Wednesday, 22 June 2011

N is for... Nougat and nutty Nocino truffles

The N night nougat was a strange beast. It looked like nougat, smelled like nougat and even tasted like nougat, but the texture wasn't like nougat at all. It had some give to it when cutting but once you tried to pick it up its solid state was unnervingly temporary. The nougat collapsed in your hand and slowly melted into a pool of mess with a firm surface but a viscous liquid bottom. It was like the scary evilbot in Terminator Two who could turn his hands into swords to stab through people's heads (and milk cartons) or melt into a weird silver pool. I'd never made nougat before and so looked around at various recipes and opted for the one that my cupboards already boasted the ingredients for. I should have known that it might be a bit dodgy considering all the other recipes included powdered glucose. But I didn't have any powdered glucose. I should have trusted Rachel Allen and gone out and bought some powdered glucose, but I didn't. Sorry Rachel. 

I've just tried to open that recipe so I could link to it in a bid to show you all what to avoid, but the website seems no longer to exist. Maybe it wasn't just the nougat that let them down. Here's the recipe so you can make sure you avoid it. With all those pistachios, it was an expensive mistake to make.

Bad nougat

680 g sugar
340 - 450 g pistachio nuts
340 ml golden syrup
235 ml water
60 ml clear honey
2 egg whites
Vanilla extract

Place the sugar, syrup, honey and water into a saucepan and heat until 127°C (260°F). Beat the egg whites stiffly and pour the hot mixture slowly into them, beating constantly until the mixture goes stiff and waxy. Add the vanilla and the nuts and mix well. Pour into a box or pan lined with waxed paper. When cool, cut into squares and attempt to serve.

Nutty Nocino truffles

We were all on far safer ground with these. Richard and I had brought home a bottle of Nocino (an Italian walnut liqueur) that we picked up at the airport on our trip to Rome last year. Richard had been given a bottle years before and decided it was the most delicious thing ever and had always hankered after a repetition of that happy drinking experience. He made it sound delicious and I was excited. I thought it would be like Frangelico- sticky and sweet, but walnut instead of hazelnut flavoured. We got it home and a few days later decided to crack it open and have a snifter. For starters it was the usual brown of so many of the Italian digestifs we had tried in Rome on our search for something Nocino-esq. Secondly, it had the same cough syrup smell and unpleasantly bitter edge as those other dark brown disappointments we drank in Rome. Needless to say, I wasn't much of a Nocino convert. Richard insists that I have an over developed resistance to all things bitter and in part I agree with him, but it's a very specific kind of bitter I steer clear of. I love the bitterness of a meltingly perfect square of cocoa solid rich dark chocolate. I adore lemons in almost any form, think olives are excellent and I don't object to the bitter notes in a chicory salad. I am a big fan of a rich, strong and aromatic cup of coffee (albeit with a sugar or two), but there's a particular kind of bitter that I can't abide - bitter with a ferric aftertaste. This includes most beers because I think they taste like blood (Yes, I know, we're probably not treading common ground here, but to redeem myself for slating Britain's heritage drink of choice, I have discovered that I quite like Innis and Gunn). I also hate all weird herbal infused digestifs - Jägermeister, as far as I can see, is a big gulp of horror. And fizzy water tastes like a cut finger dunked in a glass of tap (I have no excuse for this. Perhaps it's the result of some long buried childhood trauma involving a soda stream). Either way, I think I've proved my point. It's not that I hate all bitter tastes, it's just that I'm acutely fussy about which bitter notes my taste buds will accept. And even Richard admits that Nocino isn't quite as nice as he remembered. 

BUT, it turns out Nocino fares very well indeed when you bung it into a chocolate truffle. I sweetened the ganache a little more than usual (despite the fact that I'm not usually a fan of overly sweet treats) in an attempt to counteract the taste of iron bar you get after quaffing a glass of this walnut tipple and, by gum, it worked! These truffles were quite something - all smooth and velvet-y with a hint of complexity and rolling them in the roasted chopped nuts added a welcome crunch. Try them. I think you'll like them.

100 g dark chocolate, chopped and placed in a heatproof bowl
100 ml double cream
2 tbsp light brown muscovado sugar
50 g unsalted butter
A forkful of Nocino
Enough chopped roasted nuts to roll your chocs in.

