Panzanella with burrata

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From time to time most households have leftover bread that it heading past its best but there’s no need to waste it- that’s where panzanella comes in! Panzanella is a traditional Italian tomato and bread salad that’s full of fresh, seasonal flavours. There is no one panzanella recipe so this is my take on it. I included fried capers to give an added dimension and texture. Anchovies are also added to ramp up the savouriness but you can omit these if you prefer. Fried artichoke is also a welcome addition but not at all traditional however it adds a wonderful earthiness.

For the perfect panzanella the tomatoes you choose are important as you want the freshest available. I have used a combination of smaller heirloom varieties which have become easier to find and add a range of colour. Panzanella makes a great light lunch or it can also be served with simple grilled meats for a more substantial meal. if you have any leftovers, you can simply baked the remaining pieces of bread on a tray in the oven until crisped and then serve with the salad- delicious!

Ingredients- serves 4
200g open textured bread such as sourdough or ciabatta
30g parmesan
500g assorted tomatoes- chopped
1 red onion- sliced
1 small fresh red and 1 yellow pepper- finely sliced
Sliced artichoke hearts
6-8 anchovy fillets- finely chopped
2 tbsp capers- drained
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil
Salt
2 balls of burrata
Fresh basil

1. Take your bread of choice and roughly tear it into pieces. Place on a tray and leave for around 20-30 minutes to help dry it out a little if it still relatively fresh; if not place on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and finely grate over from parmesan cheese; cook in a low oven until golden. Meanwhile pop the chopped tomatoes, peppers and onion in a colander with a bowl underneath and add salt and pepper. Leave to sit for half an hour so it draws some moisture out of the tomatoes and softens the peppers.

2. Take a small frying pan and add a small amount of oil over a medium heat. Fry the artichoke slices until golden and crisp; remove from the pan and pop in the capers and anchovy and fry until crispy. Tip the bread, tomatoes and onion into a bowl along with the peppers, anchovies and capers. Drizzle over the vinegar and oil; taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Finish with some freshly torn basil. Tear open each ball of burrata and serve.

 

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Lime, coriander and mint paneer with spiced chickpeas

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When the mood strikes, there is nothing quite like a hearty curry, but, with the weather hopefully on the up, sometimes you want a lighter version of your favourites so if this is the case then this is the dish for you. The idea behind this is that the chickpeas are coated in a sauce that doesn’t weigh it down so you can taste and appreciate all the ingredients. Paneer lends itself to pairing with a range of Indian flavours and I have kept this paneer fresh with herbs and the zing of lime.

If you can’t find garlic and ginger paste then substitute it with a garlic clove and a freshly grated piece of ginger. The paste is available in all good Asian supermarkets and is well worth buying if you come across it as it can be used in a wide range of recipes and takes the time out of having to make your own. There will be leftover toasted lentils but fear not; they are delicious sprinkled over salads or as a snack by themselves and will keep for several days if covered over.

Ingredients- serves 4
For the paneer
Block of paneer- cut into bite sized cubes
1 tbsp cornflour
1 small bunch of fresh coriander- finely chopped
1 small bunch of fresh mint- finely chopped
60ml olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
1 tsp salt

For the chickpeas and curry
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 red bell pepper- chopped
1 yellow bell pepper- chopped
1 small aubergine- chopped
1 sweet potato- peeled and chopped
1 can of chickpeas- drained and rinsed well
2 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
1 1/2 tbsp chilli powder or to taste
1 tbsp fenugreek
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
Salt to taste

For the crunchy lentils
Can of green lentils in water- drained
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
Crushed chilli flakes- to taste

1.I started by toasting the lentils and chickpeas first so I could then concentrate on the other elements of the recipe. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan; pat the lentils as dry as you can after draining them, place them on a baking tray and drizzle with the olive oil. Add the salt, garlic powder and chilli flakes and toss to coat the lentils. Place in the oven and cook for around 15 minutes or until crunchy; you can move them around on the baking tray halfway during cooking if needed to ensure they are evenly toasted.

