#7 Quick Chilli by Nigella Lawson (from Nigella Express)

For someone who isn’t a ‘Chilli Head’, I start to sweat even looking at a bottle of the ubiquitous Sriracha sauce, I fucking love a Chilli! My last chili review was actually an unorthodox Gizzi Erskine variant (with chicken) that was delicious nonetheless. I’m tempted to add a whole section dedicated to them here on Pigley’s Kitchen, or maybe just a specific chilli-fangirl blog. One of my favourite things about Nigella Lawson is that with each new book comes a new recipe for chili. I’ve cooked all of them to date, her aptly named Quick Chilli from Nigella Express completing my research.

I’m not usually one for cheat ingredients – it’s a bit Joe Wicks for me – so looking at Nigella’s Quick Chilli I was a little apprehensive. Ingredients include: Ready-made chunky vegetable pasta sauce; tinned mixed beans in spicy sauce; sweet chilli sauce. I couldn’t actually bring myself to buying a jar of pasta sauce especially, as I have a glut of onions and endless tins of tomatoes. I made my ‘chunky pasta sauce’ by sweating off onions and garlic as normal. It probably added 5-10 mins to the cooking time, not the worst result. I did actually have a tin of the beans in spicy sauce from a grandparental care package, so that came in handy. I always have the inexpensive ‘Healthy Boy’ sweet chilli sauce in the fridge and there was an open pack of chorizo that needed using.

You’re never safe from being surprised until you’re dead.

Well I had to eat my words with this recipe. This Quick Chilli had unexpected depths of flavour. Just spicy enough. Just sweet enough. Just reduced enough. The sweet chilli sauce helped to add a stickiness to the chilli that belied the short cooking time. Honestly, I’ve painstakingly slow cooked chillis in a casserole for hours with pieces of beef shin and had results less satisfying than this one. It’s not fair.

After lecturing people for years about the necessity of slow cooking, I went days without pausing for breath. Constantly raving about this Quick Chilli, breaking only to snaffle more leftovers. I also feel bad for doubting Nigella. That’ll learn me. For your own chilli-based life lessons, you can find the recipe for Quick Chilli here or in Nigella Express.

P.S. No photo on this occasion – a chilli rarely photographs well with artificial light at nighttime. It looked brown and wet.

#6 Curry in a Hurry by Nigella Lawson (from Nigella Express)

I cooked this recently, wanting to use up the tamarind paste that’s sat unused since the first time I cooked this recipe. However, after buying all the ingredients, arriving home and opening Nigella Express only to realise that I hadn’t in fact cooked Curry in a Hurry before. I had confused the recipe with Nigella Kitchen’s South Indian Vegetable Curry. My dusty bottle of tamarind paste will have to languish in the ‘exotic’ cupboard for another day.

Focusing back on Curry in a Hurry, what a success! As a recipe from Ms. Lawson’s most time-efficient tome, Nigella Express, you would expect this Thai-inspired curry to be a dream to whip up. From getting the chopping board out to dinner table in 30 mins. The Curry in a Hurry was ready before my Jasmine rice had cooked. Express indeed.

Nigella Lawson Nigella Express Curry in a Hurry

You can see the error of my over-reducing ways here.

Not all curry pastes are born equal.

It’s also a perfect store cupboard meal. It required very little shopping beyond picking up some chicken thigh fillets. I often have some green Thai curry paste in the fridge begging to be used up and the green vegetables are interchangeable. Not all curry pastes are born equal, I bought one from the Asian section of Tesco and it was a lot hotter than the westernised Tesco one. In terms of veggies, I usually use a combination of frozen peas and broccoli as I ALWAYS have both in. Broccoli also has the benefit of being cheaper and having more substance than green beans. A thrifty substitution! Oh and sod the soy beans. I’ll stick to a double portion good old frozen peas. On my first attempt I over-reduced the curry, aiming for a thick British gravy consistency. The curry is quite wet, intentionally so. Don’t make the same mistake as me, it will be unpalatably salty and remove the hurried element of the curry. Luckily I rescued that attempt at Curry in a Hurry with some more coconut milk. That said, the ‘authentic’ thinner broth is delicious to finish off with a spoon or continue to dip some prawns crackers into.

Fresh. Fast. Delicious. Great for reheating. You can find the recipe here.

Nigella Lawson Curry in a Hurry Food Photography

The finished dish, complete with some veggie spring rolls.