Heat the cream and sugar together in a saucepan over a gentle heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Once the cream begins to bubble, take it off the heat and stir in the butter until melted. Pour the buttery sweet cream over the chocolate and leave to stand for about a minute before stirring with a rubber spatula until all the chocolate has melted and you are left with a smooth, glossy ganache. Add your Nocino and stir. Taste for strength and add more if you need to. Leave to cool before transferring to the fridge to set. Take the ganache out of the fridge 10 minutes before rolling them into balls. Spoon out a teaspoon's worth and roll the ganache between you palms until you have made a neat sphere and roll it in the nuts. Repeat until you've run out of ganache and pop the nutty Nocino truffles on a pretty plate to serve.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

N is for... Neufchâtel, Nantais and Northumberland.


N night took place in the middle of February (which in itself reveals how behind I am in my write-ups) and, as such, the heart shaped Neufchâtel we bought from Paxton & Whitfield was pleasingly seasonal. Neufchâtel is a delicious soft cows milk cheese with a slightly crumbly texture and a mushroom-y tang. Nantais is another French cows milk cheese, but this time a lovely smelly sticky soft cheese with a washed rind and a smoky bacon finish.   Lastly, Northumberland - another cow, but this time a hard cheese from our own fair shores. The flavour is complex and slightly fruity with a natural rind dusted with grey mould. An excellent cheeseboard, regardless of its reliance on cows.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

N is for... nutty nectarine and nutmeg tarts with Neapolitan ice cream

Now, I'm happy to admit that this wasn't the most attractive pudding of the alphabet so far, but it was tasty enough to be forgiven for its rather sad appearance. The pastry is a basic sweet shortcrust tweaked so that some of the flour is substituted for ground nuts with added chopped nuts for texture and ground nutmeg for a subtle spice hit. You can use whatever nuts you like, but I used almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts. The filling was a smooth and vanilla-y crème pâtissière and the nectarine slices on top added a sweet tartness that complemented the creamy centre perfectly. I thought the Neapolitan ice cream might be an N too far for this dish, but I did it anyway. Because I'm like that. And anyway, who cares if chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream have no place next to a nutty nectarine and nutmeg tart? Neapolitan's great. As a child growing up in the 1980's I would only ever eat the chocolate and vanilla ice creams from the Neapolitan block unless in dire emergencies (namely when there was only strawberry left). I'd mix both flavours together to make a vanilla and chocolate soup. My oldest sister, Sam, went for the same flavours but luckily my other sisters, Steph and Debbie, were strawberry fans, so it all worked out in the end. Phew.

Nutty nectarine and nutmeg tarts

for the nutty nutmeg shortcrust 
(enough to line 8 individual tart tins or one large)

5 oz/ 125 g unsalted butter
4 oz/ 100 g icing sugar
5 oz/ 125 g plain flour
2 oz/ 50 g ground almonds
2 oz/ 50 g ground hazelnuts
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp cold milk
The seeds from 1 vanilla pod
A generous grating of nutmeg
A pinch of salt
3 oz/ 75 g chopped pistachios
1 oz/ 25 g chopped hazelnuts

Blitz the butter and sugar together in a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the chopped nuts and blitz again until a dough begins to form. Add the chopped nuts and press the pulse button twice - you want to incorporate them into the dough without losing their texture. Tip the dough out on to a large sheet of cling film, pat it down slightly, wrap it up and pop it in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C Fan)

Roll out the pastry and line your tin/s. Blind bake individual pastry cases for 10 minutes or one large case for 15 - 20. Remove the tin/s from the oven, remove the baking beans and parchment, brush the pastry bases with a little whisked egg and pop them back in the oven for 5 minutes. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack before turning them out of their tins.

for the crème pâtissière

4 egg yolks
100 g / 4 oz caster sugar
25 g/ 1 oz plain flour, sifted
12 fl. oz/ 350 ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod or a splash of vanilla extract
Whisk the egg yolk and sugar together in a bowl until pale and thick. Add the flour and mix in. Score the vanilla pod (if using) down the centre and place it in a saucepan with the milk over a gentle heat. Bring the milk slowly up to the boil, fish out the vanilla pod and pour the milk over the egg, sugar and flour mixture, whisking all the time. Tip the mixture back into the saucepan and place it on a low heat, stirring all the time, until it comes up to a gentle boil. Leave it to boil, still stirring, for a couple of minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract (if using). Pour the creme patissiere into a cold bowl or jug and cover the top with cling film to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool. If your mixture has gone lumpy, push it through a sieve before decanting into your clean bowl or jug.

for the nectarines

6-8 ripe nectarines
2-3 tbsp light muscovado sugar
2 tbsp water
A splash of vanilla extract
A knob of butter

Destone and slice your nectarines. Place the sugar and water in a skillet over a medium flame until the sugar has dissolved and the caramel begins to bubble. Add the vanilla and leave to bubble for a minute or so. Stir in the butter and, once melted, top in the nectarines and leave to poach for about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the nectarine slices and then boil the nectarine sauce until it has reduced by half. Leave to cool.


