Sunday, 29 November 2020

Christmas Pavlova

I’ve invented a twist on a traditional Pavlova, a meringue, cream and fruit-based dessert. Made to resemble a Festive wreath, it not only looks impressive, it is also incredibly light and therefore a sensible way to end your Christmas lunch. Or any time for that matter!

Ingredients - serves 8-10 

6 egg whites, separated from 6 large eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
300g caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar

280ml double cream
2 tsp vanilla paste or scrape the seeds from one vanilla pod
A combination of fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pomegranates or grapes
A handful of toasted hazelnuts or almonds, roughly chopped
Fresh mint leaves
A few chunks of 70-80% chocolate, melted

1 – Pre-heat the oven to 140C/Fan 120C/GM1.

2 – Take a piece of baking paper large enough to cover a baking tray. Using an average dinner plate (approximately 30 cm), draw a circle thick enough to see if the paper is flipped over. Flip the paper.

3 – Take a large mixing bowl and using a piece of kitchen towel, wash the bowl out with a splash of vinegar (this will remove any oil or grease that may be present, essential for a good meringue).

4 – Using an electric whisk, begin to whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then beat in the cinnamon. Add the sugar 1 tbsp at a time, beating all of the time, until the mixture is soft and glossy and will not tip out if held aloft. Add the vinegar and cornflour and beat in thoroughly.

5 – Using a large serving spoon, add large mounds of the meringue mixture, moving around the circle (aim to keep the meringue inside the circle and use it as a guide). If there is any mixture left, just evenly top up the mounds.

6 – Place the meringue onto the middle shelf and then turn the oven down to 120C/Fan 100C/GM Half. Cook for 1 hour and 10 minutes then switch the oven off and leave the meringue to cool in the oven (you can leave it overnight so great to do the night before for less work on the day itself). This is essential to create a chewy interior to the meringue.

7 – Whisk the cream together with the vanilla until it forms soft peaks. Do not over whisk it. You can also add a couple of tbsp icing sugar too but we think the meringue and fruit are sweet enough.

8 – Put the pavlova onto your serving dish. Begin to place mounds of the whipped cream all around the meringue.

9 – Cut large fruit such as strawberries into quarters then start to decorate the pavlova in any way that you want.

10 – Sprinkle over the toasted nuts, add a few small mint leaves then finally drizzle with the dark chocolate. Pile any leftover fruit and nuts into the centre of the pavlova and serve.

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Pumpkin Pie

When you're carving out those pumpkins this Halloween, never throw away that flesh. Sweet and veratile, it can be used in so many dishes, from curries and tagine to soups and cakes.

This is very much a classic pumpkin pie, beloved of all Americans at this time of the year. It's a bit like a custard tart with that lovely, earthy and sweet pumpkin flavour in the background.

400g shortcrust pastry (To make your own, mix 200g plain flour and 20g margarine or butter together in a bowl using your fingertips until they resemble breadcrumbs. Beat two eggs and then gradually add and stir until it all comes together. Roll into a disc and place in the fridge for an hour or two).
500g pumpkin flesh, roughly chopped
100g soft brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
2 eggs, beaten
30g melted butter or margarine
150ml whole milk (nut or soya milk will work too)

1 - Place the pumpkin flesh either into a steamer or in a pan with a little water. Boil/steam for 15 minutes until soft. Drain then blend into a fine puree.
2 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/GM4.
3 - Grease a springform flan dish. Roll out the chilled pastry and then line the flan dish, pressing firmly into the corners. Cut off any excess but leave a little for shrinkage, then prick a few times with a fork. Line with greaseproof paper, fill with baking beans and blindbake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and then bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove and then neaten off the edges with a sharp knife.
4 - In a large mixing bowl, add the pumpkin puree, sugar, mixed spice, eggs, melted butter and mil. Whisk together thoroughly then carefuly pour into the cooked pastry. Cook on the middle shelf for 40-50 minutes, until golden brown and still retaining a very slight wobble in the middle. Remove and allow to cool.
5 - Mix together a little icing sugar and cinnamon and then sieve over the top before serving.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Sticky Toffee Apple Cake


200g dates

200 milk

4 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced into chunks

75g butter

100g muscovado sugar

100g golden syrup

Pinch of salt

250g self-raising flour

250g butter or margarine

200g caster sugar or soft brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp mixed spiced

1 - Pre-heat oven to 180C/Fan 160C/GM4. Grease and line a 20cm spring-form cake tin.

