’t a first date dish (or maybe it is depending on your outlook).

* A quick Google suggests this version is very far removed from actual Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles, it is however a great recipe, if not one for pureists.

A Refreshing New Year

5 Jan

I love Christmas and New Year but there comes a point when I know I should eat something other than mince pies and drink something other than gin and tonics! I look in the mirror and my skin looks awful and the extra pounds are all too obvious. I think it happens to a lot of people at this time of year, hence the popularity of detoxing. I would never advocate detoxing Ben Goldacre does a much more eloquent job of explaining why here but there is a point after Christmas when I need to return to a more sane way of eating, for the sake of my health and my wallet. This salad is from the River Cottage Veg Every Day book and is colorful, zesty, light enough to feel like it’s doing you some good but the avocado makes it a little more substantial. It’s very quick to prepare and the only fiddly bit is preparing the grapefruit.

Serves 2

  • 1 ruby or pink grapefruit
  • 1 avocado
  • 1⁄2 small or medium red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • A small handful of coriander leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Slice the top and bottom from the grapefruit. Stand it upright on a board and work your way around the fruit with a sharp knife, cutting off the skin and all the pith. Now hold it in your hand over a bowl to catch the juice and slice carefully down between each segment to release from the membrane, letting the segments fall into the bowl, be careful with the knife while doing this! Squeeze the juice from the remaining membrane in too. Halve, and stone the avocado, cut lengthways into thin slices. Arrange  grapefruit segments  and avocado on a plate and pour over the saved juice. Sprinkle a little salt and the chopped chilli over the salad. Finish with the coriander and a generous splash of olive oil.  Serve straight away.

The Hungry Sparrow goes to New York

1 Jan

The blog has been quite quiet in December partly because I’ve been very busy,  partly due to poor planning if I’m honest, and because The Man and I have been on holiday to New York. I don’t want to waffle on about it, apart from to say it was amazing, if slightly disconcerting to be in a city you have seen so often in films, on TV in books etc. However, it’s fair to say food featured pretty heavily in what we did so here is a quick canter through some of the highlights.

Lox Special on a pumpernickel bagel in Brooklyn; salmon, cream cheese, red onion and capers.

Fresh and tasty vegan sandwiches from Peace Food Cafe , spiky service though perhaps they were having a bad day.

Chippotle turkey at the trendy and packed  Westville East

A Kasha (buckwheat) Knish,  substantial Eastern European Jewish food designed to keep out the cold of a harsh winter. We also ate them from Yonah Schimmel Knishes, tasty pastry cannon balls; it’s a good job we did a lot of walking to burn them off.

Tacos from Brookly Taco Company, hot sauce mandatory!

Green mango chips with chili sugar salt at Fatty Crab, wow!

Moreish but lethal cocktails from Temple Bar, The Man and I got very merry on these.

So those are the highlights, a nod should also go to this fab food tour  of the Lower East Side that the Man found online which filled a damp afternoon with interesting sights, smells and tastes! We also managed to have brunch at Shopsins somewhere I’ve wanted to go since The Man bought me this book. I loved it and it was every thing I sort of hoped it would be, but there are no photos as we followed “the rules”. Some people hate it and I can see why that might be, a read of the Google Reviews sums up the two schools very well. For what it’s worth I loved the food and they were borderline friendly to us!

spring pavlova

21 Apr

I’ve always admired pavlovas as a pudding, they look gorgeous, huge billowy meringues, topped with lashings of cream and fruit, but have always been scared of making meringue myself. However, having been inspired by the brilliant Supper Club by Kerstin Rodgers’ and been asked to bring a pudding to a friends barbecue I decided to have a go.

I will confess now I didn’t make the meringue from scratch I used a packet of Pavlova Magic that had been kicking around in our cupboards for ages. In hindsight next time I will just make pavlova from scratch, given the time it takes to whisk everything together I wasn’t convinced it saved that much time or that the results were that much better (not that it was bad). I started cooking quite late so left the meringue to cool in the oven over night and topped it the following day with a carton of double cream whipped until firm and topped with mixed berries, our own stewed rhubarb, and Sea Salted Caramel from Supper Club.

It went down really well, but pavlova usually looks beautiful, and it tasted pretty good too. There was a bit too much soft meringue in the middle for my taste, but that doesn’t mean I had any problem eating a lot of it. Next time though I promise I will fight my fear and actually make one from scratch! Honest.

Copenhagen, amazing food, brilliant presentation!

29 Oct

As the Man is doing a PHD he has been able to attend conferences in some pretty amazing places and sometimes I get to tag along. Earlier this year he went to a conference in Copenhagen and I joined him afterwards for a few days. Whilst it isn’t a cheap destination, it is a really lovely city with a mixture of old and very modern. We ate out a lot and the food was almost without exception very good, and amazingly well presented.

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Sweeeeeet corn

27 Oct

Frozen, from a tin, with tuna mayo in a sandwich ( the Man cringes ) but especially on the cob, I love sweet corn. Tiny, tasty, strangely indigestible nuggets of sunshine.


Barbecued corn is in a totally different league! We’ve grown sweet corn on the allotment for two years and when it is fresh it knocks spots off the shop bought stuff. Straight off the plant and straight onto the BBQ, it cooks very quickly and is done when it has turned a brighter shade of yellow and some of the kernels have charred slightly, giving it a lovely caramelised taste,


Tiny Butternut squash

23 Oct

This is our second year trying to grow butternut squash, last year slugs got the plant but this year something grew and didn’t get eaten but was tiny!

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Strawberry Goodness

6 Oct

This post is a bit of a blast from the past as ours our well and truly over, so we just have to look forward to next year.

I love strawberries! No really I’m not sure there is a limit to amount I could eat given the chance. We grew strawberries at home when I was little and I bought some for The Man, when he was living in a small flat with a small yard and the ones on out allotment are the descendants of that original trio.

Eventually strawberry plants run out of steam and need replacing but looking at this photo I think ours are still doing pretty well.

Smashing Pumpkins

3 Oct

It’s pumpkin season, I love growing pumpkins and squashes because they pretty much look after themselves and take up a lot of space keeping the weeds down.

From left to right we have an Italian Zucca squash, a tiny Turks Turban ( bit of a disappointment as they are supposed to be HUGE) and a blue skinned American Pumpkin. Another bonus is that they should keep in a cool dry place for a good few months.

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