Aubergine, paneer and pepper curry

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There’s an endless world of curries out there but sometime time is short but the need for a spice kick remains so this is where this speedy midweek curry comes in handy. I often prefer a vegetarian curry so this uses some of my favourite vegetables whilst being packed with flavour; you never know, it may even convert the most diehard carnivore! I have chosen vegetables that have distinctive flavours that can stand up to the spices so you can taste each element of the curry. Feel free to play around with different vegetable combinations- a potato based curry is always delicious!

Ingredients- serves 2
Block of paneer approx. 200g
2 tbsp corn flour
Vegetable oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 large garlic clove or 1 tsp garlic puree
1 tsp black onion seeds
1/2 tbsp. each of the ground cumin, coriander, fenugreek, chilli powder,
1 small aubergine- cubed
1 red or yellow pepper- chopped
Small bag of baby spinach- shredded
100ml passata

1.Cut the paneer into equal sized cubes- you usually get around 12-14 cubes from an average block of paneer. Toss them in the corn flour. Heat a good glug of oil over a medium- high heat and fry the cubes until golden and turning crisp. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and blot onto kitchen roll to remove any excess oil.

2. Choose a large wide brimmed pan that is big enough to fit all the paneer and vegetables in. Heat another glug of oil over a low to medium heat. Fry the red onion until softening and turning a deep golden; don’t rush this as this will help the overall flavour. Add the onion seeds and fry for another minute.

3. Add the aubergine and pepper and continue to cook until the vegetables are softened and tender. Meanwhile, combine the spices plus the garlic, or garlic puree if you are using this instead, in a small dish with a splash of water to form a paste. Add to the pan with the vegetables and cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are well coated and the flavours of the spices are being released. Pour in the passata, stir well to combine and add the paneer chunks back into the pan. Simmer until the sauce is reducing slightly and clinging onto the vegetables. If the sauce looks too thick at any point, simply add a splash of water and carry on simmering. When it looks nearly ready, add the shredded spinach and cook for a couple of minutes until wilted. Serve with your choice of Indian bread such as naan or chapatti and a sprinkling of freshly chopped coriander if you like.

Aubergine, paneer and pepper curry- a speedy curry for people in a hurry!

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Montezuma’s hash

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If you Google ‘Montezuma’ you will enter into an ancient world and boost your knowledge somewhat but it will do nothing to sate your appetite. This recipe was born out of a fancy for an easy breakfast one weekend and making the most of a few ingredients that needed a bit of love which lent themselves to a Mexican inspired dish hence the slightly obscure name (got to be creative, right?). The hash includes flavours which are sweet, spicy and savoury to create a moreish meal that will certainly set you up for the day ahead. But why stop there? It would also be perfect for a light dinner.

Ingredients- serves 2-3
1 large white potato- peeled and chopped
100g chorizo- chopped
1 tsp each of ground coriander, ground cumin and paprika
1 red onion- finely sliced
2 garlic cloves- finely sliced or crushed
2 vine tomatoes- deseeded and finely chopped
1 mild green chilli- deseeded and finely chopped
2-3 eggs
1 large ripe avocado- peeled and cubed
Fresh coriander

1. Bring a medium pan of water to the boil and preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan whilst you peel and chop the potato into chunks. Add salt to the pan and boil until the potatoes are par boiled; drain and set aside.

2. Take a large frying pan that is large enough to fit all the dish in and that has an ovenproof handle. Heat to medium high. Dry fry the chorizo before removing from the pan and setting aside for later. Toss in the potatoes and fry them in the chorizo fat until tender and coloured.

3. When the potatoes are nearly ready, add the onion, garlic, ground coriander and ground cumin to the pan; continue to cook until the onion is softened. Return the chorizo back to the pan. Stir through the tomato as well as half of the green chilli and cook for one more minute.

4. Use a spoon to create two or three wells in the mixture and crack an egg into each. Bake in the oven until the egg whites are set but the yolk is runny.

5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle over the avocado cubes so they start to slightly warm through on top of the potatoes. Scatter the fresh coriander, remaining green chilli and paprika to finish. Serve immediately.

Montezuma’s hash- a breakfast feast fit for a king!

Jambalaya

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Jambalaya is a spicy Creole rice dish which makes the most of a range of ingredients from vegetables to chicken to prawns and back again. It can be adapted as much or as little in the way of meat as you like but is also delicious as a vegetarian option by loading up the veggies. I like to serve it in the middle of the table as it can look really quite impressive and that way everyone can help themselves- I can guarantee that there will be no leftovers!

 

Ingredients- serves 4
1 tbsp oil
2 chicken breasts- cut into chunks or strips
100g chorizo- cut into chunks
1 onion- chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed or finely sliced
2 celery sticks- finely sliced
1 red bell pepper and 1 yellow bell pepper- sliced
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
200g long grain rice
400ml chopped tinned tomatoes
400ml chicken stock
Small pack of raw king prawns- deveined
3 spring onions- finely sliced

1. Take a large non-stick frying pan and heat oil over a medium heat. When hot, add the chicken and chorizo and cook until the chicken is browned off and the chorizo is starting to turn golden and crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside but keep the delicious juices.

2. Add the onion, celery and pepper to the pan and fry until softened. Near the end add in the garlic cloves so they don’t catch. Stir through the mix of paprika, cayenne, oregano and thyme and cook for a further minute. Add the chicken and chorizo back to the pan and stir well to coat the meat with the spice mix.

3. Add the uncooked rice in and stir to combine with the rest of the ingredients. Add in the chopped tomatoes and half of the chicken stock next and bring the pan to a simmer. I also added a handful of halved cherry tomatoes for an extra sweetness against the spice but this is optional. Pour in the remaining stock gradually so the rice has time to absorb the stock and so it doesn’t start to dry out. This will need to simmer for 30-40 minutes until the rice is tender- some rice may take a bit longer than others so do keep checking and tasting as you go. If the jambalaya looks like it’s a little dry then add a bit more hot stock.

4. When the rice is tender and the stock has been absorbed, add in the raw prawns and spring onions and cook until the prawns are cooked through and tender. Serve the jambalaya in warmed bowls and dig in!

A spicy jambalaya- perfect for the ever-changing weather until we wait for the summer that we were promised!

Crunchy spiced fried chicken

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When you think of fried chicken there is a good chance that you conjure up an image of a bucketful of the stuff that smells appealing but is nothing more than a soggy disappointment when you bite into the seemingly crisp exterior. The chicken itself is not always much better, with the quality being substandard and decidedly dodgy! Well fear not- this chicken lives up to all expectations time and time again! Make a weekend feast of it by serving with corn on the cob that is dripping in a lime, chilli and smoked salt butter and a freshly made coleslaw.

Ingredients- serves 4
400g chicken breast mini fillets- cut into strips
150g plain flour
2 tbsp each of ground cumin, coriander and dried oregano
1 tbsp each of chilli and garlic powder
2 eggs- beaten
200g panko crumbs
Vegetable oil

1. Kick off by heating a good amount of oil in a wide non- stick frying pan over a medium heat; fill it so when the chicken is cooking it comes up halfway to each piece of chicken. As ever, keep a close eye on the oil.

2. Place the flour in one bowl, panko crumbs in another and the beaten egg in another. I crushed the crumbs a little more so some are more coarse and others are more fine to add a bit more interest to the texture of the coating. Add half of the spices and flavourings to the flour and then other half to the crumbs.

3. Take each piece of chicken, dunk to coat in the flour before transferring to the egg and then finally the crumbs. Continue until all the chicken is coated. Drop a crumb into the oil to check that it is ready to use; it’s ready if the crumb sinks before quickly returning to the surface. Fry in small batches whilst keeping an eye that the oil does not start to smoke. Fry for a couple of minutes on each side before using tongs to turn them over. When the chicken is golden and crisp, remove from the pan and rest on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil. Continue until all the chicken is cooked through. Serve immediately.

Crunch spicy fried chicken- finger licking awesome!

Moroccan style lamb with spiced cous cous and glazed pistachios

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Lamb is a meat that if often underused in my household but in this recipe it is the star of the show so don’t just leave it for Easter- hit the shops and get cooking! This dish has the perfect balance of savoury vegetables to balance the spice of the harissa, the richness of the lamb, the sweetness of the pistachios and the savouriness of the feta. The lamb can be marinated in advance if you have the time but equally it will also be delicious if it is made just ahead of time. I also made extra yogurt marinade and added some chopped coriander to serve on the side of the finished dish.

Ingredients- serves 4
For the lamb
8 lamb cutlets- trimmed
200ml natural yogurt
2 tbsp harissa paste

For the cous cous
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 courgette
1 aubergine
200g cous cous
400ml hot vegetable stock
1 tbsp harissa paste
100g feta
Fresh coriander
Salt and pepper

For the pistachios
2 handfuls of shelled pistachios
Knob of butter
2 tbsp sugar

1. Start off the lamb so then you have time to make the rest of the meal as it is marinating. Simply combine the yogurt and harissa in a bowl that is large enough to fit all the lamb cutlets. Season the yogurt to taste and coat the lamb cutlets well. Cover and chill until you need them.

2. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Prepare all the vegetables for roasting by chopping into small pieces that can then be tossed through the cous cous. Place on a large baking tray, drizzle with oil, season and roast until tender.

3. Take a large bowl and place the dried cous cous into it. Cover the cous cous with the hot stock and allow it to be absorbed. Use a fork and fluff the cous cous before stirring through the harissa. Before starting the lamb, make the glazed pistachios. Take a small non- stick pan. Melt the knob of unsalted butter and dissolve the sugar into it and wait for it to start to bubble. Add the pistachios and cook until glazed and sticky. Leave the cool and move onto the next step.

4. When you are ready to cook the lamb, remove it from the fridge and heat a frying pan or griddle pan to a medium heat. Cook the cutlets for 2-3 minutes on each side until they are lightly golden.

5. To serve, choose a serving plate or platter that is large enough to hold all the lamb and cous cous. Add crumbled feta to the warm cous cous and sprinkle through some freshly chopped coriander to taste before arranging on the platter. Add the glazed pistachios and arrange the lamb cutlets on top. Finish with a little more coriander if you like and serve.

Moroccan lamb cutlets with spiced cous cous and glazed pistachios- bringing a splash of colour and oddles of taste to your dinner table via the Middle East!

Nduja, red pepper and feta baked brunch eggs

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I’m just going to come out and say it… I love baked eggs! They are the perfect weekend breakfast or brunch that’s quick and easy so you still have plenty of time to read the papers and keep the tea and coffee coming. You can also use this recipe as a base recipe for tweaking as you go. I often add fresh baby spinach or kale and red onion is also delicious but the key is to keep it as light as possible.