Fill the cold tart cases with crème pâtissière, up to their tops and smooth over. Top with some nectarine slices and a drizzle of nectarine sauce.

Neapolitan ice cream


Simply make a rich vanilla custard and once cool, pop it in the fridge for an hour before tipping the cold custard into an ice cream maker. Transfer into a rectangular tupperware dish and pop it in the freezer.

4 egg yolks
4 oz/ 100 g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, scored lengthways or 1 tsp vanilla extract
12 fl.oz/ 350 ml double cream

Place the cream/milk in a saucepan with the vanilla pod (if using) and gently bring to the boil. In the meantime, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy and pop a sieve over the bowl ready. Once the cream has come to the boil, pour it through the sieve over the eggs to strain off the vanilla pod and any woody bits that have come off it in the cream. whisk the eggs, sugar and cream together and pour back into the saucepan. Add the vanilla extract at this stage if using. Place the saucepan over a gentle heat and whisk constantly until the custard thickens enough so that it can coat the back of a spoon and if you draw a line through the custard with your finger, the line remains. Remove  from the heat and pour into a cold jug or bowl. Cover the top with cling film to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool completely.


As before, but leave out the vanilla and stir in 100 g of melted dark chocolate to the custard before leaving it to cool. Then pop it in the fridge as before and tip it into an ice cream maker. Transfer to a rectangular tupperware dish and pop in the freezer.


3 punnets of strawberries
4 egg yolks
2 oz/ 100 g caster sugar plus 2 tbsp
12 fl. oz/ 350 ml ml double cream

Hull and chop 2 and a half punnets of strawberries and stick them in a bowl. Sprinkle the strawberries with the 2 tbsp of sugar, cover with cling film and leave to macerate for at least 6 hours.

Blitz the macerated strawberries along with their juice and pass through a sieve into a saucepan. Heat the strawberry juice over a gentle flame until the juice begins to scald. In the meantime, whisk together the remaining sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Once scalded, pour the strawberry juice into the egg mixture and mix thoroughly before returning it all to the heat. Whisk until thickened and transfer to a cold jug. Top the jug with cling film and leave to cool completely before popping the jug in the fridge so it can get properly chilled. Stir in the double cream and pop the lot into an ice cream maker and then transfer it to a rectangular tupperware box and pop in the freezer.

Once all the ice creams have properly set, dunk the boxes in warm water to loosen the ice creams (don't let them melt) and upturn them next to each other, with the vanilla in the middle on a large sheet of cling film. Press each ice cream together firmly so you have one large bock. Work quickly so the ice cream doesn't have time to melt. Wrap the block up in the cling film tightly and pop it back in the freezer. Take the Neapolitan out of the freezer 20 minutes before serving so it softens enough to cut.  

Monday, 13 June 2011

N is for... Napa

Napa: front left
I can't pretend this is an authentic Asian dish, it's more that I felt, rightly so, that N night was sorely lacking vegetables and I have an unusual enthusiasm for cabbage. Now, I don't mean your boiled to death, sweaty sock smelling cabbage. I'm talking about cabbage that has been lightly steamed or fried, turned into kimchi or a single glorious cabbage leaf used as a pocket to hold in some delicious meaty filling. I'm talking about cabbage that has retained its nutritional value, without it running away in the water it's been boiled in, and which also retains a pleasing al dente texture. Napa cabbage is sometimes labelled as Chinese cabbage in supermarkets and is very pale in colour with a long rather than round shape. 


I very simply shredded the napa cabbage and fried it in a hot wok with a touch of crushed garlic and finely chopped chilli. Once it had started to soften I chucked in about a tablespoon of honey. Once the honey started to reduce and had fully coated the napa, I tossed over some toasted sesame seeds and drizzled the lot with sesame oil and a dash of soy. Bosh.