#5 Honey Pie by Nigella Lawson (from Simply Nigella)

I first made this sweet n’ salty Honey Pie at a little dinner party I held to celebrate the launch of Nigella Lawson’s last book, Simply Nigella back in November 2015. I reviewed the book and the Honey Pie in a now defunct blog – both received glowing praise from myself and my guests.

It’s been nearly two years since I made it, but inspired by the fond memories of this divine sweet treat, I set about making another Honey Pie for the same guests (give or take). Thankfully it went down just as well the second time – and in the week since, I’ve made three further pies. My friends and colleagues might thank me, but their blood-sugar levels won’t be so appreciative.

The Honey Pie itself was a recipe simplified from a Four and Twenty Blackbirds Bakery pie. I’d hankered after this pie since Nigella posted about it on Instagram. I’ve since compared the recipes – you can find the original one on Nigella’s Cookbook Corner, or her own recipe via google. The main difference is the pastry. Having not made the original I can only comment on Nigella’s adaptation. Her olive oil pastry is simplicity itself. A quick whizz with a handheld mixer creates a rough, damp dough that you then just have to squish with your fingers into the sides of a flan tin. It’s all very rustic, but very forgiving.

Honey Pie Nigella Lawson Simply Nigella

I’ve never been able to get a good photo of the Honey Pie, it never last long enough.

Sugar Pie Honey Bunch… I can’t help myself.

The filling in both recipes is a honeyed iteration of a treacle tart, with a bit of polenta and the usual eggs, sugar and butter. It’s the addition of the sea salt flakes (in the pastry, filling and sprinkled on top) that elevate this pie from merely decent to divinely decadent.

The pastry cooks from a quick blitz in the freezer, no blind baking! The filling is simply stirred ingredients. Even my pastry averse self can manage this one. The pastry cooks through and has a short texture. The pastry base doesn’t have the most even thickness, I suppose because it’s not been rolled. However in all four attempts I’ve had no disasters. I suppose if you wanted something a bit tidier you make (or buy) a more traditional shortcrust pastry to roll. The filling is a rich and smooth custard with an attractively caramelised skin. The medicinal notes of honey flatter but don’t overpower the custard.

The Honey Pie is a cloyingly sweet dessert, just about balanced by the generously sprinkled sea salt flakes, but it is still very sweet (!) and very cloying (!). When Nigella says to be mean with the portions, she isn’t being a greedy miser with her pie – its genuinely very good advice. Take heed.

If the above paragraphs haven’t convinced you to make yourself a Honey Pie then I don’t know what will.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – Harold Pinter Theatre

Celebrity Deathmatch: Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? pits Lord Varys against Dolores Umbridge

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is Edward Albee’s 1962 chamber piece about a quarrelling middle aged couple gained notoriety with the casting of tumultuous middle aged couple Burton and Taylor. A realist step too far. Having seen the film adaptation, I approached this new adaptation with some trepidation. For a play where not very much happens, it is long. With an interval between Act 1 & 2 and a ‘short pause’ between Act 2 & 3 it is worlds apart from the nice, 80 min, no-interval plays that are de rigour these days. I can hold my bladder for more than 80 mins, but as soon as that usher mentions ‘No Interval, No readmittance’.. my heart and pelvic floor drop. So the idea of a play with not one, but two toilets opportunities is more than welcome.

The casting is also on point. Imelda Staunton is probably the most revered grande dames lording over British theatre. For an actress who became so acclaimed in film and television to still work so prolifically in theatre is refreshing, as opposed to a statement role to prove they haven’t forgotten their roots. I am rather a staunch fangirl for Staunton. Having seen her in Gypsy but sadly missing her Sweeney Todd, both at Chichester Festival Theatre, I relished the chance to catch her in a straight drama before her return to Sondheim adaptations with Follies (!) at the NT later in 2017. Conleth Hill too is an exciting prospect. He certainly knows how to deliver a withering put down. Arguably, his banter with Tyrion in Game of Thrones is one of the highlights of that HBO behemoth. Curious Incident’s Luke Treadaway and goto for British kooky Imogen Poots complete the cast.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Edward Albee

Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Taking our seats in the compact Harold Pinter theatre, we were barked at to switch off our mobile phones. There was a lot of barking, it was a bit patronising to say the least. As the play begins, we are in a spacious, mid century American lounge. Designer Tom Pye has done a stellar job recreating the period setting. With the current ubiquitous interior design trend for all things 70s, the props looked like they’d come from a John Lewis catalogue. Spacious as the room is, it would prove to be an intimate pressure pot.

