Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup with Cream

I once knew a Sicilian woman who used to say “garlic should kiss you on the lips, not slap you in the face.” I quite agree. Garlic is one of my favorite alliums but it is entirely possible to have too much of a good thing. This is why I like to roast it.

Roasting garlic gives it a sweetness. You can use a whole bulb and it won’t overwhelm you.

Below is my recipe for roasted garlic tomato soup with cream. You can omit the cream if you like but as I live in Northern Europe and it’s winter, I’ll be keeping it in probably until summer–all three days of it. One of the reasons I love this recipe, other than the taste, is that it’s extremely easy to make. The ingredients are few and most of them are kitchen staples you’ll have on hand.

Roasted garlic tomato soup with cream

Roasted garlic tomato soup with cream


1 head of garlic

olive oil

2 x 400 g cans of chopped tomatoes

1/2 c to 3/4 c chicken stock

1/4 c dry sherry

salt/pepper/red pepper flakes

2 tbsp to 1/3 c. double cream




Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6/

Trim the top off the garlic bulb. Drizzle it with olive oil. Wrap it in tin foil and place it on a baking tray. Roast it for about 45 minutes or until the cloves are soft.

While the garlic is roasting, heat some olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes then the tomatoes. When they start to thicken, stir in the sherry. After five minutes, add the chicken stock. Simmer for half an hour.

Once the garlic cloves are cool enough to handle, squeeze them into the soup. Season to taste and add the cream a spoonful at a time.

Use a hand blender to blend until smooth. Top with basil chiffonade and serve.


Shimmy Shimmy Ya, Ooh Baby I Like It Raw. . . A Chopped Winter Salad Recipe


So this isn’t exactly my mother-in-law’s winter salad recipe and not just because I can’t make it without singing a bit of Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Mine is a little flashier. The flavours are brighter. The textures more varied. Nothing is grated. It also includes oven roasted nuts and goats cheese.

Each bite offers a lot of crunch and color as well as a good dose of sweet, sour, and savory. It’s a salad that’s as balanced as it is beautiful.


1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1/3 small red cabbage, chopped

1 tart apple, chopped (I prefer Cox. Say it again and laugh. It’s alright.)

1 bulb of fennel, chopped (fronds too)

the arils from half a pomegranate

1/2 cup pecans

1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 tablespoons goats cheese (I like Moody’s Rosary Ash from Waitrose)

1 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

meyer lemon vinaigrette = 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard emulsified with 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil + 1 teaspoon honey + 1 tablespoon meyer lemon juice



Preheat the oven to Gas 6/4000°F/200°C.

While you wait for it to warm, chop your vegetables and fruit. Squeeze some lemon on the chopped apple to prevent it from discoloring. Set the fruit and vegetables aside in a large bowl. Add the pomegranate, cheese, and poppy seeds.

When the oven is ready, place the pecans and pumpkin seeds on a baking tray. Pour the maple syrup on them and toss lightly to coat evenly. Salt and pepper them. Toast them for about five minutes.

Make the vinaigrette while the nuts roast. When the nuts are ready, remove them from the oven and add them to the other ingredients. Toss and serve.


Winter salad

Winter salad




Frank Day (a chicken parmigiana recipe)

When I was in college my friends and I used to celebrate Frank Sinatra’s birthday, the 12th of December, with a feast we called Frank Day.  Frank Day was the perfect excuse to listen to lots of Ol’ Blue Eyes whilst wearing pin stripes and carnations and eating copious amounts of Italian-American classics like ragu bolognese, spaghetti and meatballs, or chicken parmigiana.  This year, I’ve decided to bring it back. Below is my recipe for chicken parm and I hope you like it.  I love it.


Ingredients for the sauce:

800 g finely chopped tomatoes

1 heaped tbsp tomato paste

half an anchovy

2 cloves of garlic

a pinch of red pepper flakes

bay leaf

1/4 c dry white wine


caster sugar

olive oil


Method for the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a saucepan.  Put the garlic cloves and anchovy through a garlic press and briefly saute for no more than a minute.  Add the tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Stir in the finely chopped tomatoes and wine.  Bring to a simmer.  Allow this to gently bubble for at least an hour.  Season to taste.  If it’s a bit bitter or sharp to you, add a pinch of sugar.