N is for... Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng is at the front

This is an Indonesian rice dish, that's almost like a hot rice salad. It's delicious. Give it a go!

Nasi Goreng

2 beaten eggs
2 red chillies, chopped
4 finely sliced shallots
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large carrot, julienned
150 g sliced chestnut mushrooms
250 g cooked basmati rice
2 tsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp chilli sauce (bough or homemade)
1/2 cucumber, sliced into batons
Sesame oil

Make two thin omelettes with the egg and slice into ribbons. Fry half the chillies, shallot, garlic, carrot and mushrooms for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes until heated through. Chuck it in a serving dish and top with the egg, cucumber and remaining chilli before drizzling the whole lot with sesame oil.

N is for... Nam Prik Num

Nam Prik Pao is the front dish

This is another Thai sauce, this time featuring green chillies, aubergines and tomatoes. It goes particularly well with chicken or meaty fish. I obviously went for chicken. The aubergine gives this dish a subtle smokiness and gives the sauce a clingy viscosity which coats the meat nicely.

Nam Prik Num

1lb/ 450g of chicken, cubed
3 garlic cloves, skin on
5 shallots, skin on
4 green chillies
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 aubergine
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tomatoes, halved
1 tsp sugar

Place the garlic, shallots, chillies, tomatoes and aubergine under a hot grill until charred - keep a watch on it as you will have to remove some of the veg before others.  Deseed the chillies and peel the aubergine, tomatoes, shallots and garlic. Bung the whole lot in a food processor with the soy, lemon and sugar and blitz. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Fry off the chicken in a little oil until just cooked through and add the nam prik num. Stir through until the sauce is hot and has fully coated the chicken and serve.

N is for... Nam Prik Pao

Nam Prik Pao: bottom right

Nam prik pao is a fiery and tangy Thai sauce. Its full bodied flavour works as brilliantly with beef as it does chicken or you can even go down the squid or prawn route. This sauce can be made in bulk and it will sit happily in sterilised jars for ages in your fridge. As with the Nuea Sawan, feel free to swap the soy for nam pla if you're after authenticity.  I made this dish with prawns for N night because I already had a chicken, beef and pork dish on the menu. Unfortunately, half of my guests (Richard included) are not big fans of prawns, but they still loved the sauce. I'll be making this again, but maybe with chicken next time, depending on who's coming for dinner.

Nam Prik Pao

4 - 5 tbsp vegetable/ sunflower oil
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 tbsp dried red chilli flakes
1 tsp shrimp paste
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 - 3 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp water
200 g prawns

Fry the garlic and shallots together until golden and slightly crisp. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and leave to cool. Stick the cooled shallots and garlic along with the rest of the ingredients into a food processor. Blitz until it makes a thick paste. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Chuck the paste into a hot wok and simmer to reduce to the texture of loose jam. Tip in the prawns and cook for two to three minutes or until the prawns are cooked through. If you don't want to use the nam prik pao immediately just transfer the hot sauce into a sterilised jar.

N is for... Nikujaga

Middle dish at the back
Nikujaga is a Japanese meat and potato stew. Meat and potato stew doesn't scream authentic Japanese to me, but apparently this is a favourite home style dish - like a Japanese version of stovies or Lancashire hotpot. You can substitute the pork with beef if you'd prefer. Anyway, it is delicious and strangely, despite it's unlikely ingredients, tastes really Japanese and worked really well in the plate piled high with absurdly mixed up Asian dishes.


200 g/ 8 oz pork loin, thinly sliced
5 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large onion, cut into wedges
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 packet of shiritaki noodles, broken into 3" pieces
500 ml dashi stock
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp vegetable/ sunflower oil

Sauté the meat in a large, deep pot. Add the carrot, potato, onion and noodles to the pan and sauté together. Pour over the dashi and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and skim any foam off the top.  Add the sugar, mirin and soy and pop the lid on. Simmer until the vegetables are soft, taste for seasoning and serve.

N is for... Nuea Sawan

Nuea Sawan is on the left.

Nuea Sawan is a Thai dish which translates as Heavenly beef. And Heavenly it is. Although, if you're anything like me, you'll think similarly of almost anything bovine. This dish is sticky and slightly chewy -  it has the kind of texture that feels like it might turn into spicy beef jerky if you were to leave it in the sun for more than twenty minutes. It is supposed to contain nam pla (fish sauce), but Richard's allergy made me look elsewhere for a similar hit. I couldn't think of one, so I just chucked in more soy sauce. This nam pla free version was delicious but if you feel like getting fishy with it, substitute 3 tbsp soy for nam pla.