I hadn’t seen Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? before this production. I was aware of it, but the Burton-Taylor film and the casting of a real-life bickering couple had really overshadowed what is a masterpiece of a play. George and Martha are a new-England couple: George (Conleth Hill), the underachieving college professor; Martha (Imelda Staunton) the daughter of the college’s Director. George and Martha return drunk from a party and we quickly learn they have more guests to arrive. At the beginning, the warring couple spew bitchy line after bitchy line to comedic effect. Its like a particularly heated episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race.. and the library is definitely open. As the play progresses, what started as funny becomes painful. Their guests, Nick and Honey, are the targets they turn their attention to. It seems like a well rehearsed piece, with Martha making her advances on the younger Nick (played by Luke Treadaway), while the naive Honey is plied with brandy.

The big reveal at the end has maybe lost some of it’s potency. I get the impression that in 1962, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? would’ve been controversial and shocking. The frank exposure of the truth behind the veneer has probably lost some of it’s edge now. ‘Shocking’ plays are ten e penny these day. but Albee’s dialogue is still sharp some 45 years on. I wouldn’t cut a line from it’s 3 hour run time.

Imelda Staunton Martha Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Imelda Staunton’s caustic Mama Rose.. I mean, Martha.

Staunton brings all of her usual stamina and power to Martha. The musical theatre chops she has shown as Mama Rose in Jonathan Church’s excellent Gypsy revival have put her in good stead for this role. Martha shares Rose’s fragility, sexual allure and volume. I half expected Staunton to break out into Rose’s Turn at a few points. It really was a barnstorming, superlative performance – the kind that leaves you a bit shaken. Conleth Hill is equally ferocious. From George’s early subservience to the bolder Martha, his character grows in stature as the plot progresses, through jealousy to nurture. Treadaway brings the right level of smarmy to Nick. Its the least interesting character, but it’s believably acted at least. Imogen Poots completes the quartet. I’ve long been a fan of Poots, from a performance as Sally Bowles in a BBC biopic of Christopher Isherwood. She brings the same wide eyed naivety to Honey and plays silly drunk convincingly, attracting some of the biggest laughs.

Imelda Staunton Martha Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf Harold Pinter Theatre

(L-R) Luke Treadaway, Conleth Hill, Imogen Poots and Imelda Staunton

For the most part, James MacDonald’s new production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? keeps it simple, allowing Albee’s play and the actors to do their thing. It works. Albee had billing above the star casting and deservedly so. His play is the star here, but Staunton et al give it a good go. The most telling thing I can say is, I would watch it again – after reading more about the play.

The Harold Pinter seems to offer a good number of well priced seats, to see good plays and high profile actors – if there are seats left, I’d implore anyone to see it if they have the chance. Its open now, running until 27th May. Click here for more info.

#4 Pulled Chipotle Chicken with Pink Pickled Onions – Gizzi Erskine

I wish it could be Chilli Friday everyday…

Fridays always call for a treat meal and our household are big fans of a Chilli in most of it’s guises. While the real thing calls for beef as per tradition, with an eye to reducing my red meat I’ve long since moved to playing around with other meats for my Chilli fix. My go-to chilli is a slow cooked turkey leg version, with the meat shredded off the bone into the dark broth. Additions of stout or chocolate, if available, help to persuade eaters that they’re not eating ‘dry’ turkey. I suppose it’s more a lean pulled pork than your traditional chilli but who’s nitpicking. This recipe for Pulled Chipotle Chicken from Gizzi Esrkine’s Healthy Appetite did indeed whet my own healthy appetite. Close enough in form to my own recipe but with her cheffy twists.

Opting not to joint a whole chicken as suggested. I used a variety of thighs and drumsticks. These were painstakingly browned off in oil which gave me both oil burns and the disgrace of running around opening all the windows after setting the fire alarm off.. twice. It is much less fiddly browning one or two large turkey legs than 12 chicken pieces. The onions are then cooked slowly in the chicken oil, followed by the spices, then the fresh tomatoes; then the stock. The chicken is then added back to the pan and cooked on a lowish heat for about 50 mins with the adzuki beans added toward the end. At the end of the 50 mins, the chicken is removed and shredded while the sauce reduces. All are given a good season, combined and served.