Ingredients for the chicken parmigiana:

the tomato sauce from above

4 chicken breasts

bread crumbs from 3 pieces of toast

1 egg, beaten

1 c all purpose flour

2 tbsp grated parmesan

2 large balls of buffalo mozzarella, broken into pieces

1/2 tsp dried oregano

fresh basil and flat leaf parsley

olive oil




Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap.  Use a rolling pin to pound them until they are thin.

Combine the bread crumbs on a plate with the parmesan and oregano.  Season with salt and pepper.

On another plate, have the beaten egg.

On a third plate, the flour.

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet. Take the chicken breasts and dip both sides in the flour.  Then dip it in the egg.  Then coat both sides with the bread crumb mixture.  Fry the chicken over medium-high heat until crispy and golden on both sides.

Pour the tomato sauce in a large baking dish.  Place the chicken on top of it.  Scatter the mozzarella on top of the pieces and add a bit more grated parmesan.

Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and brown in places.  Serve with basil and parsley, a green salad, and your favourite pasta.






Peppermint Bark

“Gargamel to Jokey.  Come in, Jokey.”

“Jokey Smurf here.  Go ahead, Gargamel.”

“There is Charlie all over the place.  I repeat: There is Charlie all over the place.”

“What do you want me to do?  Head north on Rossmore?”

“Yes so we can pick you up before Muirfield.  Can you copy?”


“Hurry!  Over and out.”

This is how my parents picked me up from school one year the last Friday before winter break.  It was 1997.  Ally McBeal was all the rage.  Everyone smelled of CK One or Thierry Mugler’s Angel and car phones were the size of small laptops.  When I rang my parents from school it was via the pay phone in the hall for which we had a Sprint pin so I never required quarters.  The conversation above was thanks to the Motorola walkie talkies we had.

My family always went away someplace snowy for Christmas.  We would leave the moment school let out.  This is why my parents were anxious to pick me up as soon as possible.  15 hours in the car is a long time.  Add a moody teenager and a Maltese who gets carsick and that’s a really long time, like the Magi’s trip down the Silk Road to Bethlehem long.

How did we pass the hours?  Eddie Floyd, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Dead President’s soundtrack, slurpees, Red Vines, Cool Ranch Doritos, Algerian pop music, I spy with my little eye, Mariah Carey’s Christmas album, beef jerky from Chevron, turkey jerky from Chalet Gourmet, The Rolling Stones, Vegas!, Madonna’s Immaculate Collection, Dire Straits, Dwight Yoakam, The Judds Christmas album, Blur, Elvis, The Home Alone Soundtrack, Paul Simon’s Graceland, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on CD, sandwiches from Greenblatt’s, Evian, Gatorade, Fish Lake, pit stop, pee stop, stretch your legs, walk the dog, In-N-Out, Grand Junction, Aspen.

Aspen is beautiful no matter the time of year, but I love it most covered with snow.  It was a weird place though in that we would drive 900+ miles to escape Los Angeles only to be surrounded by all the same people we’d usually see back in Los Angeles.  All that had changed was the scenery.  Not that I’m complaining.

I loved going to Aspen.  I loved how on the first night, my dad would give my mother and I new flannel pajamas.  I loved that their ice skating rink had a women’s hockey team called the Mother Puckers and that not only did I start landing my first axel jumps there, but I also mastered a mean sit-spin with the help of a coach called Lisa.  I loved dog sledding and lunch at Krabloonik.  I loved that the Christmas tree we got in Aspen was different from the one we got in Los Angeles.  There we’d always get a sad little Charlie Brown tree, one that was small and lopsided and missing lots of pine needles.  The tree no other family would have chosen, that’s the one we chose.  We’d take it home and decorate it with strings of cranberries, popcorn balls, cookies, and millefiori beads my mother helped me make with a craft kit from Klutz.  And for the next two weeks, we’d tell it it was the most beautiful tree in the world.

