Monday, 7 April 2014

Cream of broccoli & stilton soup


1 Broccoli, 1 potato, 1/2 pint vegetable stock, 1 onion, 20g stilton, 50ml cream, 1 tbsp butter, nutmeg, black pepper.
Serves: 4 Preparation: 30 minutes

Stilton is a little like marmite in that people often either love blue cheese or hate it. For those who are a little squeamish about strong, stinky cheese - adding it to soup is a great way to unlock the flavour without it being too intense. This creamy, filling soup has the perfect balance of tangy cheese and fresh broccoli.

1) Peel and finely dice the onion and sizzle in a pan for 8-10 minutes with a tablespoon of butter until completely soft. 

2) Add half a pint of vegetable stock and half a finely diced potato. Simmer on the hob for 15 minutes and then add the broccoli florets.

3) After 5 minutes strain the broccoli, potatoes and onions and blend, adding the soup liquid a little at a time until pulsed smooth. Season with a litt nutmeg and black pepper and return to the hob.

4) Crumble a generous handful of stilton into the soup and a good glug of cream before serving.

Sunday, 6 April 2014



50g sultanas, 50g olives, 1 aubergine, 10-15 cherry tomatoes, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp muscovado sugar, 1 onion or 1 stick celery, olive oil, 1 piece dark chocolate.
Serves: 4 Preparation: 1 hour

Caponata is a hot Sicilian aubergine salad, one of those marvellous Italian dishes which is equally lovely alone as antipasti or tossed with rice or pasta to make a meal. I particularly like this with butter beans to form a sort of stew. This combination of sultanas, olives and balsamic vinegar is the perfect balance of sweet and savoury flavours, soaked up beautifully by the melt-in-the-mouth perfection of aubergine. The leftovers are marvellous spread onto bread for lunch the next day.

1) Slice the aubergine into cubes, toss with a tsp of salt and add to a colander to rest for at least half an hour to allow the bitter juices to drain away. I like to set the colander on top of a bowl so that I can check the progress - from one aubergine you will get at least 50ml of liquid!

Peel and finely slice the onions, or finely dice the celery and add to a pan with a glug of olive oil. Sizzle for at least 10 minutes to allow them to soften completely, then add the brown sugar, sultanas and balsamic vinegar. Turn off the heat and leave to rest so that the sultanas soak up the wonderful flavours and become plump and juicy.

3) In a separate pan, Fry off the aubergines in a little oil until they are completely soft and the skin has turned a dark and vibrant purple. Transfer to the pan of onions/celery and sultanas and turn on the heat.

4) Pit the olives and blitz in a blender (or if you can't get hold of good olives - for goodness sake don't bother buying unpitted ones, they're like hunks of rubber! - a good olive tapenade will suffice), quarter the tomatoes then add both to the pan. Stir gently so as not to break the tomatoes down too much, just bring everything together.

5) Whether serving hot, or cold, grate a little good quality dark chocolate to season (I used 85% here but if your tastes are not quite so pure, 70% will be bitter enough).

Deep fried cauliflower with brie dip


Cauliflower, breadcrumbs, 1 egg, brie, mustard, almond milk.
Preparation: 15 minutes

This recipe goes hand in hand with my deep fried brie with cauliflower dip - I tend to serve them side by side for anyone who doesn't like cauliflower. Because naturally, me being me, I refuse to accept that a person could deny themselves such luscious, creamy goodness!

1) To make the brie dip: Slice the rind from the brie and add to a milk pan along with the almond milk and mustard. Warm gently whilst whisking until melted and creamy. Set aside, reheating if necessary

To make the breaded cauliflower prepare the cauliflower by removing the leaves and slicing the stem to the base. Slice around the stem to release the florets.

Prepare two dishes - one with a beaten egg in it and one with the breadcrumbs. Dip the cauliflower into the egg, then roll into the breadcrumbs until coated - double dipping if necessary.

Bring a pan containing a couple of inches deep of vegetable oil to the boil (or turn on your deep fat frier) and fry the cauliflower until golden brown.

