My Favourite Recipes (and Guilty Pleasures) of 2011

Food Stories has been predominantly recipe (not restaurant) focused this year. Creating is what makes me feel happiest inside, it turns out. So here are my favourite recipes of 2011, followed by the most memorable guilty pleasures; it would be terribly neglectful to exclude the latter, I think, as it’s surely clear by now that I’m quite partial to a filthy (probably pork-based, definitely artery-shuddering) snackette, or four.

1. Egg Yolk Ravioli (top photo)

It took three attempts, but I eventually nailed this recipe and was rewarded with some of the most decadent pasta I’ve ever eaten; a quivering yolk coddled by a ring of spinach and ricotta, ready to ooze headlong into a sauce that is made almost entirely from melted butter. Crushed pink peppercorns and purple basil made it one of my prettiest plates of 2011, too.

2. Piri Piri Chicken

2011 was the year I got even more into BBQ. Come drizzle, hail or sunshine, I was out there guarding that Weber, tongs in hand, bucket of meat on standby. We worked our way through jerk; brisket; brats cooked in beer; pulled pork and an obscene amount of wings (more on those later) but one of my favourite recipes was this piri piri chicken, inspired by a local takeaway. The combination of charred chicken (for piri piri must be charred), feisty chilli and tangy vinegar sauce made this one of my hits of the summer.

3. Boston Baked Beans

These rich and smoky Boston baked beans are thick with molasses and packed with nubs of smoked pork belly. They’re about as different to regular baked beans as you can imagine and they rocked my world.

4. Baghdad Eggs

I first came across Baghdad eggs in Jake Tilson’s brilliant cook book, ‘A Tale of 12 Kitchens’. This combination of  onions, sharp yoghurt and spiced butter on eggs is now my favourite weekend brunch.

5. Daim Bar Ice Cream

I visited Sweden this year and re-discovered Daim Bars. They went straight into ice cream. I watched my boyfriend devour the remains of this, straight from the tub with a spoon, after which he lay back, clutching his stomach, moaning “I feel siiiiiiick”. In a good way, you understand.

6. Ham Cooked in Coca Cola with a Rum and Molasses Glaze

The only way to make this sticky-sweet ham any better would be to pull great big hunks off it, stick it in a sandwich with some deep fried pickles and…oh, wait a minute.

7. Hickory Smoked Hot Wings 

After my first batch of home made hot wings, I wanted to do a variation and decided to smoke them using hickory wood chips, before dousing them as usual in Frank’s Hot Sauce and melted butter. Come to mama.

8. Smoky Aubergine and Lamb Pide

Pide are like a pointy Middle Eastern version of pizza. I based the recipe on my ‘Peckham Pizza’ (based on lahmacun). The topping is an intense paste made from spiced, minced lamb and the flesh from a charred aubergine. Garnished with chopped pickles and herbs, they’re lovely eaten as is, or wrapped around some salad.

 9. Pork Pibil Tacos

This pibil was made with pork knuckles and smothered in achiote paste – a wonderful ingredient which simply has no substitute. The tacos were spicy, drizzled as they were with a sauce made from orange juice, onion and scotch bonnet chillies.

10. Sausage Rolls with Apricots and Whisky-Caramelised Onions

And finally, a seasonal entry at number 10, my new favourite sausage roll recipe. Onions were slowly, slowly caramelised then bubbled furiously with whisky before going into these sausage rolls along with some dried apricots. The sweetness worked so well with the sausage meat and I’ve had great feedback from people who’ve made them this Christmas.

For the guilty pleasures, I’ve exercised some restraint (most uncharacteristic) and narrowed it down to five:

1. Baked Gnocchi with Gorgonzola and Spinach

Sneaking in on 3rd Jan was this rather naughty dish I made for my boyfriend’s birthday dinner. Home-made gnocchi baked in a sauce of Gorgonzola and cream, with a little spinach thrown in to ease the guilt. The gnocchi goes crispy on top while remaining gooey and soft underneath. A cardiologist’s nightmare.

2. Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing and Candied Bacon

Candied bacon is definitely one of my top guilty pleasures of the year, so much so I wrote a whole post about making it and using it. I have fond memories though of this ‘salad’ garnish, chopped candied bacon sprinkled over a river of blue cheese dressing and crunchy iceberg.