Ingredients- serves 2
2 garlic cloves- finely sliced
1/2 tbsp nduja
Tin of chopped tomatoes
2 jarred roasted red peppers
Dried oregano, salt and pepper
50g feta
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Take a small overproof frying pan or ceramic dish that is big enough to fi the tomatoes into. Add a small glug of oil over a medium heat; fry the garlic for a minute before adding the nduja to melt into the mix. Sprinkle in the oregano, add the tomatoes and peppers. Season to taste, Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until thickened slightly.

2. Crumble over the feta. Make two slight hollows in the tomato mix and crack the eggs into it. Finish off in the oven until the egg white is set. Serve immediately with plenty of fresh sourdough.

Nduja, red pepper and feta baked brunch eggs- grab your bread and dip until your heart and stomach’s content!

Chorizo, manchego and pepper muffin tin fritattas

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Muffin tin fritattas are as the name suggests- mini fritattas that are made in muffin tins! They are great for picnics, lunchboxes for work or school and even breakfast. Fritattas are an ideal go to spring or summer recipe and they can be useful to use up any vegetables or cheese that is in the fridge but has started to see better days. For this recipe I used a combination of chorizo, manchego and roasted red pepper so pack them with flavour but also to give them appealing colour. They are delicious warm from the oven or at room temperature. They can keep in a well sealed container in the fridge for a couple of days- if they’re not all devoured before then!

Ingredients- makes 12 fritattas
7 large free range eggs
1 large red onion
100g chorizo
2 large jarred roasted red peppers- chopped
130g manchego cheese
Fresh basil
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil

1. Preheat the oven to 190c/ 170 fan. Prepare the muffin tin by lightly brushing each hole with vegetable oil using a pastry brush.

2. Peel and slice the chorizo into slices and then quarter each slice. Heat a dry frying pan and fry over a medium- high heat; fry the chorizo until golden and remove from the pan. Add the red onion in and fry until it has softened. Set aside and allow to cool.

3. Take a large bowl and crack all the eggs into it. Lightly beat them with a fork. Add the sliced red pepper and grate 100g of the manchego into the egg. Tear in some fresh basil and add the onion and chorizo. Season well with pepper and a small amount of salt.

4. Carefully use a ladle and divide the mixture between the 12 muffin tin holes. Do not fill them to the brim as they will naturally rise during cooking. Grate a little more manchego on the top of each hole and bake in the oven for around 15 minutes or until the egg has set and the fritattas are golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. When cool remove the fritattas from the tin; you may need to loosen them a little by carefully running the blade of a small, flexible knife around the edge of the tin holes. Serve by themselves or with a simple salad.

Muffin tin fritattas- your answer to breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Mee hoon goreng

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Mee hoon goring may not be a dish you’ve heard of before but, once acquainted, it is certainly a dish you want time and time again. It comes from Malaysia and is a super savoury noodle recipe. As it is so versatile you can play around with the main ingredients, be it pork, prawn or chicken to satisfy everyone but making it vegetarian by adding in even more vegetables is equally delicious so there really is no excuse for not making it. Mee hoon goring calls for a base paste that can be made in larger quantity and then kept in a sealed container in the fridge for a week or so. To add another layer of flavour and texture you can serve the noodles topped with crispy shallot ring; simply shallow fry sliced shallot in oil until golden and arrange on top.

Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the paste
1 banana shallot- finely chopped
2-3 dried Kashmiri chillies(or similar)
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- finely chopped
Salt

For the rest
Vegetable oil
3 slices of pork belly- cut into bite sized pieces
3tbsp dark soy
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp honey
2 nests of vermicelli rice noodles
Half a pointed cabbage- finely shredded
Carrot- grated
3 spring onions- finely chopped
Kecap manis
Oyster sauce

1. Start off by making the paste. Simply combine all the paste ingredients plus a pinch of salt in a small blender or pestle and mortar and blend (or bash!) to a coarse paste. Add a splash of water to loosen it and set it aside.

2. Take a large pan and fill with boiling water. Add the chunks of pork belly and boil for 2 minutes to remove any impurities; remove carefully using a slotted spoon. Rinse the pan out, add a splash of oil and heat to medium- high. Add the pork belly to the pan and fry until golden. Remove and set aside.

3. Next up, make the sauce for the pork belly by combining the dark soy, rice wine vinegar and honey in a small non- stick pan. Simmer until reduced and thickened and add to the pork belly. Continue to cook on a lower heat until the pork is caramelised and sticky.

4. Meanwhile you can make the base of the noodles. Soak the noodles in hot water according to the packet instructions before draining well. Heat a glug of oil in the wok and fry off a generous tablespoon of the paste you have already made. Fry until fragrant but keep it moving so it does not catch on the bottom of the wok. Add the cabbage and carrot and fry until starting to soften. Add a tablespoon each of kecap manis, oyster sauce and a splash of water, stir well to combine. Making sure the noodles are well separated and add to the pan along with the pork belly which is now nice and sticky; cover the pan and cook until warmed through. Towards the end of cooking sprinkle in the spring onions so they retain some crunch. Serve immediately.

 

Mee hoon goring- a new noodle dish to add to your repertoire!

 

 

Ultimate summertime salad

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The weather is starting to hot up and thoughts start turning to lighter meals to enjoy al fresco (well, hopefully if this lasts!). If a Greek salad and Italian panzanella had a lovechild then this salad would be the result. It packs a punch and combines savoury, crunchy and satisfying ingredients to create a healthy but filling salad. To be honest this is a great meal to use up whatever salad vegetables may be lurking in the fridge as you can’t really go wrong. This salad is ideal to take on a picnic as you can make the main elements and then assemble it at the last minute to avoid soggy bread disasters or make a big bowl of it to serve at a BBQ to eat with grilled meats or fish.

Ingredients- serves 3-4
150g sourdough bread- cut into bite sized cubed
1 red onion- finely sliced
350g assorted vine tomatoes
Half a cucumber- deseeded and sliced
200g feta
1 tbsp oregano
100g pitted mixed olives
2 tbsp.red wine vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Freshly chopped parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 150c/ 130 fan. Place the chunks of bread on a baking tray so they are arranged in a single layer. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake until slightly golden and crisp around the edges. Remove and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes. Cut them into a combination of halves and quarters and place in a bowl. Add the sliced onion along with 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar and 3 tbsp olive oil. Season well and  set aside to infuse.

3. In another bowl, combine the cucumber, feta, olives and oregano along with a good crack of black pepper and another tablespoon of oil.

4. Choose a suitable bowl in which to serve the salad and add half of the bread into it before adding the tomato mixture, cucumber mixture and tossing well. Add the remaining bread. Serve with an additional sprinkling of parsley and allow to stand for a few minutes before serving so the brad can soak up the juices from the tomatoes.

Ultimate summertime salad- I promise you you’ll be making this time and time again!

 

 

Garlic, herb and lemon slow roasted lamb

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Now here is a recipe that is too good not to share- my garlic, herb and lemon slow roasted lamb. This can be used for either lamb leg or shoulder and it is ideal for a lazy Sunday roast dinner or for entertaining. Lamb is now in season in the UK so it is the perfect time to get your hands on some and make the most of it. I recently cooked this for Easter lunch and it went down a storm! For 4 people I used a half leg of lamb which meant that everyone was well fed but there were certainly no leftovers! If you have large appetites, want leftovers or if you are feeding the 5,000 then by all means use a larger joint and cook for longer until the meat is falling off the bone.

If you have time then you can prepare the lamb the night before you want to start cooking it by following the first step, covering tightly and leaving in the fridge to allow the flavours to infuse.

Ingredients- serves 4
Half leg of lamb
Handful each of fresh thyme and rosemary
2 bulbs of garlic
1 lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
300ml water or white wine

1. If preparing the meat either the night before or the morning of cooking then all you need to do is find a deep tray that will comfortably fit the half leg in and pop it in. Peel around 4 cloves of garlic, cut them into quarters and use a sharp knife to make slits in the lamb; pop a sliver of garlic into each slit. Scatter the remaining garlic cloves around the lam in the bottom of the tray. Drizzle the lamb with a little olive oil and rub so it is well coated; season well. Cut the remaining bulb in half width ways and place in the tray cut side up. Scatter the herbs too. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the lemon rind and place on and around the lamb. If preparing in advance, at this stage cover well and refrigerate. If cooking then and there, read on…

2. Preheat the oven to 140c/ 120 fan. Pour the water or wine, depending on what you are using, into the tray. Cover tightly with foil and place on the middle or low shelf in the oven and cook for around 4-5 hours. The time will depend on the size of the joint so check and baste from time to time. If the bottom of the tray becomes too dry then add another splash of water. When the lamb is nearly ready, remove the foil and allow the lamb to catch some colour and turn golden. The juices should run clear and the meat should come away from the bone with ease. Remove from the oven and rest whilst you make other accompaniments.

Garlic, herb and lemon slow roasted lamb- a sure fire crowd pleaser that’s packed with flavour but that needs very little care!

 

Chilli beef brisket loaded nachos

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Now here is a feast that is fit for a Friday, Saturday, Sunday… or any day for that matter! Beef brisket is my favourite cut to use for a chilli as it holds the flavours of the spices amazingly well and slow cooks like a dream so you are left with a melt in your mouth chilli. I have kept the chilli recipe as simple as possible so it will be perfect served with a range of things from nachos to rice but feel free to use it as a base and add in extra vegetables or beans. Play around with your choice of chillies; I used ancho and chipotle morita to add a kick of heat whilst also adding a wonderful smokiness. If you prefer your chillies a touch milder then use whatever chillies suit you.

Ingredients- serves 4
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 beef brisket- approx. 500g
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 tbsp each of ground cumin, coriander and oregano
1/2 tbsp each of paprika and cayenne pepper
Dried chillies such as chipotle morita and ancho
400ml hot beef stock
400ml passata
Salt and pepper

For the nachos
Lightly salted tortilla chips
Salsa, guacamole and soured cream
Fresh jalapenos
Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese as much as you dare!
Fresh coriander

1. Preheat the oven to 150c/ 130 fan. Choose a large, lidded, heavy based casserole dish and heat half of the oil over a medium- high heat. Season the brisket and brown it on all sides before removing from the pan. Drain off any excess fat and add a little more vegetable oil. Lower the heat and fry the onion and garlic together for a few minutes until softened.

2. Sprinkle in the spices and herbs and stir well to combine with the onion and garlic. Cook for an additional minute or two. Pour in a splash of the beef stock to remove any pieces of onion that may have caught to the pan slightly. Add the remaining stock and passata along with the dried chillies; bring to a simmer and add the brisket back to the pan. Pop the pan into the oven and cook for around 3-4 hours or until the brisket is meltingly tender. If the chilli looks like there is still a lot of liquid you can either remove the lid and continue to cook it or put it on the hob and simmer to reduce and thicken.

3. When ready to assemble the nachos, simply use two forks to pull the brisket apart. Take an ovenproof dish and layer with tortilla chips, salsa and some sliced fresh jalapenos. Sprinkle a little cheese before repeating. Add the chilli on top of the seond layer of nachos, add more cheese and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 200c/ 180 fan until the cheese is bubbling and melted. Finish with a handful of freshly chopped coriander and some more fresh jalapeno.