There was a producer my father worked with who invited us to his house near Snowmass. He had reindeer and kept it decorated like Christmas year round.  The thing I remember most about this house was the endless supply of Williams Sonoma peppermint bark.

Williams Sonoma was the gold standard for kitchen shops in America when I was a child and their peppermint bark was the ultimate Christmas candy.  It still is.  Essentially, it’s a thin layer of minty chocolate topped with a thin layer of white chocolate and on top of that are crushed peppermints.  There are lots of copycat recipes.  Here is mine.

One taste and I feel like I’m young and back in Aspen at Christmastime again.  Waiting with my dog in the backseat of the car to pick up my dad from the base of Ajax.  Mama belting out “Beautiful star of Bethlehem” with Wynnona and Naomi in the driver’s seat.  Her pointer finger raised telling me to shush a minute until she’s finished singing.  Little do I know that years later Mama’s version of this song is all I’ll want hear once December rolls around.


400 grams of good chocolate (I mix 250g Lindt milk with 150g Valrhona dark)

peppermint extract

5-10 Oreos, pulverized (I remove the white creamy filling first)

200 g white chocolate

5 mini candy canes, smashed


Line a jelly roll pan with foil then non-stick baking paper.

Sprinkle cookie crumbs all over the paper.

Oreo crumbs.

Oreo crumbs.

Heat the milk and dark chocolate in a double boiler until melted.

Stir 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract into the chocolate.  Taste it.  If you want the mint stronger, add a drop more.  Be careful not to add too much.

Pour the chocolate over the Oreo crumbs.  Smooth the surface with a spatula.

Allow the chocolate to cool for 30 minutes.

Now heat the white chocolate in the double boiler until it is smooth.

Pour the white chocolate on top of the dark chocolate.  Smooth the surface before sprinkling smashed candy canes over the top.

I know. It l

I know. It looks like Christmas elves are about to go on a bender.

Cool completely.  I allow mine to rest overnight.

Slice into pieces and store in a tin to serve at a later date or enjoy straight away.

Peppermint bark cross section.

Peppermint bark cross section.

I store mine in a tin then keep it in the refrigerator.

I store mine in a tin then keep it in the refrigerator.


My daughter’s birthday is in early December.  This year, we are hosting an elf workshop party to celebrate her turning five.  The kids will decorate cookies, makes ornaments, play pin the nose on Rudolph, and inevitably have a strop or two whilst playing pass the parcel because let’s face it–there is always a child who is slightly unhappy about the sweetie or small toy they got.  There will also be limbo and musical statues and a playlist that is not exclusively from Disney movies.  Because I just couldn’t cope with that.  Thank God, she loves T. Rex and Tim Tim and Grieg.

Most importantly, there will be mince pies.

Mince pies were not part of my life until I moved to London.  For one thing, they don’t go with fish tacos and margaritas which is how my poolside Southern California Christmases were spent.  For another, I hate cooked raisins.  Or so I thought.   Then one holiday party a few years back, my eyes were opened wide and I was forced to admit “I like green eggs and ham!  I do!  I like them, Sam-I-Am!”

From Elizabeth David to Delia Smith to Mary Berry, there is one commonality where mince pies are concerned–the best require homemade mincemeat.  Some recipes call for suet. Others, use butter.  Some are simmered stove top.  Others are not.   For the sake of experimentation, I have done both.

I’ll let you know in a few weeks which I prefer, but I have a feeling my answer will be ALL OF THEM.  Until then I’ll be working on a gingerbread biscuit recipe whilst Helena continues to swan around in this amazing party dress my mother gave her.




Ingredients for mincemeat with suet and rum:

125 g raisins

100 g currants

75 g dried cherries

1 tart cooking apple (I use a Bramley), peeled, cored, and grated

40 g mixed peel

3 pieces of stem ginger, minced + 1 tsp of the ginger syrup

1/4 tsp freshly grated ginger

125 g dark brown sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

150 g shredded suet

the zest and juice of 1 lemon

the zest of 1 orange

75 ml rum (I used Pusser’s)


Method:  Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl then pack into sterilized jars.