2 - In a small pan, add the dates and milk. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and using a stick blender, blitz into a purée. Add to a large mixing bowl.

3 - In a non-stick pan, add the apples, butter, muscovado sugar, syrup and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and fast boil for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool slightly. 

4 - In the mixing bowl where you have the date purée, add the flour, butter or margarine, sugar, eggs, mixed spice and vanilla extract. Thoroughly mix together using an electric or hand whisk. 

5 - Pour the apples and toffee sauce into the lined spring-form tin. Pour over the cake mixture then place on the middle shelf and bake for 40-50 minutes. Check on the half hour that the top isn’t catching and if so, add a circle of double foil.

6 - To check it is cooked, insert a skewer or a small knife and it should come out clean. If not, place back in for 5 minute intervals until it is.

7 - Remove and allow to cool on a rack before turning out. Serve with double cream.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Sticky Pork Ribs

The easiest Chinese-style takeaway that you can make in your own home. It's cheaper and tastier too!

Feeds 2
8 large pork ribs, separated
2 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tbsp Mirin rice wine (available in any superstore or Chinese supermarket)
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp honey
4 tbsp soy sauce
5 tbsp water
6 cloves garlic, peeled

1 - Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the pork ribs and cook for a few minutes on each side until golden brown.
2 - Quickly add the rest of the ingredients, stirring thoroughly (remove the ribs first if you are struggling for room but it all sorts itself out, honest).
3 - Place a lid (or foil if no lid) on the pan and simmer for 1 hour (keep checking it to check it isn't drying out. If so, add a little more water).
4 - Remove and serve with sticky jasmine rice, optional simple stir-fried vegetables and a sprinkling of fresh coriander and sesame seeds.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Kejriwal (Indian Chilli Eggs and Cheese)

Ingredients - Feeds 2

150g Cheddar cheese, grated
2 thick slices of bread (rye or sourdough is great here)
4 spring onions, sliced
1 red chilli, sliced
Olive oil
2 eggs
Salt and pepper

1 - Pre-heat your grill and lightly toast the bread on both sides. Reserve around a third of grated cheese, spring onions and chilli.
2 - In a bowl, mash the cheese together until it forms a paste (you may want to leave it to warm up a little). Mix in the remaining spring onion and chilli.
3 - Spread evenly onto the toast and cook under the grill.
4 - Whilst the cheese is grilling, heat the oil in a pan and add the eggs. Cook until the bottom begins to go golden and crispy.
5 - When the cheese is melted, place the eggs on top and sprinkle on the reserved cheese, spring onion and chilli. Grill for a further minute.
6 - Serve with a grating of freshly ground pepper and salt.

Monday, 28 September 2020

Turkey, Lentil and Orange Soup with Chive and Mustard Dumplings

Turkey, Lentil and Orange Soup with Chive and Mustard Dumplings
Feeds 6

1 turkey leg, split into a thigh and drumstick
3 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 celery sticks, diced
A few thyme stalks, stripped of their leaves
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tin of tomatoes
Zest and juice of 1 orange
500ml water
100g brown lentils
Salt and pepper

For the dumplings
150g self raising flour
75g butter or low fat spread
A handful of fresh chives, chopped
1 tbsp English mustard
Salt and pepper

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160C/Fan 140C/GM3.
2 - Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Quickly brown the turkey leg all over then remove and keep aside.
3 - Add the bacon, onion, celery and carrot and cook for 10 minutes until beginning to colour.
4 - Stir in the thyme and garlic. Cook for a further minute then add the tomatoes. Return the turkey leg to the casserole and then pour in enough water to barely cover the leg. Stir, bring to the boil then place in the oven for 1 hour.
5 - Take out of the oven and stir in the lentils. Return to the oven and cook for a further 45 minutes.
6 - Remove from the oven and take out the turkey leg. Strip it of the meat and put this back into the casserole dish and stir through along with the orange zest and juice. Taste for seasoning.
7 - To make the dumplings, rub together the butter and flour. Stir in the remaining ingredients along with a little water to form a soft dough. Roll into balls the size of golf balls and place onto the top of the soup. Put the lid on and place back into the oven for a further 15-20 minutes until the dumplings are puffed up and cooked through.

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Chocolate & Orange Granola

We love granola in our house. Served with Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit, it’s an incredibly healthy way to start the day. But only if you are using a quality granola with not too much sugar in and preferably zero additives.