Chilli beef brisket nachos- ultimate comfort food perfect for a quiet night in or a party!

 

Tray bake ‘fry up’

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The term ‘fry up’ conjures all sorts of images of greasy spoon cafes offering calorie laden breakfasts with tea so strong that you can stand a spoon upright in it but this is a completely different take on this. Rather than a meat heavy breakfast this makes the best of two of my favourite things which are both in season in the UK at the moment- Jersey Royal potatoes and asparagus. Each year I eat the best part of a family’s asparagus quota to myself and I hope this year will be no exception. My tray bake ‘fry up’ is much lighter and healthier than the usual fry up but it is perfect not only as a breakfast but also as a brunch or even a midweek dinner. It’s speedy but also is low on washing up which is always a bonus in my mind!

Ingredients- serves 2-3
Glug of vegetable oil
Jersey Royals- as many as you want depending on hunger!
1 red or white onion
1-2 garlic cloves
4-6 rashers of streaky bacon
Bag of baby spinach
200g asparagus spears
Cherry tomatoes on the vine
4-6 Portobellini or Portobello mushrooms
1 tsp chilli flakes
2-3 eggs

1. Start by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180fan and bringing a medium pan of water to the boil. Take the tray that you will be making the majority of the meal in, add a splash of oil and heat on the hob over a medium heat. Meanwhile simmer the potatoes until just tender; drain well. Take a separate tray, add another small glug of oil and toss the potatoes in it. Season with salt and pepper and roast until golden whilst you crack on with the rest.

2. When the oil is warm, add the onions and garlic and fry until softening. Shred the spinach and add to the tray; stir until combined with the onion and garlic and continue to cook over a lower heat until wilted. Remove from the hob whilst you assemble the rest.

3. When the potatoes are golden, use a slotted spoon to remove from the tray and use the back of a fork to lightly crush them. Add the asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes to the pan. Sprinkle with chilli flakes and season well. Brush the vegetables with a light coating of oil so they don’t catch in the oven and bake until just tender. Make a couple of hollows in between the vegetables and crack an egg into each; return the tray to the oven and cook until the eggs are set.

4. While that is in the oven, fry the streaky bacon in a dry pan or even wipe out the tray that you used to roast the potatoes and use this on the hob to minimise washing up further! Streaky bacon has a high fat content so you won’t need any extra oil. Fry until golden and remove from the pan. Towards the very end of cooking you have a bacon related decision to make… You can either serve the bacon on the top of the tray bake in whole rashers or you can do as I did and crumble a couple over the top whilst keeping a couple whole so it’s up to you. Serve immediately.

Tray bake ‘fry up’- just as delicious but minus the calories!

 

Sweet and sour pork

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Sweet and sour pork is one of the mainstays of most Chinese takeaways and restaurants and is known and loved throughout the land. There’s only one snag though- it’s rich often cloying batter so I decided to give the dish a revamp and lose the batter but not compromise on flavour. If you know me, I am not a huge fan of fruit in savoury dishes, but the pineapple in this dish is a must as it balances the flavours and is deliciously tender. If you prefer, you can substitute pork with chicken.

Ingredients- serves 3-4
For the sauce
3 tbsp. ketchup
2 tsp plum sauce
4 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp lea and perrins
2 tsp oyster sauce
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- peeled and grated
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp corn starch in 4 tbsp. water

For the rest
Groundnut or vegetable oil
1/2 fresh pineapple- peeled, cored and chopped
1 red and 1 green bell pepper- chopped
350-400g pork tenderloin tossed in 2 tbsp seasoned corn flour- chopped

1. Kick off proceedings by combining all the sauce ingredients in a small pan and heat over a low heat until starting to thicken; remove from the heat whilst you start the pork.

2. Take a pan that you can shallow fry in and add enough oil; heat to medium- high. In a couple of batches, fry the cornflour flour tossed pork until golden. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon, blot onto kitchen roll to remove excess oil and set aside.

3. In a wok, add a glug of oil and fry the pineapple and peppers until softening and until the pineapple is picking up a little colour. Pop the pork in the wok and cook for a further couple of minutes before adding the reduced sauce. Continue to cook until well combined and the sauce is coating each piece of pork. Serve immediately with rice or noodles and dive in!

Sweet and sour pork- not a scrap of batter in sight!

Cauliflower cheese

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In the modern world, we are constantly bombarded with messages of healthy eating, clean eating (no phrase annoys me more!) and food fads but sometimes we all need proper comfort food. It’s a time to forget calorie counting once in a while and eat what makes you happy and cauliflower cheese is definitely one of those meals! Cauliflower cheese needs no introduction as it is exactly what it says it is- no pretention! It can be the main event or a side dish for a whole host of dishes. It also allows you to play around with a mixture of cheeses to make it as savoury as you want and cheese sauce is also a perfect way to use up any odds and ends of cheese that may be lurking in your fridge. In this recipe, I have given you the basic cheese sauce recipe that I use but feel free to add blue cheese if you like as cauliflower can stand up to the sharpness of it. Fried off cubes of pancetta are also a welcome addition!

Ingredients- serves 3-4
1 cauliflower
45g plain flour
45g unsalted butter
250ml double cream
300ml milk
50g cheddar
50g parmesan

1. Kick off by preparing the cauliflower. Clean it and cut into large florets. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and boil until the stems are just tender- it will continue to cook when it is baked so it needs a bit of texture still at this stage. Drain well and set aside while you make the sauce.

2. For the cheese sauce, use a pan and heat over a medium heat. Melt together the butter and flour to form a roux. Gradually add in the milk and cream; making sure you keep stirring to ensure that no lumps form. If any lumps start creeping in then remove the pan from the heat and whisk it like your life depends on it before returning to the heat. Continue to stir and simmer until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and add in the parmesan and season to taste.

3. Choose an ovenproof roasting dish that will fit the cauliflower in a single layer. Arrange the florets and pour over the cheese sauce. Top with grated cheddar and a little extra parmesan if you like. Bake at 200c/ 180 fan for around 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Cauliflower cheese- like a cheesy hug for soul!

 

 

Moroccan chickpea and vegetable filo scrunch pie

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‘Heady’, ‘aromatic’ and ‘fragrant’ are words that could be used to describe Middle Eastern spices and they lend themselves perfectly for spicing up vegetable dishes. This Morrocan chickpea and vegetable pie is a great way to get some of your five a day and I promise you that you won’t regret it. Make the pie filling in advance if you like to allow the flavours to develop even more- it can even be frozen. The pie can be enjoyed for dinner but also keeps well for lunch the next day.

Ingredients- serves 3-4
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
400g butternut squash- cubed
1 tin of chickpeas
1 red pepper or jarred roasted red peppers
100ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
2 tsp cumin and coriander
1 tbsp harissa
Small bag of baby spinach
100g feta
Melted unsalted butter
Filo

1.Get going by taking a large wide pan (with lid) and add a glug of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the red onion and cook until softening before popping the garlic in with it for a further minute or two.

2. Next in goes the squash, chickpeas and red pepper. Sprinkle over the cumin, coriander and spoon in the harissa. Pour in the stock, cover the pan with the lid and lower to a simmer. Cook until the squash is tender to a knife point. The liquid should be well absorbed but if there is some left then remove the lid and simmer for a further time so a light sauce is left. Shred the baby spinach through and wilt. Taste and season well; add some further spice if you like. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cool, crumble through the feta.

3. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Choose a pie tin that is approximately 20cm wide. Lightly brush the inside of the tin with some of the melted butter. Layer the tin with a sheet of the filo before brushing with a little more butter before placing a second layer in and repeating. Spoon in the cooled pie mixture. Bring the sides of the filo up and into the centre of the pie tin before finishing with more butter. If the filo sheets do not meet perfectly, take another sheet of the filo, rip it, scrunch it and place on the top. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the filo is crisp and golden. Serve with a simple salad.

Moroccan chickpea and vegetable filo scrunch pie- spice up your week!

 

Wild garlic pesto, asparagus and goats cheese puff tart

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This puff pastry tart makes the most of the seasonal produce around at the moment. The wild garlic and asparagus season in the UK is short so now is the time to get your hands on them and get cooking. Wild garlic is as it sounds- wild! You can forage it (if you’re sure what you’re looking for) but can now be found in some farmers markets or specialist grocers. It can be used in a range of dishes and pesto is only the start and even this can be picked up premade. Failing this, substitute this with a different pesto of your choosing. To ramp up the flavours in this tart, I have also used some Parma ham which I crisped and crumbled over the top for an extra element and texture.

 

Ingredients- serves 4
1 premade pack of puff pastry
3 tbsp wild garlic pesto (see below for recipe)
200g asparagus spears
100g soft rindless goats cheese
4 slices of Parma or Carmarthen ham
1 egg- lightly beaten

Wild garlic pesto
120g wild garlic leaves
1 garlic clove- crushed
15g pine nuts
200ml olive oil
Zest of a small lemon
35g parmesan
Seasoning

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180fan but do check the instructions on the pastry packaging in case this differs slightly. Take the sheet of pastry and place it on a work surface. Leaving a border around the edges of the pastry sheet, use the prongs of a fork to lightly prick the centre of the sheet. This will stop the centre of the pastry from puffing up but will let the edges do so.

2. If you want to make your own wild garlic pesto then simply take the leaves and blanch for 20 seconds in a pan of boiling water. Remove using a slotted spoon and plunge into cold water to refresh it. Take some kitchen roll and pat it dry before roughly chopping. Add all the remaining ingredients to a food processor and blitz and, hey pesto! Sorry… couldn’t resist…

2. Take the pesto of your choice and spread this in the centre of the pastry. Make sure this is as even as possible. Lay each asparagus spear on the pastry and scatter pieces of the cheese in amongst them.

3. In a small pan dry fry the parma ham slices until crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside for a moment; you will find that as they cool they go even crispier which makes the slices much easier to crumble or you can use a knife to roughly chop into smaller pieces.I added the ham topping towards the end of cooking so it didn’t catch..

4. Lastly, use a pastry brush and carefully glaze the edges of the tart with the beaten egg. This will give a wonderful sheen and shine to the tart. Cook the tart for around 20 minutes until the asparagus is tender and the pastry is golden. About 2-3 minutes before the pastry is ready then sprinkle over the parma ham before finishing off. I served this with a simple side salad and new potatoes. Jersey Royals are bang in season so look out for these too. Boil and toss with some butter and fresh herbs.

Wild garlic pesto, asparagus and goats cheese puff pastry tart- a light way to use the best of spring’s offerings!