Nuea Sawan

4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
2 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
1 sirloin steak, thinly sliced
Vegetable/sunflower/ rapeseed oil for deep frying

Mix together the marinade ingredients, pop in the beef and swirl it around so it's completely covered and leave to marinate for 15 minutes. Heat a frying pan with a little splash of oil and fry off the meat and marinade sauce until reduced. Heat 2 - 3 inches of oil in deep wide brimmed pan saucepan and deep fry the beef in small batches. Drain on kitchen paper and serve.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

N is for... Norimaki

People often mistakenly believe sushi means raw fish. It doesn't. Sushi means vinegared rice. Norimaki is a specific style of sushi which is rolled in nori - a type of seaweed. N night's norimaki, for reasons elsewhere explained, was vegetarian, but you could very easily bung all manner of fishy treats in yours if you so desire. Or indeed other veggie or meaty fillings. I've even been wondering whether norimaki can be made sweet - maybe coconut sweet rice filled with chocolate, dried fruit or jelly. I'm convinced the saltiness of the seaweed would work particularly well with some  caramel or chocolate-y filling or other. In fact, I don't know why I haven't tried it yet. This must be addressed forthwith!  

Please don't be put off trying to make your own norimaki because you have convinced yourself you don't possess the requisite skills. You'll need a bamboo rolling mat and a devil-may-care attitude and you're away. It really isn't rocket science. You just cook and season the rice, decide what you want in it and stick it all on a sheet of nori and roll it up tightly. Your first attempt will probably be a bit loose. Don't worry, the second one's better and the third will be your best yet. It might not be as pretty as the ones in food magazines, but they'll be delicious. Go on, have a go! I promise you won't look back and, if like so many people out there, you have a sensitivity to gluten and find lunchtime a boring hassle, these little babies will revolutionise your lunchbox.


10 oz/ 250 g sushi rice
250 ml water
2-3 tbsp Japanese rice wine vinegar (sushi vinegar)
1 tbsp caster sugar
3 nori sheets
Wasabi paste
1 red pepper
Half a cucumber
1 avocado
1 lime

to serve

Pickled ginger
Soy sauce for dipping
Wasabi paste for your guests to stir into their soy sauce.

Rinse the rice thoroughly before placing it in a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil. Pop the lid on and simmer for five minutes. In the meantime, stir the sugar into the vinegar. Take the rice off the heat. leave the lid on and leave it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir the sweetened vinegar into the rice and then cut and cool the rice by folding it through with a metal spoon. Taste for seasoning and adjust with more vinegar if you think it needs it. Leave to cool completely.

In the meantime, prepare your veg. Deseed your red pepper and cut it into thin batons. Remove the seeds from your cucumber and cut into thin batons. Peel and slice the avocado into batons and squeeze over some lime juice to prevent the avocado from browning.

Place one sheet of nori on your rolling mat, rough side up, and spread a third of your rice on the sheet, leaving a small gap at the top and bottom of the nori. Make a groove in the middle of the rice and dab in some wasabi. Place a line of red pepper batons across the groove, with a line of cucumber next to it and lastly top the pepper and cucumber with a line of avocado.

Take the edge of the mat nearest you and roll the sushi tightly, so you are left with a thick cigar-shaped roll. Unroll the sushi from the mat and repeat the process until you have three long sushi rolls. Pop the rolls in the fridge for about ten minutes so they firm up to make them easier to cut.

Place the rolls on a chopping board, one at a time, and, with a wet sharp knife, cut off the messy ends (a nice little cook's treat for you to snaffle before your guests arrive) and then cut the roll into even sized pieces. Repeat with the remaining rolls. I like to make mine in different thicknesses because I think it looks pretty on the plate.

Serve the norimaki with pickled ginger and soy sauce and more wasabi. 

Friday, 3 June 2011

N is for...