Deep fried brie with cauliflower dip


Brie, breadcrumbs, cauliflower, 1 egg, vegetable oil, almond milk, mustard.
Preparation: 15 minutes

This recipe goes hand in hand with my deep fried cauliflower with brie dip - I tend to serve them side by side for anyone who doesn't like cauliflower. Because naturally, me being me, I refuse to accept that a person could deny themselves such luscious, creamy goodness!

1) To make the cauliflower dip, p
repare the cauliflower by removing the leaves and slicing the stem to the base. Slice around the stem to release the florets. Dice both and either steam or add to a pan of boiling water for 8-10 minutes until soft.

2) Drain the cauliflower and puree in the blender, adding a little almond milk until the desired dipping texture is reached. Flavour with mustard to taste (I usually add a teaspoon) and transfer to a dip dish.

3) To make the breaded brie, prepare two dishes - one with a beaten egg in it and one with the breadcrumbs. Dip the trianges of brie (I like to make them relatively bitesized as you'll only get one good dunk before biting into the lovely liquid centres!) into the egg, then roll into the breadcrumbs until coated - double dipping if necessary.

4) Bring a pan containing a couple of inches deep of vegetable oil to the boil (or turn on your deep fat frier) and fry the brie triangles until golden brown.

5) Serve the brie triangles with the cauliflower dip immediately.

Artichoke baked beans


1 artichoke, 1 tsp dried/chopped avocado oil, 1 can cannellini beans, 1 bulb garlic.
Serves: 4 Preparation: 1 hour

When artichokes are out of season, or if I don't have the time or inclination - these are one of the few ingredients that I am happy to cheat with and buy in a jar. Marinated artichokes keep for a long time in the fridge and add rich, slithery flavour to all manner of dishes. But making your own is of course always more satisfying and delicious. These beans are utterly lovely and great on toast or with proper baked potatoes.

 Break the stem of the artichoke as close to the base as you can, then put the artichoke head first into a pan of hot, salted water and keep it submerged with an upturned pan lid (or plate). It will take 20-30 minutes to cook until tender - test the base with a knife - if it goes in smoothly it's ready!

2) Roast the entire bulb of garlic in the oven for 20 minutes, then carefully peel and squeeze the cloves through a garlic press and into the oil. Add the basil and oregano and set aside until the artichoke is ready.

Slice the petals from the artichoke heart and leave to marinate in the flavoured oil. (I tend to scoff the hearts immediately but these can of course also be marinated!)

4) All of the previous instructions can be done in advance, or omitted if using a jar of marinated artichokes. Parboil the beans for 5 minutes in hot salted water, then drain and add the artichokes and a little (about a tablespoon) of the oil marinade to the pan. Allow to simmer until the beans are soft (usually another 5 minutes) then serve hot or cold.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Breaded new potatoes


Egg, breadcrumbs, new potatoes, vegetable oil.

Preparation: 30 minutes

These crispy coated bites of soft potato may sound a little bland alone, but they make lovely croutons for soup and are especially incredible when dunked in chilli con queso. The smallest new potatoes work the best - these were about the size of cherry tomatoes.

1) Boil the potatoes for 15 minutes in a pan of hot water, then set aside to cool.

2) Set up one dish with a beaten egg and another with breadcrumbs, then when the potatoes are cool enough to handle, dunk in the egg and then into the breadcrumbs until coated. Double dipping may be necessary though I found the crumbs stuck perfectly to the skin of the potato.

3) Drop the potatoes into a pan of hot vegetable oil and fry until crispy and golden.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Truffled carrot & pumpkin soup


1 can pumpkin puree, 1 cup pearl barley, 5 carrots, 1 tbsp truffle oil, 1/2 pint vegetable stock, 1 tsp sage.

Serves: 4 Preparation: 1 hour 30 minutes

There is very little more comforting than pumpkin soup. Whether sweet or spicy, it has such a lovely thick, creamy texture. I like to add pearl barley or beans to thick soups and I think this works So well.

1) Peel and roughly chop the carrots, then add to a roasting dish with the truffle oil. Toss to ensure the carrots are evenly coated, then roast for 45 minutes at gas mark 7.