To avoid some of the commercial granolas that can be over sugary and often lacking on the good things such as nuts and seeds (and flavour!), why not make your own? This granola combines a match made in heaven - chocolate and orange - and as you are in control of the ingredients, lots of protein from nuts and seeds and little sugar. And it is utterly delicious!

Experiment with flavours and spices but get your confidence up by making this first. It will keep in an airtight jar for two weeks but really, it won’t last that long as you will want to eat it every day!


150g rolled oats
150g of chopped nuts (I like to use 50g each of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds)
25g each of pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and sunflower seeds
Half tsp each of ground ginger and cinnamon
5 tbsp runny honey
1tbsp coconut oil
Juice and zest of one orange
2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Fan 160C/GM4.
2 - In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts, seeds and spices.
3 - In a saucepan, melt the coconut oil and combine with the honey, orange juice and zest and cocoa powder.
4 - Pour into the oat and nut mixture and stir to combine thoroughly. Tip out and spread onto a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway though, until beginning to toast and darken.
5 - Remove and allow to cool on the tray. Break up slightly and tip into an airtight jar.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Sticky Sweet and Sour Aubergines

This is a recipe I've slightly tweaked a few times from Sabrina Ghayour's fantastic cookbook Bazaar, a wonderful book with a huge selection of Middle Eastern inspired dishes.

Aubergines are a 'love them' or 'hate them' vegetable, with an odd texture and sometimes bitter taste depending on how you prepare and cook them. If you are in the lover group, I can guarantee this will be your new favourite aubergine recipe. If you are a hater, please try this and then make your mind up.

Brilliant served hot with simple boiled rice and greens, or cold as a side dish with cold meats and salads.

Feeds 4 with rice
For the sauce
1 whole garlic bulb
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled, halved and cut into thin slices
1 tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of chilli flakes
3 tbsp tamarind paste (available in most superstores and all Asian supermarkets)
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
4 tbsp honey
Zest and juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper

4 tbsp olive oil
6 small or 4 large aubergines, cut in half and sliced into 1cm wedges

1 - Pre-heat oven to 180C/GM4. Cut the top off the garlic bulb to expose the top of the cloves. Place onto a piece of foil and drizzle with a little oil. Wrap then bake on a high shelf for 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly.
2 - Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until caramelised.
3 - Stir through the cinnamon, chilli and tamarind paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
4 - Add the tomatoes and honey, ring to the boil then simmer, covered slightly, for 15 minutes until reduced to a thick sauce. Pop the cooked garlic cloves into the sauce and using a hand blender, pulse until everything is combined into a rustic sauce. Add the zest and juice and taste for seasoning.
5 - While the sauce is cooking, heat the oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the aubergines and cook slowly in batches until golden brown on each side. Don't be alarmed at the oil disappearing; aubergines are like sponges but after some cooking, they eventually release some oil. Remove and drain on kitchen towel.
6 - When finished, add to the sauce and stir through. Again, taste for seasoning. Serve with boiled rice, greens and optional scattering of chopped coriander leaves.

Beef and Root Vegetable Stew with Herb and Mustard Dumplings

Autumn is finally here in the UK and for me, it is the finest of seasons. The nights may be getting darker, the weather is certainly getting colder, but it all adds to the cosiness of a season that I always anticipate.

When it comes to comforting food, this is the season to eat: hot stews and casseroles; filling sticky puddings and hot custard; steaming oat porridge with syrup. These are the foods of the Gods and I champion every single one of them.

The slow cooker comes into its own during these frugal and busy times and it sits there begging for yet another meaty stew to help fill the house with mouth-watering smells to come home to each evening. Some decent chunks of braising beef, lots of root vegetables, woody herbs and a slosh of red wine and stock are all that is required to make a heavenly stew. And if you can top it with some dumplings, an invention born to stick to your insides and fill the most rumbling of tummies, you can guarantee smiles on faces all round. Enjoy the seasons.