2. As the lentils are cooking, place the chickpeas in a deep roasting tray and add half of each of the spiced listed apart from the garam masala. Toss to combine and roast in the oven for 15 minutes at the same time as the lentils until they have started to gain some colour. Remove the chickpeas and lentils from the oven when they are ready and set aside.

3. To make the curry base, add a glug of olive oil a wide bottomed pan that is large enough to hold the curry in its entirety. Over a low heat, gently cook the red onion until softened and starting to turn golden; add the tomato puree and cook this out for another minute. Add the remaining spices apart from the garam masala and the ginger and garlic paste as well as approx. 200mls of water; stir to form a paste. Add in the vegetables and chickpeas and simmer until the sauce lightly coats them; if it gets a little too dry then add another splash of water or two.

4. For the paneer, mix together all the ingredients listed under the paneer section of the ingredients list; taste and adjust seasoning and/ or the lime juice to taste if needed. Toss the paneer cubes in a tablespoon of cornflour. Add a good glug of oil to a non- stick frying pan and add the paneer; fry over a medium heat until the cubes are golden and crunchy. Remove using a slotted spoon and blot any excess oil using kitchen paper. Add the paneer cubes into the mint, coriander and lime dressing and toss well to coat.

5. To assemble the final dish simple choose a large serving dish and spoon the chickpea curry onto it. Top this with the herby paneer and finish with a liberal sprinkling of the crunchy lentils. Add extra fresh mint and coriander if you like and serve.

Lime, coriander and mint paneer and spiced chickpeas- a lighter take on a curry for the summer!

Spicy beef noodle salad

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If you’re looking for a noodle salad recipe to take you through summer and beyond then look no further! In the recent warm weather that we have had here in the UK this noodle salad was perfect for a light but filling dinner. I have used beef here however feel free to play around with the ingredients as prawn, chicken or even crispy tofu would also be delicious here. The dressing can be made in advance to allow the flavours to develop if you have the time; simply make it, cool it and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

Ingredients- serves 3-4
For the dressing:

1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp fresh ginger- grated
2 garlic cloves- grated
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp palm sugar
1 tsp galangal paste
Juice of a small lime

For the rest:
Thick cut rump steak- approx. 400g
2 nests of vermicelli rice noodles
Handful of unsalted peanuts- toasted in a dry pan
Bag of beansprouts
1 large carrot- ribboned or grated
Bag of radishes- finely sliced
Fresh coriander- roughly chopped
Fresh mint- roughly chopped

1.Start off by making the dressing; simply combine all the listed ingredients for the dressing and stir well. Place in a pan over a low heat and simmer until thickened; remove from the heat and set aside. Remember to taste the sauce to ensure that it is to your liking and then adjust if needed.

2. Soak the noodles as per the packet instructions; drain well and use scissors to randomly cut the noodles so they are easier to eat in the salad.

3. Heat a frying pan to high ready for the steak. Season the steak and cook to your liking. Remove the steak and rest for the same amount of time that it was cooked for. Use a sharp knife and thinly slice the steak.

4. Take a large bowl and combine the noodles with the carrot, beansprouts, radishes and the dressing. Add the sliced steak, peanuts and fresh herbs and toss well. Serve on a large platter, if you like.

Sweet potato, spinach and chorizo hash

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Let’s face it- who doesn’t love a good breakfast to start the day?! Well if this sounds familiar then this is the breakfast for you! This hash is absolutely packed with flavour and can easily be made for one, two or even a group; it also makes the most of ingredients that a lot of people will have in their fridge. In my mind, all good breakfasts involve an egg with a golden, runny yolk. Here I have chosen to bake the egg into the hash but feel free to serve it with a poached egg perched atop the hash if you prefer.

Ingredients- serves 2
Olive oil
1 decent sized sweet potato- peeled and cubed
1/2 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
100g chorizo- chopped
1 red onion- peeled and finely sliced
2 garlic cloves- finely sliced
1 small red pepper- finely sliced
Small bag of baby spinach- washed and shredded
1 red or green chilli
Fresh coriander- roughly chopped
2 eggs

1.Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Start off by deciding if you want to make individual hashes or one larger one and choose smaller pans or one big one. Heat a good glug of oil in the pan and add in the sweet potato chunks. Sprinkle over the ground spices and fry for a few minutes until the potato is softening and starting to turn golden.