... Napoleans served with Nduja and naan bread, followed by a starter of norimaki. For our main course, we ate nuea sawan, nikujaga, nam prik pao, nam prik num, nasi goreng and napa. For pudding we ate nutty nectarine and nutmeg tarts with neopolitan ice cream followed by a cheeseboard of heart shaped Neufchatel, Nantais and Northumberland. Lastly we knocked back a Nocino with petit-fours of nutty Nocino truffles and nougat

N is a tricky letter for ingredients. Go on, have a go. Off the top of your head, count the number of foodstuffs beginning with N. It's tricky, isn't it? Nectarines: tick. Nutmeg: tick. Nuts (a bit unspecific for my usual taste, but needs must): tick. Erm. Nnnnnnnn??? Ah. Oh dear. N looked set to be a nuisance. I went the way of J and decided to explore dishes rather than ingredients alone. This proved far more fruitful and took me to Asia. I know I moaned about the yawn-fest that following recipes often is in my write-ups for the letter J, but you know what? It's not all bad. And I can never be bothered to be that accurate anyway - you won't see me bothering to get the scales out for 25 grams' worth of anything (with the lone exception of macaroons). But, I now know, after years of thinking hand rolled sushi should be left to the professionals, that making your own norimaki requires about the same amount of skill as rolling up a roulade. I felt very proud of my norimaki - OK, if you want really elaborate sushi then printing off a step-by-step guide and knocking out a few rolls one afternoon isn't going to get you anywhere near expert status. But, you can definitely knock up something half decent that looks ever so pretty on a plate and that everyone seems to think you're a genius for attempting. Nice one.

N night also introduced me, via 1001 Foods You must Try Before You Die, to a delicious, spreadable sausage from Calabria: Nduja. This is one amazing discovery! This meltingly soft and dangerously moreish porky treat is generously laced with roasted hot red peppers that leave a comforting fire in your belly. You can, I've since discovered, buy special Nduja pigs to warm your sausage and make it even easier to spread. Nduja can be difficult to find but I sourced mine from the excellent Lina Stores on Brewer Street. If you can get there, get some. It's amazing spread on hot toast or used to transform a pasta sauce and you can buy it mild or spicy. We opted for spicy. Obviously. And what's more, luckily for N night, it was delicious dolloped on warm naans.

N night played host to performer and cyclist Alex Ferguson, writer and knitter extraordinaire Lily Einhorn and director of stage and screen, frequent changer of hair colour and recent resident of London Sarah Punshon. The N mixtape, lovingly prepared by Richard, included the likes of Nomeansno, Nirvana, Nico, New Order, New Pornographers, Gary Numan and Nine Inch Nails.


Napoleons are simple enough to make. Just shake 4 parts gin, 1 part Dubonnet Rouge and 1 part Cointreau over ice and strain into Martini glasses. Bosh. 

Naans with Nduja

When I was a child, birthdays always involved Madhur Jaffrey's tandoori chicken and some rice dish or other that had onion and peas in, as well as Jaffrey's carrot salad which my mum has adapted over the years but still serves to this day and a delicious cumin- and coriander-heavy dry fried potato and cauliflower side dish. Swish delish. My family still often gets together to eat a massive home-made curry feast and it always reminds me fondly of past birthdays. So it was to straight talking, no nonsense Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery that I turned to for a naan recipe. And it's a good'un.

Makes 6 large breads 

5 fl.oz/ 150ml hand-hot milk
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp dried active yeast
1 lb/ 450g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus a little extra
5 fl.oz/ 150ml natural yoghurt, lightly beaten
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Put the milk in a bowl and add 1 tsp sugar and the yeast and stir to mix. Set aside for 15-20 minutes or until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture is frothy. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large deep bowl. Add the remaining sugar, the yeast mixture, 2 tablespoons of oil and the yoghurt and egg. Mix and form a ball.

Empty the ball of dough on to a clean work surface and knead it for about 10 minutes or until it is smooth and satiny. Form into a ball. Pour about 1/4 tsp oil into a large bowl and roll the ball of dough in it. Cover the bowl with a piece of cling film and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Preheat your oven to its highest temperature. Put the heaviest baking tray you own to heat in the oven. Preheat your grill.

Punch down the dough and knead it again. Divide it into 6 equal balls. Keep 5 of them covered while you work with the sixth. Roll this ball into a tear-shaped naan, about 10 inches in length and 5 inches at its widest (or if, like me, you wanted to make smaller ones, divide the dough into 12 balls and continue as before). Remove the hot tray from the oven and slap the naan on to it. Put it immediately into the oven for 3 minutes. It should puff up. Now place the baking tray and naan under the grill, 3-4 inches away from the heat, for about 30 seconds or until the top of the naan browns slightly. Wrap the naan in a clean towel while you make the other naans to ensure they are all served hot.