By this stage, the whole flat now stinks of chicken and spices.

It is a mouth watering aroma, just not on all my fresh laundry. True to expectation, the Pulled Chipotle Chicken is incredible. By far the best pulled chicken I’ve eaten. If Burrito bars made their chicken like this I would get lunch their errryday. Praise indeed. Gizzi’s spicing is on point. I used dried Ancho chills instead of Chipotle because I already had them, and they added a gentle warmth. Although listed in the ingredients, the chipotle weren’t in the method so I just chopped them and added in with the fresh tomatoes which worked. The cloves, bay and cinnamon gave it a real depth that I worried might be missing without the richer ingredients. The Pink Pickled Onions provide sweetness that would have been needed though, an inspired garnish. Not integral but definitely recommended.

Pulled Chipotle Chicken with Pink Pickled Onions

Any health benefit of Gizzi’s Pulled Chipotle Chicken sabotaged by that bowl of cheese.

I served it with some sweet potato wedges, plain rice and salad greens. I know the sweet Chilli, sweet potatoes and Pink Pickled Onions might sound like a sugary step too far, but it was Friday and I wasn’t having dessert. Gizzi recommends cauliflower rice and avocado to accompany her Pulled Chipotle Chicken, but I wasn’t feeling that virtuous at the end of a long week.

Not if, but when I make this recipe again, I’ll probably used canned bean rather than soaking and cooking dried because I’m lazy; substitute a can of chopped tomatoes for ease; and reduce the volume of stock to around 300ml, as between the tomatoes and the supermarket chicken there was a lot of extra liquid in the pan that took longer to reduce down; I also added a table spoon of maple syrup for sweetness to balance out the sharp tomatoes available in March. Oh and once cooked, you can just squeeze out the cooked half-garlic into the pan. Minor quibbles to suit myself, but a really, REALLY delicious dinner. MORE delicious the next day. Make DOUBLE. This Pulled Chipotle Chicken really does warrant the capitals.

I’m not sure if the recipe is available online, maybe try Googlebooks or Eat Your Books. Failing that, it’s often not too pricey on Amazon.


#3 Everyday Brownies – Nigella Lawson

Everyday Brownies… because one should never consider a life where one cannot enjoy a brownie everyday.

After reinvigorating the art of home-baking with her sophomore tome, How To Be a Domestic Goddess, long before that exiled BBC TV show, the Rt. Honourable Nigella Lawson should be rightfully viewed as a expert on the ubiquitous brownie. Coffee shop favourite, served ‘warm’ as a classic pub dessert or laced with hash for an altogether different kind of treat. You would be hard pushed to find someone who doesn’t have an opinion on this popular tray bake.

There are occasions for all I’m sure, from its decadent soft fudge like incarnations (Nigella’s naturally), to the less rich, flattened chocolate sponge varieties. I’ve laced Brownies with all manner of nuts, dried fruit and essences. I’ve gone for a diplomatic American-Middle Eastern fusion flavoured with spice, rosewater and pistachios; baked brownies with a layer of New York cheesecake on top – eventually covered in Raspberry Cream. (just beyond delicious.- another time). The essence of the brownie though, is in the balance of chocolate to sugar and fat. Too far in either direction and they’re rendered inedible.

I have made Nigella’s ultimate brownies on more than one occasion. I have also overindulged on Nigella’s ultimate brownies on more than one occasion. This may explain the waves of nauseous I suffer when thinking of brownies. With nearly 400g of ‘good quality chocolate and the same of butter, they are a rich beast of a bake. Delicious as they are, I balk when the price of the bake pushes over the ten pound mark. (Good Chocolate ain’t cheap in these troubled times of drought.) I also wince at the idea of spending so much money and time on something that I will struggle to eat more than one portion of.

Nigella Lawson Everyday Brownies

Domestic Goddess and all round inspiration, Nigella Lawson’s Everyday Brownies

Is there really such a thing as an Everyday Brownie?

This more humble recipe for Everyday Brownies is the perfect antidote for that mid week sugar fix. Even though I have lapsed spiritually, yesterday was the first day of Lent and I am still culturally Catholic so the *slightly* more austere bake was perfect for the occasion. With a more modest combination of eggs, butter, flour, sugar and cocoa – this is a more frugal affair. The chocolate is added to the batter just before baking so you have little chocolate chips throughout the tray. With all of the ingredients in the store cupboard, some dark chocolate conveniently picked up some Ikea on the weekend, these brownies were a breeze to make.