Ingredients for mincemeat with butter and Armagnac:

200 g raisins

150 g currants

100 g pitted dates, finely chopped

100 g dried cranberries

100 g slivered almonds

2 tart cooking apples, peeled, cored, and grated

the zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange

75 g pecans or chestnuts, finely chopped

50 g slivered almonds

2 pieces of stem ginger, minced

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground ginger

125 g unsalted butter

220 g light brown sugar

140 ml Armagnac or brandy of your choice


Method:  Combine all ingredients, except for the Armanac, in a large saucepan.  Simmer and stir for about 10 minutes.  Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before stirring in the Armaganc.  Seal in sterilized jars.

20161122_165608 20161122_171554




Scarily Good Ghostie Meringue Cupcakes


Today was the first bake sale of the school year.  Being a new reception(that’s kindergarten if you live in America) parent, I took the opportunity to show off a little.  I asked my daughter what kind of cake she’d like me to make and she said CUPCAKES!  At first I thought, ugh too twee but the more I thought about it, the more I realised Claire Ptak’s sweet wine cake would probably not be appreciated by the kinder set as much as I love it.

So with Halloween around the corner, I decided to make chocolate buttermilk cupcakes with chocolate buttercream, Oreo cookie crumbs, and Swiss meringue ghosties.  Everyone loved them.  Except for Helena.  I am ashamed to say she bought a pink sparkly fairy cake that came in a plastic wrapper instead.



Ingredients for the cakes:

2 ½ cups flour

2 cups sugar

5 heaping tbsp cocoa

¼ t. salt

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup buttermilk

2 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 cup strong hot coffee


Method: Mix ingredients together except for the baking soda and hot coffee.  Dissolve soda in hot coffee then add to batter and gently stir to mix.  Don’t be alarmed by how liquidy the mixture is.  This is why the cakes are so moist.  Fill cupcake holders ¾ full. Bake at 350F/180C/Gas 4 for 18-20 minutes.


Ingredients for the chocolate buttercream frosting:

250 grams (about 2 sticks if you’re in America) unsalted butter, softened

4 cups powdered/icing sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder

75 grams melted dark chocolate

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt


Method: First, put the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a small simmering saucepan of water.  Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  When the chocolate has melted, set it aside and allow it cool to room temperature.  Then combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Use a hand mixer or standing mixer to beat the frosting until fluffy.  If you think it’s too thick, mix in some milk a tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you desire.  Be careful though, thicker is better for this frosting.


Ingredients for chocolate cookie crumbs:

1 sleeve of Oreo cookies

Method: Simply put the Oreos in a food processor to blitz.  When they are all crumb, put them in a shallow dish.


Ingredients for Swiss meringue:

6 egg whites

220 grams of caster sugar

1 tsp cream of tartar



Method: Whisk the ingredients in a large heatproof bowl.  Once combined, place the bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water and continue whisking.  Place the thermometer in the mixture.  When it reaches 160°F/71°C, remove it from the heat.  Using an electric mixer, start beating the mixture on a medium speed.  Increase the speed after a few minutes high and keep beating until shiny stiff peaks form.

*Heating the meringue to 160°F/71°C will pasteurize it, just in case you’re worried about eating raw egg white.


Other items you will need:

black food coloring on a plate

a birthday candle with a plastic holder attached and/or a matchstick

a pastry bag with a wide nozzle


How to assemble the cakes:

  1. Once the cupcakes have cooled, frost them with the chocolate buttercream.
  2. Gently dip the frosted sides of the cupcakes into the Oreo crumbs.
  3. Spoon the meringue into the pastry bag.
  4. Pipe ghosts on top of the Oreo cookie covered frosting.
  5. Dip the pointy end of a birthday candle holder or a matchstick into the black food coloring. Carefully dot it on the meringue ghostie to make eyes.
  6. Using the bottom of a birthday candle, dot on a mouth doing the same.