Chimichurri surf and turf

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Chimichurri surf and turf is the perfect meal for sharing with a table of friends and family and it really does take very little effort. The quantities of steak and prawns are merely a guide so adjust according to appetite! The chimichurri can be made in advance, covered and stored in the fridge until you need it. Chimichurri should have a kick whilst still being able to taste the herbs and other ingredients so aim for a perfect balance. Use the best prawns you can find and afford as the flavour will be unrivalled. Eating shell on prawns can be a fun but messy affair so provide finger bowls for your guests too.

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Ingredients- serves 4
Small bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley
Small bunch of fresh coriander
2 garlic cloves
1 shallot
1 fresh red chilli
4-5 tbsp olive oil plus extra for cooking
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2-3 sirloin steaks
16-20 tiger prawns- raw and shell on
Salad leaves to serve- I used rocket, spinach and watercress

1. To make the chimichurri, blitz the parsley, garlic, shallot, chilli, oil, lemon and vinegar in a processor so grab your pestle and mortar and give it a good old bash! Set aside until ready to use.

2. When you are ready to cook the steak, take a griddle pan and heat until smoking hot. Season and lightly oil the meat and cook to your liking. I allow 1 minutes each side for your average size sirloin for rare but cook according to your tastes. Remove from the pan and allow to rest.

3. Whilst the steak is resting, cook the prawns. Take a frying pan and heat a glug of oil. Cook the prawns until pink and cooked through. Use some of the chimichurri and toss well to coat the prawns. When the steak is ready, cut into slices. Take a large serving platter and scatter the salad leaves. Place the steak on the platter and spoon over some of the chimichurri before arranging the prawns around. Finish off with more of the chimichurri and serve immediately.

Chimichurri surf and turf- a treat fit for any occasion!

Spicy, sticky Korean chicken drumsticks

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Spicy Korean chicken is the ultimate in Asian comfort food. Sweet, spicy and savoury flavours make them one of the most moreish dishes which is perfect for a quiet night in or a party with friends. Just be prepared for them to go down a storm so make more than one batch! Allow a little time for the chicken to marinade in the fridge before you need them so the flavours have time to infuse. The recipe can easily be multiplied depending on how many guests you are feeding and can be used for a whole range of chicken pieces from drumsticks to thighs to wings so get cooking!

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Ingredients- makes 12 drumsticks
12 chicken drumsticks
60ml dark soy sauce
3 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp gochujang

1. Crack on with the marinade in advance by simply combining the soy, honey, rice wine vinegar and gochujang. Simple! Place in a bowl or in a zip lock freezer bag along with the chicken pieces and make sure they are well coated. Chill in the fridge until you need them. A couple of hours is good but overnight is even better if time allows.

2. When you are ready to cook them, they will take around 20-25 minutes in the oven on 200c/ 180 fan. Make sure the chicken is cooked through and the juices should run clear when it is ready. Reserve the marinade and place in a small pan on the hob and gently heat until it begins to thicken. When it is ready brush the chicken drumsticks with the thickened sauce on each side before giving one last minute in the oven. You can also finish them off with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds if you like. The marinade makes the chicken deliciously sticky and irresistible. That’s all there is to it!

Spicy Korean chicken drumsticks- grab a pile of napkins and dive in!

 

Chinese vegetable spring rolls

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Ah the humble spring roll- a cherished Chinese appetiser that longs to be paired with a sweet chilli sauce or a glossy ginger and soy dip perhaps? Whatever your preference, spring rolls are there to be filled with whatever filling you so choose however a vegetable spring roll is a wonderful thing. I have loved beansprouts since being a child so these are packed with them alongside rice vermicelli noodles that are spiced as well as carrot, sugar snap peas and cabbage. To tell you the truth, I used odds and ends of vegetables that were loitering in the fridge from other recipes so love your leftovers and get rolling!

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Ingredients- makes approx. 12 medium rolls
1 nest of rice vermicelli noodles (optional)
1 garlic clove- crushed
Small piece of fresh ginger- grated
1 tbsp Chinese five spice
2 tsp soy sauce
Handful of beansprouts
1 carrot- thinly sliced or grated
Red cabbage- finely shredded
Small pack of sugar snap peas- thinly sliced
3 spring onions- shredded
3 large filo sheets
1 egg- lightly beaten

1. Start in advance of when you want to serve these as the filling needs to cool before making the rolls. Soak the vermicelli noodles (if using) for 10 minutes until softened before draining well and cutting down. In the meantime, take a wok and heat a glug of vegetable oil. Fry the garlic and ginger for a minute before adding the vegetables, five spice and soy sauce. Cook until softened and add the spring onions at the last minute. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

2. In a large bowl, mix the cooled filling with the noodles. Take a filo sheet and quarter it. Take a spoonful of the mixture and place near one edge of the filo. Lightly brush the edges of the filo with the beaten egg. Bring the edge of the filo over the filling before then bringing the sides in over the ends before continuing to roll. Make sure the end is well sealed so the roll does not fall apart when you cook it. Repeat this process for the remaining pieces of filo.

3. When the rolls are ready to cook, take a wok and add oil so it is deep enough to fry in. When the surface of the oil is shimmering and small bubbles can be seen, fry the spring rolls in batches. They will take around 5 minutes but the bigger the rolls, the longer they will need. Fry until the rolls are golden and crisp. Blot the cooked rolls on kitchen paper and serve immediately. If you have any left (doubtful!) you can reheat in a moderate oven on a baking tray until warmed through and crisped up.

Vegetable spring rolls- a side dish fit for any Chinese feast!

Smoky, spicy roasted chickpeas

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Picture the scene: you’re at home, working for the day perhaps, and your stomach starts rumbling mid- afternoon but, alas, there are no snacks in the house! What are you going to do? Make these smoky and spicy roasted chickpeas of course! In a time where people are more and more health conscious and it’s all about getting your five a day, it can be hard to think of delicious and nutritious snacks but look no further! This is a cheap, easy and relatively quick snack to make that can be made in advance and stored so it is on hand for whenever hunger pangs take hold. If you’re eating them hot from the oven, a little squeeze of lemon juice also lifts the flavour so do give this a try!

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Ingredients
1 tin of chickpeas in water
Olive oil
Smoked or normal sea salt
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take the tin of chickpeas and drain them well. Rinse thoroughly with water and pat dry using kitchen roll. Place on a single layer on a baking tray.

2. Drizzle over a good amount of olive oil, about a tablespoon should do, and toss to coat the chickpeas. Sprinkle over the chilli, cumin and coriander before finishing off with a good pinch of sea salt. Roast in the oven for around 40 minutes, checking them from time to time and tossing. Some chickpeas will have more moisture in them than others so these may take slightly longer. Just be careful the spices do not catch or burn so keep your eye on them! Adjust salt to taste. Serve warm from the oven or allow to cool and store in airtight containers until you want them.

Smoky, spicy roasted chickpeas- give your snacks an overhaul this year!

 

Ginger, garlic and chilli king prawns

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The other night time was short and I did not want to slaving away over a hot stove for too long so cue a quick prawn dish! I had a rummage in the fridge and cupboards and knew I was off to a good start when ginger garlic and chilli leapt out at me. King prawns have to be one my favourite things and are always handy to have in the freezer for a quick fix. I recently got bought a box of weird and wonderful ingredients for Christmas and this included sweet potato vermicelli noodles so this was the perfect opportunity to try them. They are much like glass noodles and have a firm texture which is a great contrast to the tender prawns. I kept the noodles simple and stir fried them with some beansprouts and a touch of soy so as to make sure the prawns were the star of the show so read on and get some quick dinner inspiration…

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g raw king prawns- deveined
2 tbsp dark soy
2 tbsp rice wine
1 tsp cornflour stirred into 2 tbsp water
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves- finely sliced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- peeled and grated

1. Take a small pan and add the dark soy, rice wine and cornflour in water. Heat over a medium heat for a minute or two until if starts to simmer. Pop in the chilli, garlic and ginger and continue to simmer until the sauce is thick and glossy.

2. Lower the heat and add in the raw prawns; toss to coat in the sauce. Cook for around 3-4 minutes until pink and cooked through. Serve immediately.

Spiced chickpea and lentil burgers

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If you’re anything like me, over Christmas you have seen cooked and eaten enough meat to last a lifetime, so by the time January hits you are ready for a change andthis is where these spiced chickpea and lentil burgers come in! These bad boys prove that you don’t need a beef burger to satisfy you. They are also suitable for vegetarians and vegans so there is no excuse not to whip up a batch! These are gently spiced with a nod to Middle Eastern flavours but make them as mild or as spicy as you like. I served these with skin on potato wedges and an array of burger toppings such as salad (for the health conscious), harissa mayonnaise (for the spice lovers) and tzatsiki ( to cool and refresh).

This recipe does not use egg to bind the chickpeas and lentils however if you find the mixture needs a bit of help to come together then sprinkle a little flour into it. Work the mixture with your hands and it will bind perfectly well. An egg would make the already moist mixture too wet and sticky so don’t be tempted to add one!

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Ingredients- makes 4 patties
400g tin of chickpeas in water
400g tin of lentils in water
1/2 tbsp. each of ground cumin, ground coriander and chilli powder
Handful of fresh coriander
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice
Vegetable oil
Plain flour

1. Kick off by draining the tins of chickpeas and lentils and giving them a quick rinse. Place in a food processor along with all the other ingredients apart from the oil and flour. Blitz so the chickpeas and lentils are coarse and have retained some texture.

2. Lightly dust a chopping board or work surface with some plain flour. Divide the blitzed chickpea mixture into four and form patties. Place on a tray, cover them with cling film and chill in the fridge for half an hour to firm up.

3. Take a non- stick frying pan and heat a good glug of vegetable oil over a medium to high heat. When the oil is warmed, place the patties in the pan and fry for around 10 minutes before flipping over carefully and frying for a further 10 minutes. Fry until golden and crisp. Serve in lightly toasted burger or brioche buns with all the trimmings.

Spiced chickpea and lentil burgers- all the flavour and not an ounce of meat in sight!

 

Paneer, pepper and spinach curry

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Paneer is an Indian cottage cheese that is so versatile and can be used in a whole host of dishes however, sometimes, only a curry will do. I have written this recipe to be medium heat but of course if you are a chilli fiend then simply add in some extra along the way. After a festive season of excess and plenty of meat this recipe is a welcome break from heavy meals. Of course, if you can’t stand to wave goodbye to meat then this curry is perfect for chicken. I have kept the curry is purposefully light and fresh so the paneer is packed with flavour but not swimming in sauce. If, however, you want a curry that is saucier then you can add more tomatoes and reduce it less.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the curry paste
2-2 Kashmiri chilies
3tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tso ground fenugreek
2 garlic cloves- crushed
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp curry powder
Pinch of salt

For the rest of the curry
Vegetable oil
1 block paneer- cubed
1 tbsp cornflour
1 onion- sliced
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ajwan seeds
1 red and 1 green bell pepper- chopped
5 vine tomatoes- chopped
Small bag of spinach- washed and roughly chopped
1 tsp garam masala
Fresh coriander to serve (optional)

1. The first thing you will need to do is soak the dried Kashmiri chillies for a little while- around 20minutes will usually do the trick. Whilst they soak you can make the curry paste; simply combine all the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and add a splash of water to bring the paste together. Set aside.