The intensity of the cocoa meant these ‘Everyday Brownies didn’t feel remotely austere. If anything, they were still too rich. I could have done with a good dollop of ice cream to cut through it all. The next day though, they came into their own. Once the fudgey consistency had set, they were much better balanced. If I could  change anything, I would probably add a bit more salt to balance the sweetness, but that’s just down to my own preference for da sweet n’ salty. In a happy coincidence the middle of mine hadn’t quite cooked so I had a winning combo of the cakey and fudgey.

Less extravagant than her Ultimate recipe, but no less indulgent. Nigella Lawson’s Everyday Brownies were an unsurprising success. Maybe best not to eat quite everyday though,

Sadly the recipe isn’t available on nigella.com but you can find it copied by someone else here or in the very good Kitchen. For more brownie discourse check out Felicity Cloake’s search for the perfect brownie.

#2 Poached Eggs with Melted Leeks and Chipotle-Tahini Dressing – Thomasina Miers

Combining many loves.. poached eggs with melted leeks. This is breakfast for dinner on crack.

Today is a bit of a double celebration. Firstly, Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus! Its that day when Welsh schoogirls dress up in strange Puritan hats and schoolboys as coalminers. Its that day when that country to the west of England pin vegetables and flowers to their shirts. Fun factoid – the Welsh first joined forces with that delicious Allium, the leek, during a battle against those pesky Saxon invaders under the direction of.. Saint David! They wore them to identify who was a fellow Welshman to prevent crossfire. Clever Cymru. Yay for Wales! Cymru am byth! Eat welshcakes… et cetera. The leek is such a glorious vegetable it deserves celebrating more than once per annum. Like a giant, milder, sweeter spring onion, it makes a great bedfellow with my other great love… butter.

As well as St David’s Day, today is also the day before Thomasina Miers, of Masterchef and Mexican chain Wahaca, releases a new cookbook. Her latest tome, Home Cook apparently contains ‘300 delicious fuss-free recipes’. I haven’t got my hands on Home Cook yet but it has been available to preorder on Amazon. Fortunately, the Guardian has been publishing a selection of Miers’ new recipes in her weekly column, The weekend cook.

Given my penchant for eggs and breakfast food any time of the day, I had to try this recipe for poached eggs with melted leeks. True to Home Cook’s description, the recipe was reasonably fuss-free but SO delicious. Surprisingly, the recipe only has two ingredients that could be a bit of a faff to source. I’ve had some Za’atar lurking in my store cupboard for too long so was thankful to open it finally. I made an approximation of the Chipotle in Adobo by making a quick mix of tomato puree, white wine vinegar, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic and oregano. This quick mix saved me from having to locate a paste that would inevitably just sit in my fridge till rancid.

With the leeks melting in some salted butter, I quickly made the dressing while the poaching pan was coming to a boil. The dressing was little more than a quick fork together. The only think left to do was poach the eggs and toast the bread. Simple indeed. Poaching was a method of egg cooking I’ve avoided till I recently discovered Dan Doherty’s seemingly foolprood method in Toast Hash Roast Mash (the man knows his eggs). The rest was just a haphazard assembly job. Its nigh on impossible to make splodges of dressing and poached eggs look elegant so I won’t lose much sleep over the mess posted below..  As you can see, I used good old granary bread instead of Miers’ sourdough because it’s a midweek evening and I’m not going to any artisan bakeries after work.

An attempt at Thomasina Miers' Poached Eggs with Melted Leeks and Chipotle-Tahini dressing

An attempt at Thomasina Miers’ Poached Eggs with Melted Leeks and Chipotle-Tahini dressing


My God though, messy as it looked, it was GOOD EATING. The dressing was an absolute knockout. Citrussy, hot, nutty, smoky and a bit creamy. It really elevated the dish. Miers’ said this dish was influenced by her Mexican travels (chipotle), her time around Shepherd’s Bush (tahini) and her Nan in Wales (leeks). True fusion food. I wasn’t convinced it would really work together. It is after all like eating hummus and eggs. It does though, like gastronomic alchemy. The dressing would also be great to liven uo a sad-salad or as a party dip. Maybe a bit too punchy to just spoon into one’s mouth although I did give this a good go.