2.Add in the chorizo, garlic, onion, red pepper and chilli;  continue to cook until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the shredded spinach and combine to ensure that it is distributed evenly and starting to wilt.

3. Use the back of a spoon to create a well for each of the eggs to sit in. Carefully crack each egg into a hole and back for around 10 minutes until the egg white has set and the yolk remains runny. Serve immediately with a liberal sprinkling of the chopped coriander.

Sweet potato, spinach and chorizo hash- now this is the way to kick off the day!

 

Greek style chicken tray bake

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If there’s one thing that is always welcome in the kitchen, it’s a one pan, no fuss recipe! Tray bakes come in handy when time is short and lend themselves to midweek meals so you can be sure to have something on the table with minimal washing up. This Greek style chicken tray bake makes the most of simple ingredients and uses a straightforward dressing so you really don’t have to put much thought into cooking so get chopping, set the timer and wait to dive in!

Ingredients- serves 4
8 chicken thighs- skin left on
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
4 large potatoes- peeled and diced
1 large red and 1 large yellow pepper- diced
Handful of baby aubergines- diced
1 large red onion- diced
Handful of Kalamata olives
200g baby plum tomatoes
150g feta
2 tbsp dried oregano
Chilli flakes- to taste
1 lemon- sliced

1.Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan whilst you make sure that all the ingredients are prepped and ready to go as this really is a speedy meal to assemble once you get going. Take the chicken portions and coat in the honey and 1 tbsp of the olive oil.

2. Place all the remaining ingredients other than the feta in a deep baking tray and toss together. Arrange the lemon slices over the top. Pop the coated chicken pieces on top and cook in the oven until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender to a knife point. You will know when the chicken is ready when it is golden skinned and the juices are running clear- it will depend on the size of the chicken thighs but around 30 minutes is usual. When the chicken is nearly ready, sprinkle over the feta and put back in the oven for a couple of minutes to soften and warm. Serve immediately with a salad if you like.

Greek style chicken tray bake- if you’re after a speedy but flavoursome dinner then this is for you!

 

Blue cheese, pancetta and sprout pasta bakes

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The festive season may well and truly be over but that doesn’t mean that sprouts need to be forgotten about until December. They are still in season and can continue to be enjoyed (honestly, they are a wonderful vegetable!) and they lend themselves to a range of simple dishes so banish any thoughts of them being boiled beyond recognition and get in the kitchen. This recipe is also perfect for using up any leftover blue cheese from your cheeseboard that may have been relegated to the back of your fridge. I used blacksticks blue cheese but use whatever you fancy as the flavour of sprouts can stand up to a variety of cheeses.

Ingredients- serves 4
250g Brussel sprouts- cleaned and shredded
1 onion- finely chopped
100g cubed smoked pancetta
40g plain flour
40g unsalted butter
250ml double cream
250ml milk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
150g blue cheese of your choice
70g parmesan- grated
Panko breadcrumbs
400g pasta of your choice

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a large frying pan and heat a small glug of oil. Gently fry the shredded sprouts and onion until they start to soften and then add the pancetta cubes so they have time to begin to turn golden. Remove from the heat whilst you make the cheese sauce. Cook your chosen pasta shapes as per the instructions and, when al dente, drain well.

2. In a suitable pan, melt the butter and flour together to form a roux. Slowly add in the milk and cream whilst you stir all the while to avoid any lumps from forming. Simmer until thickened and then add in the mustard and stir well to ensure it is combined. Take the sauce off the heat and add the blue cheese and majority of the parmesan, reserving some for the topping.

3. Tip the sprout mixture into the sauce and make sure it is evenly distributed throughout the sauce. Add in the drained pasta and place in one large ovenproof baking dish or four individual ones. Combine the remaining parmesan and breadcrumbs and top the pasta. Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Serve by itself or with a simple side salad.

Blue cheese, pancetta and sprout bakes- sprouts are for life, not just for Christmas!

