Food from the Hill

A London food fanatic, living on Telegraph Hill

Onion and Brandy Soup

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Onion and Brandy Soup

This soup was made for myself and a friend one Sunday afternoon when there was a surplus of onions left over in the veg box …

Ingredients to make enough to serve 2 hungry people:

  • 2 large white onions, finely sliced
  • 1 leek, cut into 3 inch pieces, then finely sliced length ways
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme leaves (you could use dried thyme instead – my thyme was a little past it’s best and practically dried anyway!)
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brandy (I used a 10 year old cider brandy that I found lingering at the back of my cupboard)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon plain flour
  • 1 litre of very good beef stock
  • Salt and pepper to season (I found that the soup in this instance did not need any extra seasoning)

Now put the apron on and start by …

  1. Getting out a saucepan and adding  the oil, onions, leeks, thyme, salt and sugar.  Fry on a very gentle heat, stirring for a few minutes.
  2. Make a cartouche by cutting a round piece of grease proof paper, slightly larger than your saucepan. Run under the tap and scrunch into a ball.  Unfold and use this to cover your onion mix in the pan.  The paper should sit on top of the onion.
  3. Caramelise the onions very slowly on a low heat for 40 minutes, until very soft.  Check every 10 minutes and if you think the pan is too dry, add in a tablespoon of the beef stock to add some liquid.
  4. After 40 minutes, increase the heat to a high heat and add the Brandy.  Cook on a high heat for 1 minute to evaporate off some of the alcohol.
  5. Stir in the flour and cook on a medium heat for 1 minute.
  6. Increase the heat to full and add the beef stock and stir until the soup boils.
  7. Simmer the soup for 30 minutes.
  8. Check the seasoning, just in case!
  9. Serve with toasted french bread and melted Gruyere if you’re after a french style soup.
  10. This soup goes wonderfully with a cold crisp glass of Champagne.

Tuck in and enjoy!

Champagne Risotto

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Champagne Risotto

There is something very decadent and romantic about Champagne Risotto

Ingredients to make enough to serve 2 moderately hungry people:

  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped
  • 1/3 stick of celery, very finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 135g Arborio risotto rice
  • 225ml champagne / extra dry cava
  • 500ml very good chicken stock
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • 1 handful of chopped herbs – optional (parsley, basil, tarragon are good).

Now put the apron on and start by …

  1. Melting 25g unsalted butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add onions and celery and fry until soft and translucent. Stir in a tiny amount of garlic.  I prefer the main aromatic flavour here to be onion and celery, so go easy on the garlic.
  3. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute until all of the grains are coated and shining with butter.
  4. Add 225ml Champagne and simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated, stirring often.
  5. In a separate pan, have your chicken stock simmering, with a small ladle at the ready.
  6. Add the chicken stock ladle by ladle, waiting until each ladle full has almost been fully absorbed before adding another ladleful. It will take around 18 minutes to cook the whole dish, or until the rice is tender but still firm, stirring often.  You may not need all of the stock.
  7. Turn off the heat, stir in 50g freshly grated Parmesan and a knob of butter and put the lid on and leave for 1 minute.
  8. Season to taste and fold in a handful of freshly chopped herbs (parsley, basil, tarragon are good).


  • Risotto should be served with a ‘wave’, i.e. it should not be a solid lump on the plate, but ooze to the edge of the dish, without being too runny at the same time!
  • Risotto should always be cooked over a medium heat, a too high heat will cook the outside of the rice grains too quickly and the inside will remain hard and at the same time, a too low heat will leave you with soggy rice.

Tuck in and enjoy!

Pork, Chorizo and Butter Beans

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Smoky Pork, Chorizo & Butter Beans

A Monday night dinner party?  What was I thinking?! …. part one.

So I turned to the casserole pot and spent a lazy Sunday slow cooking up a storm, set the goodies aside to improve in flavour overnight and then simply reheated when my guests arrived the next evening.

Ingredients to make enough to serve 6 people who are very hungry:

  • A 600g piece of pork shoulder.  I buy it whole and then butcher it myself into large cubes.
  • 300g chorizo – I like to use a spicy one
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 dessertspoon of chili flakes
  • 1 dessertspoon of crushed fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 1 tin of good quality chopped tomatoes – do not use the ones with added herbs in, they are revolting.
  • 1/2 bottle of dry white wine (I drink the rest whilst cooking)
  • 250 ml of very good chicken stock
  • 2 x 400g cans of butter beans, drained
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley to garnish

Now put the apron on and start by …

  1. Preheating the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Heat some oil in a 3 litre casserole dish.  Add the cubes of pork and brown. You may need to do this in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the pan and end up steaming the pork.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Now fry the onions gently in some more olive oil, for around 5 minutes.
  4. Add the chorizo and garlic to the pan and fry for a further 2 minutes.  Add the chili flakes, smoked paprika and crushed fennel seeds.
  5. Now add the tomato paste – cook this out gently for 10 minutes.  This is key to getting a deep rich sweet tomato flavour – cooking any tomatoes too quickly can make them taste bitter.
  6. Add the pork back to the dish and stir well.
  7. Now add in all of the remaining ingredients, except the parsley and bring to the boil, season well, and then transfer to the oven.
  8. Cook in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  9. When you remove the casserole from the oven, once again, check your seasoning.  You can either serve immediately, or leave it overnight and pop the casserole dish back into the oven for another hour at 180 degrees Celsius, before your guests arrive.  Make sure the casserole is piping hot and garnish with parsley.
  10. I don’t bother with potatoes with this stew, there’s a ton of delicious creamy butter beans in it, but I do serve it with home-made garlic bread and a dressed green salad.

Tuck in and enjoy!

Minted peas, broad beans and goats cheese

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Something Toasted with Minted Peas, Broad Beans and Goats Cheese

It’s a balmy June evening, the sun has finally put in an appearance, and after a weekend of high-octane eating with my cousin, I’m ready for something light, fresh and seasonal for my supper tonight. Cue sweet fresh peas, tiny broad beans and some ripe goats cheese….

Ingredients to make enough to serve 2 people who are not very hungry:

  • A small handful of fresh peas
  • A small handful of shelled and peeled broad beans
  • 2 spring onions, chopped into large chunks
  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • 100 ml of very good vegetable stock
  • A piece of bread per person – choose your favourite, I used freshly baked granary bread
  • 2 slices of good strong goats cheese
  • A little olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Pea shoots or tiny mint leaves to garnish

Now put the apron on and start by …

  1. Bringing the vegetable stock to the boil.  Once it’s boiling, add in the peas, broad beans, spring onions and 3/4 of the mint leaves.
  2. Bring up to boil and then simmer for 2-3 minutes, until tender.
  3. Remove the goodies from the heat and remove some of the peas and broad beans, you’ll use these later for a garnish.
  4. Now place the remaining contents of the saucepan into a blender.  Add the remaining mint leaves and puree until smooth and silky.
  5. Refrigerate until well chilled.
  6. On the highest flame, heat a griddle pan on your hob.  Whilst this heats, take your choice of bread and brush both sides with a little olive oil.
  7. Griddle the bread on both sides until char-grilled.
  8. Remove from the heat and immediately pop on a slice of goats cheese onto your griddled bread.  You’re not aiming to cook the goats cheese, simply soften and warm it.
  9. Now dress with some of your chilled puree (make sure the seasoning is correct for your palate first), the peas and broad beans you reserved earlier, a few drops of olive oil and your chosen leaves.

Tuck in and enjoy!