If the rest of the book lives up to this, it’s a must-buy. I’ll probably just cook my way through the Guardian excerpts until I finally cave. In the meantime, here’s some lovely traditional Welsh costume.

Tradional Welsh Costume Womens

Some women in their traditional Welsh costume meet Gandalf the Grey.

#1 Roasted Sesame Veg with Pearl Barley and Cinnamon Dressing – Alex Hely-Hutchinson

If you’ve read my write up on the book, you’d have read that I was pleasantly surprised by the recipes I’ve tried from 26 Grains so far. This, Roasted Sesame Veg with Pearl Barley and Cinnamon Dressing, was my first attempt. I chose it because it fit the bill for Meat Free Monday, but also because it was cheap and promised to be hearty, healthy and ‘hygge’. The idea of roasted root veggies and pearl barley is a stodgy combo indeed. Carb on carb definitely doesn’t meet my expectations of a ‘clean-eating’ cookbook’, but it did feel healthy. Maybe it was *cough* portion control.

The dish itself was delicious. The comforting savoury blandness of the barley cooked with stock and onions. The rustic sweetness of the carrots, parsnips and onions. This dish is really made by the dressing, honey sweetness, cinnamon warmth, sesame nuttiness, sharp lime and pungent garlic. The acidity of the lime cuts through the sweetness of the roots. It really is delicious and not too much of a faff to cook. The barley cooks like a risotto that doesn’t need constant stirring and the roots are just bunged in an oven. I made enough for four days but it reheats well. Although by Day 2 I was adding some leftover feta to cut through the sweetness. There aren’t many dishes not made better by cheese. As a testimony to how much I enjoyed the roasted sesame veg – I’ve made it again less than a fortnight later.

Roasted Sesame Veg with Pealrl Barley and a Cinnamon Dressing

Roasted Sesame Veg with Pealrl Barley and a Cinnamon Dressing from 26 Grains. Cracking lunchbox idea.

One tip, keep the dressing separate till the last minute. It loses its potency once its soaked into all the stodge. Use a reused sauce pot from a kebabby takeaway or a little mason jar if you’re that way inclined.

26 Grains by Alex Hely-Hutchinson

26 Grains, that posh porridge shop in Neal’s Yard has released a cookbook.. and it’s not more than just a book of overnight oats.

26 Grains Alex Hely-Hutchinson

26 Grains by Alex Hely-Hutchinson, photographed on my Ikea rug for some added hipster texture.

Honestly, I can’t believe I bought a cookbook as virtuous sounding as Alex Hely Hutchinson’s 26 Grains. Not only bought, got excited for. The cover has gushing praise from Deliciously Ella who is far too virtuous for me. I had a brief foray into the clean-eating brigade thanks to the sugar-free Sarah Wilson. I used leek instead of lasagne; cashews instead of cream cheese and coconut oil instead of butter. Dark days indeed. 26 Grains’ stylish cover photo of a pretty, 20 something white girl fits the now archetypal clean-eating guru mold. I was already regretting being swept away with the hype.. the Neal’s Yard café and the 50k instagram followers. My cookbook collecting compulsion was in full swing when Amazon did an introductory offer for the book and I succumbed to purchase. Once it arrived, I had a flick through but the 26 Grains cookbook ended up on my dusty ‘healthy’ shelf. Oddly, I think I even recommended the book to people before I’d read it, maybe to hide my internalised shame at buying it in the first case. Was I too ‘dirty’? Too chubby? Too male? Who knows. I did eventually read it though..

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. Loads of the recipes caught my eye and I found myself bookmarking quite a few recipes. They weren’t all sparrow like portions either, I was heartily satisfied by most of the portioning. The Roasted Sesame Veg with Pearl Barley and Cinnamon Dressing is particularly delicious. Equally, the Broccolli Soup with Popped Black Rice and Crispy Kale was also delicious. Of course my favourite so far is the Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Crispy Brown Rice and Egg, but that’s a given. Zesty, garlicky, roasted brassicas are my FAVOURITE. I’ve so far picked some of the more pedestrian recipes. I don’t have a lot of the rarer grains in my bursting store cupboards and I have no room for them so I’ve stuck with what I’ve got.