 

Kimchi jigae noodle stew

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Jigae may be something that is brand new in your culinary vocabulary or, indeed, you may be well versed with it; regardless it is certainly a meal that you need to become more familiar with as it is simple, fast and a definite winter warmer. Jigae, to all intents and purposes, is a Korean stew that uses kimchi as the base along with pork and/ or tofu typically. To make even heartier I have added some instant ramen noodles but feel free to leave this out if you prefer.

Ingredients- serves 2-3
3 slices of pork belly
1 tbsp rice wine
Pinch of white sugar
200g kimchi
200g firm tofu- patted dry and cut into bite sized pieces
Shiitake mushrooms- cleaned and sliced
500ml vegetable stock
1 tsp gochugaru
1 tbsp. gochujang
1 tbsp dark soy
Baby pak choi- shredded
Spring onions- sliced
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
200g instant ramen noodles

1.Start a little ahead of time in order to prepare the pork. Simple cut the pork belly into bite sized pieces and marinade in the rice wine; season well with pepper and set aside for half an hour.

2. When the pork’s time is up, choose a heavy based, large pan that will be big enough to fit everything in. Add a glug of unflavoured oil and heat to medium; add the pork belly bites and cook until turning golden and starting to caramelise.

3. Add the kimchi and tofu into the pan with the pork and carefully combine; continue to cook for a couple of minutes along with the mushrooms. Up next goes all the remaining ingredients other than the spring onion and pak choi. Bring the stock to a gentle simmer for 15 minutes; taste and adjust the seasoning to taste by adding more gochujang, soy and/ or sesame oil. For the last two minutes of cooking, sprinkle in the onion and pak choi and add the instant ramen noodles; it’s ready when the onion and pak choi is tender. Serve immediately.

Kimchi jigae noodle stew- a new dish to add to your repertoire and perfect after festive excess!

Orange and cinnamon baked mini doughnuts

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If you regularly follow this blog then you will have noticed that baking is something of a novelty as my recipes tend to be main meals however, when the festive spirit strikes, sometimes the oven needs to be cranked up and sweet treats are involved. These Christmas orange and cinnamon baked doughnuts are going to win you a lot of fans; family, friends and colleagues will be fighting over them so may I advise that you make more than you think you will need!

The recipe is simple, quick and perfect to involve children with as well. Cast your mind back a few years and, in the UK at least, something called ‘cake pops’ were all the rage; this recipe calls for you to dust down the cake pop mould and get cooking! If you don’t own one of these then you can always make these in mini muffin tins instead; they obviously won’t be the same shape but they will taste just as fabulous. These are best eaten warm from the oven but they also keep for a day or so in a dry, well sealed tin but I doubt they will last long enough for that! Feel free to dip them in melted chocolate to make them extra decadent… it is the festive season after all!

Ingredients- makes 24
For the batter
275g plain flour
40g granulated sugar
2 tsps baking powder
Pinch of salt
180mls milk
60mls vegetable oil
1 large beaten egg
1 tbsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp orange essence

For the sugar coating
50g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
Ground cinnamon- to taste
Orange zest- optional

1.Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan whilst you prepare the batter. Simply add all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and add the wet ingredients together in another bowl; tip one into the other and stir to combine until the batter is smooth.

2. Take the cake pop pan and lightly grease it with oil. Use a tablespoon measure and add a tablespoon to each of the cake pop holes. Try to avoid the batter dripping over the edges and neaten it up as you go if needed to make them easier to remove from the pan later on. Repeat until all the holes are filled; secure the other half of the tray and bake for 10 minutes. Carefully remove them from the oven and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat on the hob and transfer to a small bowl. Add the caster sugar into another bowl and add cinnamon (plus the orange zest if using) to taste. Stir so the cinnamon is evenly distributed through the sugar.

4. Gently remove the doughnuts from the cake pop pan and take one at a time and dunk it in the melted butter before rolling in the cinnamon sugar. When each has been evenly coated, place on a wire rack and allow to cool slightly (if you can! They are delicious straight from the oven!). Repeat until all the doughnuts are sugared. You will now have enough doughnut batter left now to make another dozen in the tray; I  suggest rinsing the pan before re-greasing it to make sure they come out cleanly.