2) Add the pearl barley to the veg stock and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

3) Puree the carrots in a food processor and add to the veg stock along with the pumpkin puree. Simmer on a low heat for a further 20 minutes and serve hot, drizzled with truffle oil.

Spinach & mushroom soup


1/2 pint ham stock, 1 medium potato, 400g spinach, 250g chestnut mushrooms, 50ml sherry (I use amontillado for cooking), 1 tbsp butter.
Serves: 2 Preparation: 30 minutes

Despite being allergic to mushrooms, I do dearly love chopping them up. My husband loves eating them so I get the opportunity to lay into them with my big bad chef's knife on a regular basis. The challenge with cooking mushrooms though, is that obviously I cannot taste them because DEATH, so I rely on my sense of smell. This soup smells nothing short of INCREDIBLE. There is nothing like the combined scent of mushroom and sherry - it's so rich and fragrant and yet earthy all at the same time. This soup was very silky in texture and my husband assured me, absolutely delicious. Let me know what you think!

1) Slice the mushrooms and peel and dice the potato. Melt the butter in the pan and stir in the mushrooms. After 5 minutes, stir in the spinach. It may seem like it won't all fit in the pan but once it begins to wilt the volume will decrease don't worry!

2) Once the spinach has wilted, add the potatoes and stir through, allowing the combined juices from the mushrooms and spinach to begin to soften the potatoes. Add the sherry and stir through - try not to begin frothing at the mouth with lust at the rich, raisiny smell.

3) Add the ham stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Blitz through in a food processor or using a stick blender until a smooth consistency is reached and serve hot.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Spinach & nutmeg en cocotte


Per two eggs: 100g spinach, 50g manchego, 1 clove garlic, nutmeg, black pepper, bread.

Serves: 1 person per egg Preparation: 15 minutes

Eggs en cocotte are essentially baked eggs with STUFF, which let's be honest is a scrumptious concept. When topping food with a poached egg, the yolk is the best part - a luscious creamy puddle of sauce - and the white is merely a boring flavourless shell so I like to take the opportunity to sex up the white of an egg, then put it back together again as above. Spinach, nutmeg, cheese, garlic... what is not to love?

1) Chop the spinach (or blitz it in a food processor) and sautee it in a pan along with the crushed garlic. Give it a good squeeze to make sure there is no excess spinachy juice, then grate in the manchego and season with black pepper and nutmeg.

2) Separate the egg white from the yolk and whisk the white lightly into the spinach mixture until just combined. Decant into ramekins and then add one yolk per ramekin.

3) Sit the ramekins in a baking tray filled with boiling water and bake in the oven at gas mark 5 for 8-10 minutes (until the white barely wobbles).

Serve with dippy bread and revel in the lusciousness!

Harissa rice with grapes


Grapes, rice, bell pepper, Smoked chillis, garlic salt, paprika, mint, rose petals, cumin, caraway seeds, olive oil.

Preparation: 20 minutes

Harissa is one of those ingredients that I just can't live without. Stir it into yoghurt for an instant dip of GLORY, spread it on sandwiches, thin with a little oil for a fabulous marinade... it is just altogether yummy. The sweet refreshing pockets of juicy grape in this otherwise spicy dish are absolute perfection.

To Make Harissa:

Remove the core and seeds from the bell pepper, then grill until the skin is almost completely blackened. Allow it to cool, then peel off the charred skin carefully.

2) Blitz the dried, smoked chilli in a blender, then add to a mortar and pestle and grind into a relatively fine dry paste. The ratio of spices is relatively simple for my recipe, though of course you can adjust for taste. Add 1 tsp garlic salt, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp caraway seeds and grind into the chilli. Add a teaspoon of oil.

3) Add the bell pepper, 2 or 3 mint leaves and the rose petals (about half the petals from a single red rose) into a blender and pulse, then combine the rose, mint and pepper mixture into the spice and oil paste.

4) Stir into boiled rice, adding halved grapes and serve. Beautiful hot and cold!

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