Beef and Root Vegetable Stew with Herb and Mustard Dumplings
Feeds 4

2 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
800g braising beef cut into large chunks
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 handful of roughly chopped thyme or 1 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 heaped tbsp seasoned plain flour
250ml red wine
250ml beef stock
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into thick chunks
2 leeks, sliced into large chunks
1 small swede, peeled and cut into chunks

For the dumplings
200g self-raising flour
100g margarine or butter
1 tbsp English mustard
4 tbsp chopped chives, thyme and parsley
Salt and pepper

1 - Pre-heat the slow cooker or the oven to 160C/Fan 140C/GM4.
2 - In a large pan or casserole dish, heat up the oil. Add the beef and fry quickly to seal all over. Remove with a slotted spoon.
3 - Add the onion and cook for a further 5 minutes. Return the beef and stir in the herbs and tomato puree. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 1 minute.
4 - Add the wine bring to the boil, stirring all of the time to get rid of any lumps. Cook this out or a minute then stir in the stock. Add the vegetables then either pour into the slow cooker or place the casserole dish into the oven.
5 - If cooking in the slow cooker, cook on a low setting for 5-6 hours. If cooking in the oven, cook for 2 to 2.5 hours, checking every hour to see if the liquid is sufficient.
6 - To make the dumplings, rub the flour and margarine together then stir in the mustard, herbs and a little salt and pepper. Pour in enough water so that when mixed with hands you have a soft sticky dough. With floured hands or two tablespoons, form walnut sized balls and put aside.
7 - For the final 45 minutes cooking time, place the dumplings on top of the stew and cook until plump and cooked through.
8 - Taste for seasoning. Serve with seasonal greens.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Meatball Marinara

An unnamed high street food provider has a version of this on their menu. Meatball marinara: hot meatballs, tomato sauce and cheese stuffed into bread. Sounds messy and delicious yeah? Well, it is!

Here's a homemade version which was actually made from the leftover pasta and meatball dish I made the night before. Waste not want not! So you can use this exact recipe for a plate of pasta and meatballs if this doesn't take your fancy.

I've served this on a piece of thick sourdough which is robust enough to soak up the juices without falling apart, but any old bread will do if lightly toasted.

Meatball Marinara

Ingredients - feeds 4

For the tomato sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
400g tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp dried oregano
A pinch of ground chilli
Salt and pepper

For the meatballs (to make 20-25)
500g good quality minced beef
2 cloves garlic, crushed
A handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
The zest of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Fresh spinach (optional)
4 thick slices of bread, lightly toasted
Grated Cheddar cheese

1 - To make the tomato sauce, heat up the oil in a pan. Add the onion and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, cook for a further minute. Then add the tomatoes, Balsamic vinegar, oregano and chilli. Stir, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for half an hour with the lid slightly off.
2 - When cooked and reduced, taste for seasoning then using a hand blender, blend to your desired consistency. Keep aside.
3 - For the meatballs, put all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and using your hands, combine thoroughly. Using damp hands, form meatballs the size of a golf ball and put aside onto a seperate plate.
4 - In a large non-stick pan, heat up the oil. Add the meatballs and cook on a medium heat all over, stirring regularly until golden brown.
5 - Pour in the tomato sauce, cover and simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes.
6 - Heat up your grill to a high setting. Cover a grill tray with foil and place on your toasted bread. Put a layer of optional spinach onto the bread then using tongs, place 4-5 meatballs onto each slice. Pour on the tomato sauce, top with a handful of Cheddar cheese and then grill until golden and bubbling. 

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Sweet Potato and Coconut Dahl

This is a bit of a mishmash of a traditional and much loved Indian Dahl with the coconut and lime of south Indian food. I used green lentils but you could use red or brown, even yellow split peas. Either way, you are left with a very delicious, spicy and creamy curry that needs flat breads to mop it up as opposed to rice.

Sweet Potato and Coconut Dahl

Ingredients - feeds 4

200g green lentils, cooked according to instructions (or used tinned)
One large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
3 tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp garam masala
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tsp chilli powder
2 whole chillies
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of coconut milk
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lime
Chopped spinach and coriander

1 - Heat the oil on a large, deep non-stick pan. Add the cubed sweet potato and stir fry for 10-15 minutes until coloured and beginning to soften.
2 - Stir in the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes until beginning to colour and soften.
3 - Add the spices and chillies and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Tip in the tomatoes and coconut and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.
4 - Stir in the cooked lentils and simmer for ten minutes until everything is warmed through and the sweet potato fully cooked. Add the juice of the lime and serve with flat breads, fresh spinach and coriander.

Christmas Pavlova

I’ve invented a twist on a traditional Pavlova, a meringue, cream and fruit-based dessert. Made to resemble a Festive wreath, it not only lo...