Christmas orange and cinnamon baked mini doughnuts- irresistibly light bites of festive heaven!

 

Spiced delicata squash salad

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At this time of year I become borderline obsessive about squashes in all their beautiful guises and tend to become overexcited when new varieties come into the shops. Through the season I tend to use as many types as I can and come up with new ways to enjoy them and this recipe is no exception. The sweetness of delicate squash lends itself to being paired with the heady aromatic spices of the Middle East and all it needs is a drizzle of a simple dressing to bring it to life. Here is the recipe for the warm squash salad and it can be served either as the main meal or an accompaniment. It is delicious with pan friend lamb cutlets if you fancy.

Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the salad

1 delicate squash
1 large red onion
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
Seasoning
Handful of pine nuts
100g feta
Fresh coriander

For the za’atar mix- makes plenty to use and to keep
5 tsp sesame seeds
5 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
5 tsp dried marjoram
5 tsp ground sumac
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
5 tsp ground cumin

1.Firstly I would make the za’atar mix so then it is ready and on standby for later. Simply take a small dry frying pan and toast the sesame seeds until golden and realising their flavour. Allow to cool and combine with the other ingredients; use a pestle and mortar or food processor to whizz them up and that’s all there is to it!

2. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Prepare the squash by peeling the skin using a speed peeler, cutting it in half lengthways and scooping out the seeds. Cut the squash into crescents and place in a deep baking tray. Peel the red onion and cut into wedges and add to the tray along with the garlic cloves (still in their papery skins).

3. Season the vegetables well. Combine the pomegranate molasses, oil and honey and drizzle over the vegetables; toss well to combine. Roast in the oven for around 15-20 minutes or until tender. While it roasts use a dry frying pan and toast the pine nuts.

4. Remove the squash from the oven and toss through the pine nuts and crumble in the feta. Sprinkle around a tablespoon of the za’atar spice mix and finish off with some freshly chopped coriander if you like. Serve immediately.

Spiced delicate squash salad- bring the soft glow of autumn to the dinner table!

Korean chicken wings with slaw

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Spicy Korean chicken really is a thing of beauty and indulgence but it can often be heavy as, more often than not, it’s deep-fried which does nothing for the waistline so this version is still just as moreish but a little better on the health front! Gochujang and gochugaru are Korean ingredients are becoming more accessible in the UK so it’s time to raid your local Asian supermarket to source the best ingredients that you can. The chilli paste, gochujang, and the chilli powder, gochugaru, are spicy but full of flavour. I have paired the chicken with a simple, light slaw. This really is the perfect meal to share with friends or to make for a lazy weekend dinner. On the off chance that there are any leftovers the chicken wings are also delicious cold the next day for a quick snack.

Ingredients- serves 4
For the chicken
Approx. 700g chicken wings
3 tbsps gochujang
1 tsp gochugaru
3 garlic cloves
2 tbsps soy
1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsps water
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Spring onion

For the slaw
1/2 head each of red and white cabbage
1 large carrot
3 spring onions
2 tbsps gochugaru
2 tbsps fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
Juice from 1/2 a lime
2 garlic cloves- grated
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp sesame oil

1. Get going with the chicken marinade in advance of when you want to cook them so the chicken takes on as much flavour from the marinade as possible. Simply combine all the ingredients apart from the toasted sesame seeds and spring onion. Place in a large bowl with the chicken wings, cover, pop in the fridge and set aside- ideally overnight but for at least an hour.

2. In the meantime the slaw can be made. Use a mandolin or sharp knife and finely shred the red and white cabbage. Grate the carrot and finely slice the spring onion. Add all the other ingredients together in a bowl and stir well to combine before pouring over the vegetable mix; toss well so it all gets an even coating.

3. When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Place the marinated chicken in a large baking tray and cook for around 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear.

4. To assemble, take a large serving platter and arrange the slaw. Top with the cooked wings, sprinkle over the toasted sesame seeds and spring onion and let everyone dig in! An extra squeeze of lime juice is also a welcome addition to give an added layer of zing.

Spicy Korean chicken wings and slaw- a large stack of napkins is a must!