2. In  a large bowl, toss the paneer cubes with the cornflour and a little seasoning. Heat a good glug of oil in a non-stick frying pan and heat to medium-high. Fry the paneer on each side until golden and crisp before removing from the pan and blotting onto kitchen paper to remove any excess oil. Take a third of the curry paste and toss through the paneer. Use a little more kitchen roll to wipe out the pan and add another glug of oil before turning the heat down to low.

3. Add the sliced onion to the pan and cook until softening. At that stage add the mustard seeds, ajwan seeds and cook for a further couple of minutes.Stir through the remaining curry paste. Pop in the chopped bell peppers and continue to cook for a few minutes. If the pan starts looking a little dry then simply add a splash of water and mix it through the onions and peppers.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, an extra splash of water and simmer until the tomatoes start to break down and reduce. Don’t be tempted to rush this as the longer it has the richer the sauce will be! When the curry is a few minutes away from being ready, take the marinated paneer and roughly chopped spinach and add to the pan. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the paneer is warmed through and the spinach is wilted. Sprinkle over the garam masala and stir to combine. Serve the curry in warmed bowls with rice or flatbreads on the side. A liberal helping of coriander to finish the dish is optional!

Paneer, pepper and spinach curry- a great way to start the New Year, plenty of flavour and no turkey in sight!

Truffle and parmesan risotto

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This is not just any old risotto, this is a deliciously indulgent risotto making the best of Italian ingredients so it is perfect for a celebration. Truffles have become more accessible and can be bought in most good supermarkets or specialist food markets. Black truffles are cheaper than their highly prized white counterparts making them ideal for trying truffles for the first time. Truffles are wonderfully earthy and pungent and are best served when they are just warmed through to really bring out the flavours.

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Ingredients- serves 2
Knob of unsalted butter
1 garlic clove- crushed
1 shallot- finely chopped
200g risotto rice- I use carnaroli
60ml dry white wine
600ml hot vegetable stock
50g freshly grated parmesan
20-30g black truffle

1. Take a large pan that is suitable for cooking the risotto in. Heat the pan over a low heat and melt the butter. Gently cook the garlic and shallot until they are softened but not yet catching colour. Add in the rice and stir thoroughly to combine and so the butter coats the rice grains.

2. Pour in the white wine and simmer until reduced by half. Now for the stock! Add a little at a time and wait for the rice to absorb it before adding the next lot. Stir during this part of the process to give a creamy finish.

3. When the rice is cooked but remains al dente (soggy risotto rice is a definite no- no!), remove the pan from the heat. Take the truffle and grate half of if and thinly slice the rest. Stir in the parmesan, grated truffle and a little more butter; allow to the risotto to stand for a moment or two so the truffle warms and releases its flavour. Sometimes truffles come with some truffle juice, if it does then also add this in to boost the flavour even more. Serve immediately in warmed bowls and top the risotto with the sliced truffle.

Truffle and parmesan risotto- pure indulgence!

Squash and blue cheese macaroni bake

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Before thoughts turn to Christmas food and festivities, there’s time for one more recipe to get you through once you’ve had enough roast potatoes and sprouts! This squash and blue cheese bake is simple and can be made in advance so it is perfect for a casual dinner as well as if you’re entertaining. I have used coquina squash for this which makes a change to the usual butternut squash. Coquina squash is slightly more sweet and the flesh is soft and tender which lends itself perfectly for roasting. To offset the sweetness I have used a creamy blue cheese and some salty pancetta to give the dish a lift. I served this in individual dishes but you can make a larger one if you prefer.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 coquina squash
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
30g plain flour
30g unsalted butter
150ml double cream
150ml milk
200g blue cheese such as dolcelatte or gorgonzola
250g macaroni
50g cheddar
50g parmesan
4 slices of pancetta

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160 fan ready for roasting the squash. Use a sturdy sharp knife and halve the squash lengthways. Scoop out the seeds, drizzle with the olive oil and place one garlic clove in each of the hollows. Roast for around 50 minutes or until tender. When the squash is ready, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and place in a bowl. Squeeze out the roasted garlic and add to the bowl with the squash. Use the back of a fork to mash it down until smooth and set aside whilst you make the base for the sauce.

2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente as per the packet instructions; drain well and set aside.

3. Use a medium sized saucepan and add the flour and butter. Heat gently so the butter melts and combines with the flour to make a roux. Gradually pour in the milk and cream, stirring all the while so no lumps form. Increase the heat a touch and keep stirring until the sauce thickens. Remove the pan from the heat and add the blue cheese as well as most of the cheddar and parmesan (reserving some for the topping).

4. Take a frying pan and heat on a medium- high heat. Place the slices of pancetta in the pan and cook until crisp. Roughly chop the pancetta and add to the sauce. Add the roasted squash flesh to the sauce and stir well to combine. Stir the sauce through the cooked macaroni and place in an ovenproof dish or individual dishes. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake for half an hour or until golden and bubbling. Serve with a simple side salad.

Squash and blue cheese macaroni bakes- a twist on a well loved classic!

 

 

Sea bream with fennel, onion and pancetta

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Sea bream is one of my favourite fish so there’s nothing better than pairing with other fresh ingredients to bring out the flavour of it. This recipe does not require a huge amount of ingredients so it is simple to achieve when you want something delicious but without the faff! For ease I have cooked the dish in the oven to make sure the fennel is well roasted which brings out the sweetness however it could also be made on the hob top if you prefer.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 sea bream fillets
Glug of oil
200g new potatoes- thinly sliced
1 white onion- finely sliced
1 fennel bulb- finely sliced
3 slices of pancetta
Juice of half a lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Take an ovenproof wide bottomed pan and heat the oil in the pan in the oven. Season the potato slices add to the pan and roast in the oven until turning golden and tender; this may take a little while so take your time and check them from time to time. Reserve the fennel tops and set aside.

2. Add in the onion and fennel slices continue to cook until both are softened. Roughly chop the pancetta and add to the pan; cooking until crisp. Take a frying pan, add another small amount of oil and heat to medium- high; season the sea bream fillets and fry skin side down for a couple of minutes until the skin is crisp. Remove from the pan and place on top of the potato, onion and fennel. Cook for around 10 minutes until cooked through. Take the reserved fennel tops and scatter. Squeeze the lemon juice over before serving.

Sea bream with fennel, onion and pancetta- make the most of fresh ingredients with this simple supper!

 

 

Honey duck with vegetable pilaf

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Pilaf is a spiced rice based dish that is common across the world and can be packed with a whole range of ingredients, from vegetables to meat to fruits and everything in between. I have used a vegetable pilaf here to pair with the richness of the duck which is glazed with honey and pomegranate molasses. Pomegranate molasses gives a sour edge so you have different layers of flavour running throughout the dish to give a balance.

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Ingredients- serves 2
For the duck

1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp runny honey
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 duck legs

For the pilaf
Glug of vegetable oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- crushed
150g long grain rice
1/2 aubergine- finely chopped
1 carrot- finely chopped
400ml hot vegetable stock
1 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
Handful of fresh coriander and parsley

1. Get started by seasoning the duck legs with salt. Combine the molasses, honey and oil and brush onto the duck legs so they are well coated; set aside. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan ready for the duck later on.

2. Heat the oil for the pilaf in a wide pan and bring it up to a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic; cook until softening. Next up goes the aubergine and carrot and, again, cook until softening. Sprinkle over the spices and stir well to combine.

3. Pop the duck legs on a wire rack and cook for around 35-40 minutes until the juices run clear. The time may need to be adjusted depending on the size of the legs.

4. Meanwhile, add the rice to the pan and add the stock little by little as it is absorbed a bit like you do when you cook a risotto. Continue to do this until the rice is cooked and tender. `Check the levels of spicing as you go and adjust to taste.

5. When the duck is ready, rest it for a while to help the juices reabsorb which makes sure the meat is really tender. Finish off the pilaf with the freshly chopped herbs and serve.

Honey duck with vegetable pilaf- spice up your life!

 

 

 

Curried root vegetable soup with parsnip crisps

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When the days are short and the nights are long there is only one thing for it- soup! A big pot of soup simmering away is the perfect answer to the dilemma of what to take to work for lunch in the week but is also great for a dinner if you want to make meals ahead for the coming week. This curried root vegetable soup is a classic which makes the most of seasonal vegetables whilst warming it with a little spice which complements the sweetness and earthiness of the roots. When prepping the vegetables try and make sure the chunks of carrot and parsnip are the same size but keep the swede a little smaller as it takes longer to cook. To keep things quick you can use a premade curry powder blend or make your own with a balance of ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger and chilli so you can make it to suit your tastes.

No soup is complete without a topping and this is no exception! Parsnip crisps are ideal for this and can be made by peeling an extra parsnip and ribboning using a peeler. Toss with oil and season. Place on a baking tray and bake at 160c/ 140 fan until crisp and golden.

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Ingredients- serves 6
Glug of vegetable oil
1 large onion- peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves- peeled and chopped
4 carrots- peeled and chopped
2 parsnips- peeled and chopped
1 swede- peeled and chopped
1 litre of hot vegetable stock
300ml milk
2 tbsp curry powder or to taste
Salt and pepper to season

  1. Start by heating a glug of oil in a large pan that will be big enough to fit the soup in. Gently cook the onion for a few minutes before adding the garlic and continuing to cook until both and softened.
  2. Add in the root vegetables and stir to combine with the onion. Cover the pan and allow to sweat for 10-15 minutes. Next up goes the hot stock and simmer for a few more minutes.
  3. Use a stick blender and blitz the vegetables until thick and creamy. Add in the milk, curry powder and season well to taste. Blend a little more if you like to you achieve a consistency you like; you can also add more stock or milk if you need. Serve in warmed soup bowls with crusty fresh bread and top with parsnip crisps.

Curried root vegetable soup- the perfect antidote to blustery autumn days!

Salt and pepper prawns

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I have never come across a prawn recipe that I have not loved and this is no exception! Salt and pepper prawns are the ultimate savoury dish which can be cooked to take centre stage or be served as part of a Chinese feast. Shell on king prawns are used in this recipe to protect the sweet prawn from the heat when they are cooked. I have trimmed the prawns, deveined them and removed the head for ease but you can keep them whole if you like.

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Ingredients- serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side
16-20 whole king prawns- deveined
2 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp each of Szechaun pepper and black peppercorns
1 tbsp sea salt
Vegetable oil

1. Start by rolling the prawns in the corn flour. In a small pan, dry fry the peppercorns and salt together; the salt should start to look a little grey when it is ready but be careful not to burn it so agitate the pan from time to time. Grind the mixture in a pestle and mortar. You are after a rough texture rather than a peppercorn powder!