For transport, I used a Freddie’s Flowers box!  It was perfect.  Who knew?





Though I am not actually Jewish, I am very Jew-ish.  Probably one of the most Jew-ish goys you’ll meet.  I can’t help it.  I grew up in Hollywood.  My step-father is a Jewish screenwriter.  His parents are from New York and all the old family photos look like stills from Once Upon a Time in America.  Nana from Flatbush.  Jack from the Lower East Side.  When Jack was growing up, his father was in the clink for racketeering.  So who’d stop by to check in on him?  Meyer Lansky, also known as The Mob’s Accountant.  At least that’s the story I heard.

Growing up, most of my friends were Jewish.  They still are.  By the time I was 13, I had attended so many bar and bat mitzvahs that even I knew the haftarah.  The first time I saw an uncircumcised penis I was baffled by it.  For years, I wore a star of David around my neck and every Yom Kippur I like the way my heart feels after I atone.  When I was cast to play Fran Drescher’s daughter on a sitcom, I put a mezuzah on the post outside my dressing room door.  Ditto my first apartment.  My first kiss was with a Jewish boy and my husband, well, to quote my Nana the first time she saw a picture of him, “His name is Jeffreys but why do I get the feeling he’s a member of the tribe?”  Because he is and the name is actually Jaffe; the family changed it in 1927.

Things I don’t do: sweat, feel proud, get choked up, feel flustered.

Things I do do: schvitz, kvell, get verklempt and fershimmeled.

I also make a mean challah.  Below is the recipe.  Though I love to eat it straight out of the oven, it’s also great to make pain perdu with a day later.


On the set of Living with Fran. L to R: Me, Ben Feldman, Charles Shaughnessy, Fran Drescher, Ryan McPartlin, Rachel Hunter, Debi Mazar, Mikalah Gordon. Front row: Sylvia and Morty Drescher.

Living with Fran "Who's The Parent" (Episode #101) Image #LWF101-0451 Pictured (l-r): Fran Drescher as Fran Reeves, Misti Traya as Allison Reeves Credit: © The WB/Scott Humbert



3/4 c + 2 tbsp milk

1/4 c + 1 tsp sugar

3 tbsp runny or slightly melted honey

2 large eggs + 2 yolks

4 cups all purpose flour

4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

2 tsp dried active yeast

1 1/4 tsp salt



For the egg wash: 1 egg + 1 tbsp water + 1/2 tsp salt



Warm the milk to 115F.  Transfer it to a large bowl and add the yeast plus the 1 tsp of sugar.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

In another bowl, combine the 2 large eggs plus the 2 yolks and the melted butter.  Pour this into the yeast mixture and stir together.

Add the flour, remaining 1/4 c of sugar, honey, and salt.  Use a wooden spoon to combine it all.

On a lightly floured counter top, knead the dough until smooth and supple, roughly 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a large lightly buttered bowl.  Cover it with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise.  It should double in size in about an hour.


After this time, uncover the dough and punch it down.  Then cover it again with the plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 30 more minutes.

Uncover the dough and divide it into 4 even pieces.  Roll them into ropes that are approximately 16″ long.


Pinch the tops of the 4 ropes together to form an end of the loaf.  Now braid the strands as illustrated in the video below.

OR, you can take your 4 ropes and braid them into a round as illustrated in this video:

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas4.

Line a tray with baking paper.  Place the braided loaf on the paper.  Cover it back up with plastic wrap.  Allow the challah to rise for another hour.



Press a finger into the dough.  If the indent stays, it is ready to bake.

Paint the challah with a thin layer of egg wash.

Bake for 20 minutes then remove the loaf from the oven.  Paint another thin layer of egg wash, but only over the center of the braid.

Return the tray to the oven and continue baking for another 20 minutes.  Be sure to watch the color of your loaf.  When it’s the shade of brown you desire, remove the loaf, tent it with foil, then return it to the oven to finish baking.  Remove the foil for the last few minutes of baking.




sliced-1 toast