Spiced halloumi tacos

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Tacos and all things Mexican seem to be having a bit of a moment but they are often meat laden parcels of goodness however sometimes a lighter take on a recipe is much needed so this is where the halloumi taco recipe comes in. Halloumi is one of my favourite cheeses so I’ll use any opportunity to use it in my cooking, Not only is it versatile but is takes on flavour well, so marinade it ahead of time for maximum effect. I served the tacos with a cooling fresh salsa and a warm red pepper and chilli sauce which you can make more of and then use later in the week or freeze for another time. I used smoked chipotle morita chillies but feel free to experiment with different varieties of Mexican chillies to see what you prefer. If using dried chillies then remember to soak them in water in advance before using.

Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the sauce
3 red peppers
Chipotle chilli
1 small red onion
3 garlic cloves
Seasoning

For the salsa
2 small avocados
1 small red onion
Handful of baby plum or plum tomatoes
Lime
Fresh coriander
Seasoning

For the rest
2 blocks of halloumi
1/2 tbsp each of ground cumin, coriander and smoked paprika
1 tbsp olive oil
Soft tacos

1. Start by preheating the oven to 220c/ 200 fan. Lightly brush the red peppers with a little oil and place on a baking tray or rack. Cook until lightly charred and soft. Remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. Carefully peel the skin and roughly chop the flesh. In a small pan, add a little glug of oil and fry the onion and garlic. Place the peppers and onion mixture into a food processor along with the chilli and whizz into a sauce. Season to taste and set aside.

2. Next you can sort out the halloumi. Simply cut each block into thick finger shapes so they hold together when fried. Combine the ground cumin, coriander and paprika with the oil and toss well to coat the halloumi.

3. For the fresh salsa, simply chop the avocado, onion and tomatoes. Combine and season well. Add a squeeze of lime juice to taste and the fresh coriander. Set aside.

4. Take a non- stick frying pan and heat a glug of oil over a medium heat. When hot, add the halloumi fingers and turn during cooking so each side is golden. Remove from the pan and blot onto kitchen paper to remove any excess oil. Then it is all a matter of assembly! Warm the tacos and arrange them on a serving platter along with the halloumi, salsa and roasted pepper sauce so everyone can help themselves. Serve with some freshly sliced jalapeno chilli and lettuce leaves if you like with a little soured cream on the side.

Halloumi tacos- a lighter take on a Mexican classic!

 

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!

 

Zingy chermoula cod

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Chermoula is a Middle Eastern paste that is used in a range of dishes to add tang and spice to a range of fish, meat and vegetable dishes. You can buy it ready made if you are pressed for time but it really is speedy and straightforward to do yourself; you can make it in advance and keep it in the fridge until you need it. If it is covered then it will last for a few days if you want to make a larger amount and then use it for a couple of meals.

 

Ingredients
For the chermoula

Small bunch of coriander
1 mild to medium red chilli2 garlic cloves
50ml olive oil
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp each of smoked paprika, ground cumin and ground coriander
1 tsp runny honey
1 tbsp red wine vinegar

For the rest
2 cod fillets or loins
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves-crushed or finely sliced
Handful of baby plum or vine tomatoes- halved
2-3 jarred roasted red pepper- finely sliced
Handful of pitted mixed olives- roughly chopped
Chilli flakes
Fresh coriander- chopped

1. Get started by making the chermoula by simply combining all the ingredients either by hand using a pestle and mortar or a food blender to whizz it into a paste. Coat each of the pieces of cod and set aside to marinate.

2. To make the tomato and pepper base that the cod is going to be served on, add a good glug of olive oil to a large non- stick pan. Cook the onions until softened and then add in the garlic cloves along with a pinch of chilli flakes and continue to cook for an additional minute. Add the tomatoes, red peppers and olives into the pan and simmer until the sauce is thickening and reducing but so the olives still retain their shape. Sprinkle in some freshly chopped coriander to finish and lower the heat whilst you cook the cod.

3. Heat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Place the cod on a lined or lightly oiled baking tray and cook until the cod is cooked through. Serve on top of the tomato sauce and enjoy immediately.

Chermoula cod- brighten up your day with zingy, fesh flavours!

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!

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!

 

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!

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…