2. Use a wok and pour in oil so you can shallow fry the prawns. Pop the prawns in for around 2 minutes until the prawns are cooked and pink. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and blot onto kitchen towel before sprinkling with the salt and pepper mixture. Serve immediately with a chilli dipping sauce if you like. A finger bowl of water is also a good idea!

Salt and pepper prawns- you can never have just one!

Smoky Mexican red bean soup with crispy chorizo

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There is no better way to warm yourself up on a chilly day than a big bowl of soup. This uses a spice combination that lends itself to a smoky, gently spiced finish that will satisfy everyone. Of course you can ramp up the heat by adding extra cayenne pepper or chilli if you want a full on kick! I have used a mix of cascabel and chipotle morita chillies which add heat as well as smokiness and nuttiness. You could also add a roasted red pepper for an added dimension. If you want to keep the soup vegetarian then simply omit the chorizo and serve with a drizzle of sour cream and a hunk of crusty bread on the side or a few tortilla chips to dunk or crush up on top like croutons. Some freshly chopped coriander also goes well here.

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Ingredients- serves 6
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves- chopped
2 red or white onions- chopped
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1-2 cascabel chillies- skin pricked
1-2 chipotle or chipotle morita chillies- skin pricked
400ml tinned chopped tomatoes
2 tins of kidney beans-drained and rinsed
900ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to season
Chorizo

1. Take a heavy based large saucepan and heat the oil over a medium heat. Soften the garlic and onion in the pan before adding all the spices. Cook for a couple of minutes before squeezing in the tomato puree and adding the oregano which also need to be cooked out for a couple of minutes.

2. Pop in the tomatoes, beans and stock. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer for 20- 25 minutes. I add the whole chilli at this stage to infuse. If you want a bit more heat you can chop the chilli into the soup. When ready, take the soup off the heat, season and allow to cool slightly. The soup now needs blending either in a large blender or using a hand blender if you prefer. Blitz and then taste again to check the seasoning. As the soup is finishing off, take chorizo and cut into small pieces. Dry fry in a frying pan until crisp. Serve the soup in warmed bowls and sprinkle the crispy chorizo on top.

Smoky and spicy bean soup- a perfect warmer with a taste of Mexico!

Spicy Szechuan shredded chicken

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After cooking a roast dinner the other day I had a lot of leftover chicken that was calling out to be finished up and this is where this simple but spicy Szechuan shredded chicken comes in. Szechuan pepper is a wonderful ingredient that is well worth using if are not familiar with it and have not cooked with it. It brings a warmth along with citrus notes that really lift a dish. I also served this with homemade spring rolls and salt and pepper prawns for a midweek feast.

As I say I used leftover roasted chicken for this however you can roast chicken thighs or legs in advance if you don’t have any spare; avoid breast meat if you can as it tends to dry out quickly. I have purposefully left the chicken quantities more vague than usual- I often struggle to eat much meat in a meal however when it came to this I couldn’t help but have seconds…and thirds… Just remember that leftover beef would also work a treat! Cashews are also a welcome addition if you like too.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
Roasted chicken thighs or legs- 1-2 per person depending on appetite
1 tbsp cornflour
Red and yellow bell pepper- chopped
Handful of unsalted cashews
2 tbsp vegetable or groundnut oil
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- grated
1 tsp Chinese chilli oil
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp water with 1 tsp cornflour mixed in

1. Start by heating the oil in a wok to medium. Shred the chicken into pieces and toss in the cornflour. Begin to fry off in the oil and stir from time to time. You want chicken which is golden and starting to crisp up in places. When just crisping up, add in the chopped pepper and cashews; stir well.

2. In the meantime, combine all the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Choose a small pan and simmer the sauce until thickening and glossy. Tip into the chicken and toss to coat. Serve immediately with rice or noodles.

Spicy Szechuan shredded chicken- love your leftovers with this super speedy midweek meal!

 

Cavolo nero and bacon tartiflette

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Tartiflette is a comforting French dish popular amongst those heading to Alpine resorts. Just picture the scene, coming back in from a day on the slopes and in need of a comforting dish to warm you up whilst sipping a glass of wine or two in front of a roaring log fire- heaven! If you like potato, cheese and bacon then this is the perfect dish for you! In my version I have added cavolo nero as a nod towards one of your five a day but you could leave it out if you prefer or replace with spinach if you like.

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Ingredients- serves 4
150g smoked bacon lardons
250g cavolo nero- washed
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 shallot- finely chopped
Knob of unsalted butter
800g waxy potatoes, such as King Edwards
400g Reblochon or Camembert cheese
300ml double cream
120ml vegetable stock

1. Firstly preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a frying pan and heat over a medium heat; fry off the lardons until golden, remove from the pan and set aside. Keep an bacon fat which is in the pan. Shred that leaves of the cavolo nero and fry in the pan along with the garlic and shallot until wilted. Remove and set aside.

2. Rub a little softened butter in the inside of a baking dish approximately 20cm x 25cm in size. I sometimes use individual baking dishes so everyone has their own so it’s up to you.

3. Cut the potatoes into 3mm thin slices and layer in the dish with the cavolo nero, bacon and half of the cheese. Leave the thinnest potato slices for the top so they go crispy when it’s cooked. Season the layers as you go.

4. Pour over the cream and stock and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until golden and bubbling. Allow to stand for few minutes before digging in.

Cavolo nero and bacon tartiflette- go off piste with my version of this Alpine classic! The diet starts tomorrow…

Halloween pepperkins

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That time of the year is upon us once more- when children go trick or treating and adults hide in their homes pretending nobody is in! It also sees the carving of magnificent pumpkins but if you think that pumpkins are the only thing that can be carved for Halloween then think again! When walking around the local market I came across orange and yellow striped peppers and I thought they would be perfect for stuffing. Now stuffed peppers tend to be thought of as a vegetarian cliché however these are packed with Indian style spiced rice which can be spiced up as much or as little as you want. I have kept them vegetarian however you could also add some minced meat or similar if you like.

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Ingredients- serves 4
8 bell peppers
250g long grain white rice
1 tsp turmeric
Vegetable oil
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 large onion- finely chopped
3 garlic cloves- crushed
2 tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander, ground fenugreek and garam masala
1 green chilli- finely chopped
4 vine tomatoes- finely chopped
1 small aubergine- finely chopped
100g paneer

1. Make the rice mix first by heating a glug of oil in a large pan. Add the mustard seeds and heat until they start to pop before then adding the onion and garlic to the pan; cook the onions until turning golden.

2. Meanwhile you can cook the rice. Add the rice into a pan along with a teaspoon of turmeric and cover with boiling water; bring to the boil before lowering the heat, covering with a lid and simmering for 10 minutes. Do not remove the lid! When the 10 minutes is up, remove the pan from the heat and allow to stand (still covered) for another 10 minutes so the rice steams and fluffs up. Use a fork of carefully work through the rice to make sure the grains are separate.

3. By now the onions should be a lovely golden colour so add in the remaining spices. Stir well to combine and coat the onion. Add in the chilli, tomatoes and aubergine and simmer for around 10 minutes until the vegetables are breaking down and the tomatoes are starting to reduce. Stir through the rice and make sure it is all well mixed. Remove from the heat and grate through the paneer; allow to cool.

4. Now for the carving! Get creative and think of the designs you would like to use. Use a craft knife to carefully carve the pattern. Cut the top of the pepper and reserve this. Scoop out the seeds and pop out the carved areas. Repeat for all the peppers. When they are all ready, spoon in the rice mixture and replace the lids on the peppers.

5. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Carefully transfer the peppers to a baking tray. Give a quick drizzle of oil and a sprinkling of salt and roast for 20-30 minutes until tender. Serve as part of an Indian feast and enjoy!

Halloween pepperkins- it’s not only pumpkins that get a look in this year!

 

Wild boar forest pie

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Wild boar is a meat that a lot of people have heard of and maybe seen on a restaurant menu but few have cooked at home. To get the maximum flavour and richness from wild boar it needs to be cooked low and slow so this pie recipe is a perfect introduction to it. In keeping with autumn ingredients I have paired the boar with the earthiness of porcini as it is wild mushroom season after all. This pie can be made in advance and is a great crowd pleaser. I made the boar sauce a couple of days before I needed it which really intensified the flavour. Not only do you get a pie recipe with this but you can also use  the wild boar base as a ragu which is delicious with pasta or creamy polenta so you get two ideas for one here!

Now just a quick word about mashed potato. I know potato ricers are popular up and down the country for a super smooth mash but I prefer to use a little (read ‘lot’) of elbow grease and mash for England with a good old stick masher! Yes, it is more time and labour intensive but it is still just as smooth so pick your weapon of choice and get mashing!

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Ingredients- serves 4
Vegetable oil
400g wild boar- diced into large chunks
1 large white onion -chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
Small pack of pancetta (optional)
20g dried porcini mushrooms- soaked
1 carrot- finely chopped
2 celery sticks- finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
100ml red wine
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
300ml beef stock
Fresh thyme, bay leaves and 4 juniper berries
5 Maris Piper potatoes- peeled and halved
Unsalted butter
Milk
Salt and pepper

1. Get cracking by preheating the oven to 160c/ 140 fan. Take a large casserole pan and heat a good glug of oil over a medium to high heat. Add the chunks of boar and cook to brown them off. You can do this in a couple of batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan as this does not make for beautifully golden meat. When browned, remove the boar and set aside.

2. Next up keep the meat juices in the pan and cook the garlic, onion and pancetta (if using) until the onion is softened and the pancetta is turning golden. Pop in the carrot and celery and cook for a further couple of minutes. Stir through the tomato puree and make sure it is all well combined.

3. Add the red wine and reduce by half before the stock, tomatoes and porcini go in. Pop in the herbs, juniper berries and season. Cover the pan and cook in the oven for 3 hours until the boar is tender and simply falls apart. Towards the end of cooking check the boar and the sauce should have reduced down; if it is still a bit too loose, simply remove the lid and finish off or simmer on the hob with the lid off. When the sauce is thick, remove from the heat and set aside as you make the mash.

4. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Boil the potatoes until they are tender when you prick them with a knife; drain well. Now for the bit that takes tasting to get spot on! Mash the potatoes like your life depends on it and add as much butter as your heart will take so give a creamy mash. Add a glug or two of milk if you like. Keep tasting as you go (I know, such a hardship!) until you end up with a creamy, well seasoned mash.

5. When the boar has cooled slightly, tip it into a large ovenproof dish and you are ready to top it with the potato. Now here comes another choice for you: to pipe or to dollop (very technical!) that is the question? I kept it simple for myself on this occasion and spooned some of the mash on before using the back of a spoon to smooth it over the boar. Take a fork and use the tines to lightly make indents. Top with a little freshly grated parmesan if you like and bake at 200c/ 180fan for around 30 minutes until bubbling and golden.