3. Deep Fried Pickles

Everyone went mad for these in 2011. I stuffed mine into a sandwich with coca cola ham and hot sauce. Then I had a lie down.

4. Meatwagon Burgers

I’ve followed Yianni’s journey from his van in Peckham, through #Meateasy in New Cross and now to Meat Liquor via The Rye. The latter has to be the most convenient and dangerous burger vending situation ever in existence if the state of my waistline is anything to go by. The Rye pub is opposite my house you see and for a few glorious months I needed to do little more than hop over the road to get my fix. Now they’re gone and Meat Liquor is in central London. I could cry.

5. Eggy Bread and Candied Bacon Sandwich

In at number 5: the sandwich of shame. I had candied bacon to hand and I’d just made eggy bread. It had to be done, see? We felt the guilt after eating this but damn, it was good. Sick, but good. If you’re into sandwiches, I’ve written a post about my top 5 here.

Phew. No wonder I need to lose weight. The diet inevitably starts er, tomorrow but until then I’ve got a Ginger Pig rib eye with my name on it. Happy New Year everyone. Thank you for reading and here’s to a tasty 2012. Cheers!


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36 thoughts on “My Favourite Recipes (and Guilty Pleasures) of 2011

  1. I’m voting your Boston beans as my favourites from last year…I missed the sausage rolls but will be giving them a go.
    Keep up the blogging—utterly inspiring stuff! x

  2. I just found your blog, and I love this post – especially the look of that incredible egg yolk ravioli. I feel very inspired now and can’t wait to try some of your recipes!

  3. Oh dear, we have baked gnocchi in cream and spinach about once a week at the moment, is it that bad for you? It’s got spinach, potatoes and onions, plus I put white wine in, which is made from grapes, so that’s 4 out of your 5 a day, what’s the problem?! :)

    Seriously, loved reading your blog this year (it was the boston beans (which were amazing!) who first brought me here), keep it up for 2012 :)

    1. Oh no, once a week is definitely fine. That’s official government advice don’t you know. Ahem.

      Thanks very much for your comment and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog in 2012. Happy New year!

  4. my favourite thing about this list is that my two favourite things from your blog all year (beef brisket in bourbon and brats simmered in beer, and hardcore ipa to boot) aren’t in your top 10, which just shows how much i’ve enjoyed it all…

    1. Aww that’s lovely. I’m really glad to hear you’re enjoying the blog. I did ponder over both those recipes actually – I mean, meat and booze! MEAT AND BOOZE!

  5. Damn this has made me so HUNGRY! It all looks so good, Helen. And it’s also inspiring me to cook more and cook better – I’ve got too lazy recently! (And it’s also making me think how I can pimp these recipes with beer… smoked German beer in the beans would be amazing…)


    And the Baghdad eggs were great – thanks for that one.

    And, frankly, everything else.

    Nice one and please keep it up!

  7. Helen
    Fabulous dishes; tried the sausage rolls yesterday – all disappeared immediately. Going to Meat Liquor on Tuesday as not been yet.

  8. Thanks for all your dedication and recipes this year – I continue to enjoy reading it all :) :)

    The smoky aubergine and lamb pide and the Baghdad eggs are on my list of things to do over the next few months.

    Cheers and HNY :)

  9. I absolutely love this post. It made me hungry, and I just had lunch. (There was NO PORK in my lunch though). I want to roll myself in your food like a blanket.

  10. Yeah, bring on 2012 and the endless porky inspiration. I will also be watching. Have to try your knuckle pibil… your blood orange and pork cheek tacos are up there with my all-time favs so this had BETTER BE GOOD. Made some jerk knuckle the other week too. So basically, it sounds good. Also… still a bit in shock from the eggy bread and candied bacon – had some eggy bread by my sis the other day and could barely get through a half slice (I know, I am failing as a food fiend). Anyway that’s enough wittering. Happy 2012, sista X

    1. Ha ha ha, thanks mate! Porky inspiration ahoy. Yeah, the candied bacon eggy bread thing was SICK. We managed half a sandwich each then gave up and retreated in total shame. OUTRAGEOUS!! xx


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