Read her full article published 17th February in the Scotsman Magazine
I visited Blackpool in January.
Carla was dancing along with some incredibly talented boys and girls at a dance competition in this iconic West Coast town, Blackpool, the home of dancing.
Now our team weren’t dancing in the Ballroom but my twinkle toes sneaked next door for a sneaky peak and afternoon tea between the shows.
It’s hard to gauge any seaside town off season. Having grown in down the coast I know how miserable it can be outwith the Easter and summer holidays before the crowds head down in their thousands. But January helped by that horizontal rain and gale force winds that Scotland and clearly England do so well was a cold and frosty experience. It took 3 of us just to open the door to leave the ballroom and we weren’t in hurry.
Despite the grey and the gloom of the weather and the sad sight of several shops lying empty and derelict the glory of the Strictly Ballroom wasn’t tarnished.
It is as beautiful as Darcy and Bruno’s sparkly costumes. The professionals were out in force. Poise posture grace.
It is wonderful that these people have learnt a craft and continue to exercise it. Viennese Waltzes, Foxtrots, Tango all executed to perfection. The majority of the dancers were trim, beautifully dressed, having fun and mostly over 70. But the style and grace was timeless.
If their cook counterparts were analysed they would be judged in the same league. They’d have learnt to make soups, stews, casseroles, souffles and perfect steam puddings. The Ballroom was brimming with people who had learnt to dance and they’ve danced all their lives. If you learn to cook you’ll be cooking with style all your life.
My parents were fabulous dancers, most of my siblings are equally proficient. I was never old enough to go to the dances, and when I was, the discos had taken over and while I can boogie to Bananarama I’ve not got what it takes to glide and float like Anton or Pasha.
My mission is not to allow our cooking traditions to be lost. Let’s bring back the ballroom and the stockpot and lets all keep cooking…….
creamed carrot & parsnip soup with salted apple compote
100g unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
400g onions, coarsely chopped
600g carrots, coarsely chopped
400g parsnips, coarsely chopped
1 litre hot home-made stock or1 litre boiling water
freshly ground black pepper, toserve
Cook this soup either on the hob or in the oven. If cooking it in the oven, preheatthe oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large casseroledish over a low heat. Add the onions and sweat slowly until they are soft andlook as if they can’t absorb any more butter. Don’t let them caramelize or brown.
Add the carrots and parsnips, season with a good teaspoonful of salt, then addthe hot stock or water. Either simmer for 45 minutes with the casserole dish half coveredwith a lid or cover completely, transfer to the preheated oven and bakefor 40 minutes. When the vegetables are tender, transfer the soup to a blenderor food processor and blend until smooth. Add salt to taste, if necessary, andsprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Serve with the salted apple compote
salted apple compote
1 tsp coriander seeds
pinch of salt
Peel, core and cut the apples into small chunks. Place the apples, corianderseeds, salt and 1 tbsp water in a pan and simmer gently for 5 minutes until theapple has cooked through. If you choose dessert apples they won’t collapse soyou’ll have pieces of apple in the soup. A puréed compote is also delicious butI rather like the smooth soup with the bits of apple. It reminds me of a starry sky!
Because so much butter is used to make the soup, you don’t need tofinish the dish with any cream – but of course you can if you’re lookingfor a little more luxury. Or, for a different taste experience altogether, thischunky salted apple compote spooned through the soup really delivers.
Salted anchovies have been used in the British Isles since the Roman invasions almost 2000years ago. Their unique flavour adds depth to any recipe. I always buy them bottled in oliveoil, taking the one or two that I need and storing the rest in the fridge for as long as they last,which is often months. I love them and when matched with roast chicory, the flavour is heavenly
2 heads of chicory
6-8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp light honey (such as clover or acacia)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 salted anchovies in olive oil
1 garlic clove
small handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only,coarsely chopped
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
4 thick slices of country or sourdough bread
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6. Quarter the chicory length ways, then quarter it again. Laythe quarters in an ovenproof dish and drizzle with a little olive oil, the honey and a generous sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until the chicory has wilted.
Meanwhile, use a pestle and mortar to cream together the anchovies and garlic. Loosen withsome olive oil, then stir in the parsley and chilli.The mixture should make a lumpy sauce rather than a smooth one. Pour about 2 tbsp olive oil on a ridged griddle pan and toast both sides of the bread. When golden, remove the toast and rub with some of the anchovy sauce.
Place the hot chicory on top of the toast and drizzle with more of the anchovy sauce. Finish with a sprinkle of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot, though it is also really tasty when eaten cold.
Meringues are a simple as a meringue……. Look it up if you think I’m cracking a yolk!
Makes 8 – 10 fabulous meringues
Weigh just the whites of 3 organic free-range eggs. Make sure they are at room temperature.Weigh double the weight of white caster sugar.Pinch of salt
Beat the egg whites and the salt until stiff. You’ll need a hand mixer or a table top mixer is ever better. Beat the sugar in a teaspoon at a time. The mixture should be firm and light. Spoon small ladles of the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Place in a pre heated oven gas mark 2 and turn the oven off. Leave in the oven for 1 1/2 hour if you like them chewy or over night if you like the meringues dry.