Wild boar and porcini forest pie- time to reinvent the classic cottage pie!

 

 

 

Butternut squash, sweet potato and parmesan soup

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Autumn days mean curling up with a roaring fire, rain beating against the window and plenty of comforting food. It also brings the squash season and this means that butternut squash soup is hard to resist. This soup combines squash with sweet potato and parmesan which brings the sweetness into balance with the umami edge that parmesan brings. The rind of parmesan is a secret weapon in cooking so I always keep them in the freezer so they are on hand to use in soups, stews, risottos and pasta dishes. My added extra is a delicate hint of spice and a hit of roasted garlic. I have also used the squash seeds to create a crunchy topping that can be sprinkled over the soup to serve so don’t delay- get cooking!

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Ingredients- serves 4-6
1 large butternut squash
2 sweet potatoes
Olive oil
2 bulbs of garlic
2 white onions- chopped
1.5 litres of hot vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
1-2 rinds of parmesan

For the seed topping
Sea salt
Chilli flakes

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Use a sturdy knife to cut the butternut squash in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and set aside for later. Use a knife to score the flesh. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into inch chunks. Place the squash on a baking tray and the sweet potatoes in another one before drizzling both with olive oil and sprinkling with salt. Roast in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until tender. The squash will start to caramelise at the edges and this adds to the flavour. Cut the tops of the garlic bulbs off and wrap in a foil parcel with some oil and roast until tender.

2. Meanwhile you can prepare the seeds. Simply wash them and pat them dry. Pop them on a baking tray with a drizzle of oil, the sea salt and chilli flakes. Roast with the vegetables until the seeds are golden and crunchy. When they are ready, set aside and allow to cool.

3. Take a large pan that will be able to hold all of the soup. Heat a glug of oil over a medium heat and cook the onions until softened but do not allow them to colour. When the vegetables are cooked add the sweet potato and roasted garlic to the pan whilst you scoop out the squash before adding the flesh to the pan too. I then used a potato mashed to slightly break the vegetables down to make blending even easier later. Add the hot stock to the pan. Take the pan off the heat and allow it to cool until you are able to blend it. Blend until you reach the consistency you like. Return the pan to the heat, drop in the parmesan rinds and simmer gently. Simmer for at least an hour if you can so the parmesan has time to infuse. Taste as you go and adjust the seasoning according to taste. Serve in warmed soup bowls with plenty of fresh bread to dip.

Butternut squash, sweet potato and parmesan soup- the perfect antidote to a blustery autumn day!

 

 

Crispy chilli ginger beef

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Crispy chilli beef can be a thing of beauty unless you order it from the wrong Chinese takeaway and then it can become the thing of nightmares so if you don’t want to run the risk of being disappointed I suggest you try making this at home. My version is quick, easy and big on flavour. I have added ginger alongside the classic chilli to give it even more punch so add as much or as little as you fancy.

I served this beef as part of a Chinese feast with beansprout egg noodles, stir fried choy sum, prawn toast and crispy seaweed (you know, the one that is actually lettuce or cabbage). For this, simply shred cabbage leaves finely and fry in oil until crisp; sprinkle with sugar, salt and some five spice.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 sirloin steaks
1 1/2 tbsps cornflour
Salt
Vegetable or groundnut oil

For the sauce:
2 tsps Szechuan peppercorns
100ml rice wine vinegar
100g sugar
4tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
Freshly grated ginger

1. Start off by cutting the sirloin steak into thin pieces. Toss in the cornflour and season well with salt; set aside.

2. For the sauce, take a small pan and dry fry the Szechuan peppercorns. Grind in a pestle and mortar. Combine the rice wine vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and honey in a small pan. Gently heat over a medium heat and stir to ensure the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat and simmer so it reduces, thickens and turns glossy.

3. Meanwhile, add enough oil to a wok so that it is enough to shallow fry the beef strips. Heat the oil until it is hot enough to turn a piece of bread golden. Shake off any excess cornflour and lower the beef carefully into the wok. Fry until golden and crispy. Drain off the oil and return the beef back to the wok. To the sauce add the ginger and ground peppercorns and combine well. Add the sauce to the wok and simmer until the sauce is sticky and glossy. Serve with noodles or rice.

Crispy chilli and ginger beef- my take on a takeaway classic!

Cheesy vegetable crumble

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Ah October- the month that brings a chill in the air and an urge to hibernate in front of an open fire with all your favourite comfort foods. Well, look no further! This cheesy vegetable crumble makes the most of a range of seasonal vegetables and it is perfect as a main meal or a side dish. Potato, carrot, swede, kale and leek are my vegetables of choice which gives a balanced between earthy flavours and sweetness which marry with the creamy cheesy sauce which is topped with crunchy crumble.

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Ingredients- serves 4 as a main
1 small swede
3 large potatoes such as Maris Piper
1 large carrot
1 leek
Small bag of black kale
500ml vegetable stock
150ml milk
2 garlic cloves- whole
60ml double cream
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Pepper
Crumbly, tangy cheese such as Caerphilly
100g plain flour
50g unsalted butter
Freshly grated parmesan

1. Prepare the vegetables by peeling them and cutting the swede, potatoes and carrots into cubes. Take a large, wide pan and place the cubed vegetables into it along with the vegetable stock and milk. Place two whole unpeeled garlic cloves in that have been pricked with a knife to infuse a delicate flavour. Bring to a boil before lowering to a simmer; cover the pan and simmer until the vegetables are tender to a knife point. Remember that swedes take longer than the other vegetables so keep the cubes of this smaller so they all cook at the same time.

2. Meanwhile, in a small pan sweat the leek with a splash of oil and small knob of butter. Cook until tender before removing and setting aside. Add the kale into the pan along with a splash of water; cover and allow to wilt slightly.

3. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Choose a large ovenproof baking dish that is large enough to fit all the vegetables in. When the vegetables are tender, take the pan off the heat and stir in the double cream along with some freshly grated parmesan cheese, the leeks and kale and mustard. Season to taste. Spoon half into the baking dish before crumbling some Caerphilly through before spooning the remaining vegetables on top followed by more crumbled cheese. Pour the creamy sauce over.

4. Finally, for the crumble topping simply place the flour in a large bowl along with the butter. Cut the butter into small chunks for ease and rub the flour and butter between your fingers to form a crumb. Grate in some parmesan if you like. Scatter the crumble over the vegetables and bake in the oven until golden and crunchy; this should take 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for a couple of minutes as it will be red hot! Serve as a main or as a side dish and dive in!

Cheesy vegetable crumble- a comforting autumnal meal that deserves to be centre stage on your dining table!

 

Roasted garlic, thyme and parmesan potato dauphinoise

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If there is one dish that is a sure fire crowd pleaser and ultimate comfort food then it has to be this! Potato dauphinoise is classic and mainstay of French cuisine and here it has a revamp to add even more flavour to it. This can be enjoyed with a range of main dishes however steak does it for me every time! Taking inspiration from French cooking I have added roasted garlic and thyme to ramp up the flavour. Now this may not be considered health (far from it in fact!) but a little of what you fancy does you good so read on and indulge yourself…

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Ingredients- serves 4
Knob of unsalted butter
1 small garlic bulb
800g Maris Piper potatoes- peeled
Fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
300ml double cream
Freshly grated parmesan- optional

1. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Cut the top of the garlic bulb and wrap it in foil and drizzle with a little oil before baking for around 20 minutes until the garlic is soft. Allow to cool before squeezing the garlic from the bulb and mashing with the back of a fork. Take an ovenproof dish that will be large enough for you to fit the sliced potato in. Use a knob of butter and run it all over the inside of the dish to stop the potatoes from sticking when they cook.

2. Carefully use a knife or mandolin with the guard on to thinly slice the potatoes. Use any larger slices to create the first layer in the dish and make sure the slices slightly overlap; season with salt and pepper before adding some of the thyme leaves and a little of the roasted garlic. Repeat until the potatoes are used up and remember to season each layer well.

3. Press the layers down slightly and pour over the double cream. Allow it to soak through the potatoes and finish with some freshly grated parmesan, if you like. Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes until the potatoes are tender and bubbling. I often cover the dish with foil for most of the cooking time before removing towards the end to brown in off but this will depend on your oven. When ready, remove from the oven and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

Roasted garlic, thyme and parmesan potato dauphinoise- a gratin to stand the test of time!

 

 

Squash and kale daal

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With autumn upon us it sees the return of squash and kale in my kitchen on a regular (and borderline obsessive!) basis. Squash and kale daal is not exactly an authentic Indian recipe however it is absolutely delicious.The combination of the two adds sweetness, earthiness and even more vibrance to the daal. Spinach is often an addition to daal but this is my autumnal twist on it. The base of the daal is very simple and the spice mix is added later on in the cooking process so the ingredients come alive. I have kept the spices whole to add bursts of flavour however you can lightly bash them with a pestle and mortar before frying if you prefer.

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Ingredients- serves 4
400g red split lentils
Vegetable oil or ghee
4 garlic cloves- crushed
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- quartered
1 tbsp turmeric
1 small butternut squash
200g black kale
2 shallots
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 tbsp ajwan seeds
1 tbsp mustard seeds
2-3 dried Kashmiri chillies- roughly chopped
Freshly chopped coriander for serving- optional

1 Kick off by rinsing the lentils in cold water. Place on the hob in a large pan and cover the lentils with water. Bring the water to the boil before lowering to a simmer. Skim off any scum that forms on the surface of the water. Add in the garlic, ginger and turmeric. Simmer the lentils for 1- 1 1/2 hours until the lentils have softened.

2. When the lentils are about 20 minutes away from being tender and creamy, peel and chop the butternut squash into small chunks. Wash and roughly chop the kale and add, along with the squash, into the pan.

3. In a separate pan, heat the oil or melt the ghee, depending on which you prefer. Slice the shallots and fry until turning golden. Pop in all the other spices and whole chillies; fry until colouring and releasing their flavours. Tip the spice mixture into the lentils and stir through. You may also like to hold a little back to use as a topping. Serve the daal in warmed bowls and sprinkle over some freshly chopped coriander if you like. Also serve with chapattis on the side.

Squash and kale daal- a hearty, vibrant dish for a chilly autumn day!

 

 

Gnocchi with red pepper, tomato and asiago cheese

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Asiago is an Italian cheese that I have recently been using in everything from pasta to salads. It is a sheep’s milk cheese which reminds me of feta in texture and taste. When trying to rustle up a quick dinner the other night I stumbled across some tomatoes and peppers that were nearly seeing better days and, with a few added extras, this gnocchi dish took shape.

I have added another couple of my favourite ingredients here to really lift the flavours- anchovy and capers. The capers add a zip and zing whilst the anchovy dials up the savouriness of the sauce to eleven so do try them! I have kept the tomato sauce purposefully light for this time of year however a similar sauce could be made using tinned tomatoes if you prefer. You could also try baking the gnocchi in the sauce in the oven with a liberal extra sprinkling of the asiago to finish.