I’m also yet to try a single bowl of porridge from 26 Grains. A book by a woman who rose to fame selling porridge, and I’ve not cooked anything from the Breakfast section. This is going to be rectified soon – even if it means having porridge for dinner. In the meantime, I’ve currently got a batch of the Roasted Veg and Pearl Barley cooking ready for packed lunches – honestly, it’s that tasty.

So far, so good. Apparently I should leave prejudice to Elizabeth Bennett when it comes to cookbooks. In the case of 26 Grains, I’ll have to eat my words (and my grains).


Pride and Prejudice at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that there is no such thing as too many adaptations of Pride and Prejudice. Right?

Pride and Prejudice the play
When I saw that Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre were part of this season’s drama at the Wales Millennium Centre, I was more than a little excited. Jane Eyre can be a bit drab, but has enough of that Brontë high gothic drama. Pride and Prejudice though, is life. I remember watching the 2005 Joe Wright and it filled me with so much joy. I jutted out my jaw, pouted and spoke like a walking thesaurus for weeks after, a la Keira (but more resembling Mr Collins). Controversially, I’ve never seen THAT BBC adaptation – I’ve tried watching it, but it doesn’t have the same sheen as this movie, it looks a bit dour. So to see my favourite of Jane Austen novels adapted for the stage, arguably favourite book – I leapt at the chance.

Fittingly, Simon Reade’s Pride and Prejudice first premiered at the Theatre Royal in Austen’s very own Bath in 2009, arriving in Cardiff via a revival in London’s Open Air Theatre . Reade has done a very good job adapting Pride into a succinct two hours and ten minutes (plus interval). The best parts of Pride and Prejudice are not Lizzie and Mr Darcy, regardless of how much promotional material will try and convince you. Austen gives her entire ensemble of supporting players a fully realised character. Who has time to swoon after Darcy when you’re wincing at Mr Collins or laughing at Mr and Mrs Bennett’s bickering?

Felicity Montagu and Matthew Kelly as Mr and Mrs Bennet

Felicity Montagu and Matthew Kelly as Mr and Mrs Bennet

Max Jones’ set itself is great. A deceptively simple two tier, wrought iron revolving frame which the drama unfurled around. The clever use of space and movement of props felt comfortingly old fashioned. The direction as well, was oddly old fashioned. Not at all naturalistic or subtle, many of the actors moved and shouted as if they were in an 19th century Oscar Wilde adaptation before the invention of microphones. It is almost a criticism, but I thought it worked, intentional or otherwise.

From the actors, Stars in the Eyes legend Matthew Kelly brought some camp to the droll Mr Bennet. Although I had thought it was Bridget’s Mum, turns out Felicity Montagu is not whom I thought, but a pleasant surprise nonetheless (Perpetua from Bridget Jones’ Diary to big bosomed Sue in Nighty Night). Felicity Montagu made a wonderful, shrieking Mrs Bennet (whose nerves you really do believe get the better of her). The rest of the cast was fine, competent. I didn’t much like the Lizzie or Mr Darcy – as Lizzie, Tafline Steen was enthusiastic but shouted too many of her line; Benjamin Dilloway was too haughty a Darcy to really believe the romance. Their eventual kiss had a delayed and less than enthused whoop from the audience. Casting wise, it was also good to see ‘colourblind casting’ in such a touring production. After the hoohah about black Hermione, it was good to not hear people moaning about the author’s intent. Jane Austen probably hadn’t imagine that 200 years later, they’d be making yet another adaptation of Pride, so who can say what her intent would be.

Tafline Stine and Benjamin Dilloway as Elizabeth Benney and Mr Darcy Pride and Prejudice

Tafline Stine and Benjamin Dilloway as Elizabeth Benney and Mr Darcy

All In all, I didn’t dislike the evening and I would recommend it to Austen fans and cynics. I have enough residual interest in Pride and Prejudice to remain engaged throughout this adaption. It was mostly well acted, well adapted and competently staged, but for Austen with such a bright, vivid wit, this production was ever so slightly dull. Not up there with the 1995 or 2005 screen adaptations, but not down there with that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies disaster either.

So tonight Matthew, I’m going to be… underwhelmed by this Pride and Prejudice adaptation.

Pride and Prejudice is at Wales Millennium Centre until February 25th.

All pics pinched from the Pride and Prejudice the play website.

..and lastly. Just cos.

Colin Firth Wet Shirt Mr Darcy Pride and Prejudice

Mr Darcy in all his wet shirt glory.