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Ingredients- serves 2
400g gnocchi
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves- chopped or crushed
Chilli flakes- as many as you dare
2 anchovy fillets- finely chopped
1 red pepper- finely sliced
6-8 tomatoes- roughly chopped
1 tbsp capers
60g asiago cheese
Handful of freshly torn basil to finish

1. Take a pan and heat a glug of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic, chilli and anchovy and cook for a couple of minutes. Pop in the red pepper and continue to cook until softening.

2. Next up, the tomatoes followed by the capers. At this stage lower the heat to low and allow the tomatoes to break down and simmer. You want the sauce to be able to lightly coat the gnocchi. If the tomatoes look dry at any point, simply add a splash of water. When the sauce is nearly ready, bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes or as directed on the packet. Drain and add the gnocchi to the sauce to finish. Crumble in the asiago and finish with the basil before serving.

Gnocchi with red pepper, tomatoes and asiago cheese- the perfect introduction to this Italian beauty!

 

 

Kimchi rice bowl with braised pork and prawn

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After recently restocking my supplies of kimchi I thought it was only right that this kimchi rice with prawns and braised pork belly took pride of place on the dining table. Kimchi is the national dish of Korea and has become much easier to get hold of in recent years.

The key to cooking the rice is to prepare it ahead of time so it has plenty of time to cool before stir frying to reheat. This will give you rice that is fluffy without being stodgy. I cover the rice with water and then bring to a boil before simmering with the lid on for ten minutes. Remove from the heat and leave the lid on so it steams. You’ll get perfect rice every time!

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the pork
2 generous slices of belly pork
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp gochujang paste
1 tbsp dark soy
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 garlic clove- crushed
1/2 tbsp runny honey
400ml water

For the rice
300g white rice- cooked and cooled
Glug of groundnut oil
50g kimchi- shredded if in larger pieces
1/2 tbsp gochujang paste
Bunch of spring onions- half shredded, half kept whole
1 tbsp sesame seeds
200g raw king prawns

1. Start by preparing the pork belly. Cut the pork into bite sized pieces. Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the pork for 2 minutes before removing from the pan with a slotted spoon. Drain the water and dry the pan before placing it back on the hob over a medium heat.

2. Add the vegetable oil and dissolve the sugar into it. Pop the boiled pork into the pan and cook until golden; this may take a good few minutes so don’t rush it. Combine the gochujang, soy, rice wine vinegar, garlic and honey and add to the pan; stir well to coat the pork before adding the water. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for an hour until the pork is meltingly tender and the sauce is reduced. Towards the end of cooking you may like to remove the lid to help it reduce even more.

3. Next up goes the rice base for the dish. Get going by heating a large wok or frying pan and popping in a little groundnut oil over a medium heat. Add in the kimchi and garlic and cook for a minute before adding the gochujang. Half of the spring onions need to be shredded and added into the pan next before tossing the cooled rice through to heat. Add the pork chunks back into the pan along with the prawns and stir through, cooking until the prawns are cooked through. Sprinkle in the sesame seeds before serving. Lightly trim the remaining spring onions and oil before griddling and serving on top of the rice.

Kimchi rice bowl with prawn and braised pork belly- a delicious introduction to Korean cuisine!

 

Tomato and ricotta puff pastry tart

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At this time of year tomatoes are bursting with juice and packed full of flavour so it’s the ideal season to make the most of them. Great tasting tomatoes need little done to them in order to bring out their best so this tomato and ricotta tart is a perfect way to enjoy them. I also have it on good authority that any leftovers are ideal for an easy lunch the next day!

Supermarkets and farmer’s markets are making it easier and easier to get hold of heirloom (heritage) varieties so get shopping and choose your favourites. I have used yellow and red tomatoes in order to add extra colour to the tart but use whatever tomatoes you can find and like.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
1 sheet of ready made puff pastry
Selection of tomatoes- approx. 300g
200g ricotta
Fresh basil and oregano
Salt and pepper
1 egg- beaten

1. Preheat the oven according to the instructions on the pastry packet as these can sometimes differ. About ten minutes before you want to make the tart, remove the pastry from the fridge and then roll out. Take a small dining plate and place it upside down on the pastry. Carefully cut around it. Take a small knife and lightly run the blade about 1cm from the edge of the sheet to form a border.

2. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, torn fresh basil and oregano (if you can find it) and season well. If you can’t find fresh oregano then you can use a little dried oregano instead but go easy on it. Spoon the ricotta mix on the pastry sheet and spread evenly using the back of a spoon; leave the border clear of the cheese otherwise it won’t puff up.

3. Cut the tomatoes into rounds and arrange on the tart base. When ready to cook, carefully brush a little beaten egg on the border of the tart and bake for around 20 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve with a side salad and buttered new potatoes.

Tomato and ricotta tart- a perfect way to enjoy the best of the season’s produce!

 

Singapore noodles

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OK so Singapore noodles are not an authentic Chinese dish but they are well known and loved in Chinese takeaways up and down the country so I couldn’t resist whipping them up at home. After raiding the freezer, I chose to use prawns and chicken as the main stars of the show here with some added crispy fried tofu for an added crunch to finish the noodles off. The tofu is also a good replacement for egg if you prefer. If you fancy egg instead then lightly beat a couple of eggs and add at the end of cooking so it scrambles through the noodles. Pork is often used in Singapore noodles so you can pick and mix your favourites.

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Ingredients- serves 4
200g rice vermicelli noodles
Half a block of firm tofu (optional)
1 tbsp cornflour
  tbsp groundnut oil
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- grated
1 onion- thinly sliced
1 carrot- thinly sliced
100g sugar snap peas- thinly sliced
Small tin of bamboo shoots- thinly sliced
1 red pepper- finely sliced
2 heads of pak choi- shredded
200g raw shelled king prawns- deveined
2 chicken breasts- sliced
100g beansprouts
1 tbsp medium curry powder
1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1.Make sure all your ingredients are fully prepared before you start cooking anything.  heat up your wok. When you’re ready to go, soak the vermicelli rice noodles according to packet instructions before draining well. I usually halve the lengths of noodles to make it much easier to toss all the vegetables and meat through later.

2. As the noodles soak you can prepare the crispy tofu if you are using this. Take the tofu and pat it dry to remove excess water. Use your fingers to break up the tofu so it is crumbled. Toss the pieces in the cornflour Take a frying pan and heat 1 tbsp of the oil to medium. In a couple of batches if needed, fry the tofu until golden and crisp. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and blot onto kitchen towel. Set aside.

3. Grab your wok and heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil over a medium heat. Fry the garlic and ginger for a minute. Add in the vegetables apart from the beansprouts and cook until they are softening before adding the chicken and prawns.

4. Add half of the curry powder and stir well to combine before adding the drained noodles along with the beansprouts. The rest of the curry powder, rice wine, sesame oil and soy sauce needs to go it at this point. Make sure the noodles are well coated in the powder and cook until heated through. Toss through the crispy tofu and reserve a little to top the noodles with. Serve in warmed bowls.

Singapore noodles- a takeaway favourite that is simple to recreate at home!

 

Sticky, sweet and spicy Chinese style ribs

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When you fancy a Chinese takeaway the lure of the ribs on the menu tends to be strong… well at least in my mind anyway. Try making your own so you can make them as sweet, savoury or as spicy as you want- or all three! A rack of pork ribs is inexpensive and an average sized rack feeds two people so it’s a bargain! Keep your eyes out for a rack that has plenty of meat on it as some can be a little scrawny and that only brings disappointment rather than pure porky joy!

If you cast your eye down the list of ingredients you will notice that one of them is not Chinese, but Korean: gochujang. When I was putting the marinade together I thought what would give a deep chilli flavour but stand up to the other ingredients so it was settled.

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Ingredients- serves 4
2 racks of pork ribs
120ml oyster or hoisin sauce
60ml dark soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp gochujang
2 cm piece fresh ginger- grated
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 tbsp ground five spice

1. Ideally the ribs would have around 3 hours in the fridge marinating but overnight is perfect if you have a bit more time. Simply mix together all the ingredients in a bowl and pour most of the marinade over the racks. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate.

2. When you are ready to cook the ribs, preheat the oven to 160c/ 140 fan. Wrap the racks of ribs in foil parcels and make sure they are tightly sealed. Cook in the oven for around 3 hours (depending on the size of the racks). After this time the racks should be tender and flexible so you know they are nearly all set.

3. For the last step, turn up the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Peel back the foil and brush the last of the marinade over the ribs and cook for a further 10- 15 minutes until sticky and unctuous. Use a knife to separate the ribs and grab a stack of napkins (you’ll need them!); serve the ribs immediately.

Chinese takeaway style ribs- let’s face it, there’s no elegant way to eat these but dive in!

Scallop, king prawn and lobster fregola

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Fregola is a small Sardinian pasta shape that is very similar to cous cous and lends itself to a range of recipes. It can be boiled like normal pasta but I have cooked it here like you would a risotto so a little time and patience is needed but it really is worth the effort.

This recipe uses a mixture of all my favourite seafood and is perfect for a special occasion when a little extra luxury and indulgence is needed. Feel free to add in any extras such as mussels or squid which would also be delicious. I chose to use king prawns that still have the shell on as this adds to the flavour and keeps them beautifully juicy and tender.

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g fregola
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
Half a red chilli- deseeded and finely chopped
6 vine ripened plum tomatoes- skin removed (if you like) and chopped
100ml dry white wine
600ml hot vegetable stock
2 lobster tails- shell removed and cut into bite sized pieces
100g small scallops
100g raw king prawns with shell on
Salt and pepper
Handful of parsley- finely chopped

1. Get going by heating the olive oil over a medium heat in a wide pan- I use one that resembles a paella pan and it heats evenly and the finished dish looks great in it. Cook the onion and garlic together until softened but make sure it does not colour. Pop in the chilli and cook for a further minute or two- a pinch of chilli flakes can also be used if you prefer but only a small pinch is needed.

2. Add in the white wine and simmer until reduced by half before adding the tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are starting to break down and release their juices. Stir in the fregola and ensure it is well combined with the onion mixture. Now for the stock and stirring! Add the hot stock little by little and, as you would with a risotto, add the next amount when the previous has been absorbed by the fregola. Fregola should take around half and hour to become tender. Stir from time to time; I also covered the pan to keep the moisture in. Towards the end of cooking, check and adjust seasoning to taste.

3. Next up goes the seafood and this could not be more simple. All you need to do is add the lobster tail meat, scallops and king prawns on top of the fregola, cover the pan and steam for a few minutes until the prawns and lobster are cooked through and the scallops are tender. Finish with a sprinkling of parsley and serve immediately.

Scallop, king prawn and lobster fregola- an impressive meal for many occasions!