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Meatballs in a tomato & pepper stew

The first dish we’ve tried from the loveliest of cookbooks – Syria: Recipes from Home by Itab Azzam & Dina Mousawi. A mix of Syrian recipes and simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming stories. We plan on gifting it to everyone we know. The Syrian name translates to Lord David.

Serve with rice.

Wine Suggestion: this was delicious with the Domaine Ventenac Paria, a juicy and vibrant Grenache from the Cabardes region of southern France. Using the old fashioned, but now new again, concrete vats this has a freshness and minerality that we loved.

Dawood Pasha (Meatballs in a tomato & pepper stew) – serves 4


  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 500g tomatoes, finely diced (we used the equivalent weight of drained plum tomatoes from a tin)
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée


  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1 tsp 7 spices (also known as baharat mix) – you can find this in large supermarkets or Middle Eastern shops. See below for the recipe if you would like to make it
  • half a large bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped

For the 7 Spices: Mix the following spices together and store in a sealed jar: 1 tbsp ground cardamom, 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, 1 tbsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp ground coriander, 1 tbsp ground black pepper, ½ tbsp ground cloves, ½ tbsp ground nutmeg.

Heat the oven to 160C/Gas 3.

Fry the onion in a splash of olive oil until soft, then add the garlic and fry for another minute. Add the green pepper and tomatoes, then fry for a couple of minutes before turning down the heat and leaving to simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato purée and leave to simmer for another 30 minutes or until the tomatoes have reduced down.

Mix the meatball ingredients together in a bowl and roll into 2.5 cm balls using wet hands. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, drizzle a little olive oil over them and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the meatballs from the oven and tip into the tomato sauce which should be nice and thick now. Leave to simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and serve with rice. If you make these a day in advance they’ll taste even better!

(Original recipe from Syria: Recipes from Home by Itab Azzam & Dina Mousawi, Trapeze, 2017.)


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Off to France camping for a few weeks and here is our first lunch. We recommend packing a bag of cooking essentials that includes salt, good extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and a black pepper mill. 

Tuna Niçoise – serves 4 

  • 2 eggs 
  • 4 new / waxy potatoes 
  • 200g green beans 
  • A couple of handfuls of soft lettuce leaves, like butter lettuce 
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered 
  • 200g tuna in olive oil, drained
  • 16 small black olives 
  • 8 white anchovy fillets, spli (optional)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil 
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar 
  • Salt & black pepper 

Put the eggs in a pot of boiling water and cook for 7 minutes. Place them under cold running water to stop them cooking. They should be just soft in the middle.

Cook the potatoes and green beans in separate pots of boiling salted water until tender, then drain. Cut the potatoes into bite-size cubes.

Gently toss the warm potatoes and beans in a large bowl with the tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. 

Tear the lettuce over the base of a serving platter and spoon the potato, bean and tuna mixture on top. Scatter the olives, quartered eggs and anchovies over the top and serve. 

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Rack of Pork, apple & cider butter

A delicious pork dish from our favourite book about pigs – Pork & Sons by Stéphane Reynaud. The apple and cider butter would be a great addition to any pork dish.

Wine Suggestion: We drank a regular favourite: the Secateurs Chenin Blanc from Swartland in South Africa. Adie Badenhorst manages to coax depth, personality, minerality and freshness from this bargain. It has enough richness and weight to match the pork and cider butter and a wonderful complimentary yellow apple flavour. Well worth seeking out.

Rack of Pork with Cider & Apple Butter – serves 6

  • 1 rack of pork with 6 chops
  • 500ml dry cider
  • 6 Granny Smith apples
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • a pinch of ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of ground ginger
  • 100g unsalted butter, chilled

Cook the rack in a flameproof casserole, over a medium heat, until well browned all over. Baste with a little of the cider, lower the heat, then cover and cook for an hour, basting often.

Peel, core and quarter the apples. Add them to the casserole with the onions, the rest of the cider and the spices and cook over a low heat for another 10 minutes or so or until the apples and onions have softened.

Remove the rack from the casserole, tent with foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Add the butter and beat into the apple mixture. Cut the rack into chops and serve with the cider and apple butter.

(Original recipe from Pork & Sons by Stéphane Reynaud, Phaidon, 2007.)


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Sunshine Fish Curry

Sunshine Haddock Curry


This has a delicate flavour and is more about the fish than the curry – in a good way. Great fresh flavours and excellent served with the Sesame Pak Choi.

Sunshine Fish Curry – serves 6

  • 6 white fish fillets e.g. cod, haddock, whiting, pollack or ling
  • 1tsp cumin seeds, toasted and finely ground
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and finely ground
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk, whisked to remove any lumps
  • 1/2-1 fresh red chilli, deseeded (or not if preferred) and finely sliced
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Place the fish on a plate. Mix the ground seeds with the turmeric and salt, then scatter over the fish to coat.

Place a wide saucepan or large frying pan on a medium heat and pour in the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté for 7-10 minutes or until very soft and colouring at the edges.

Lay the fish on top of the onion and scrape in any seeds and spices from the plate. Cook the fish for 2-3 minutes on each side or until light golden.

Pour in the coconut milk and add the chilli. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. To finish, add a squeeze of lemon and more salt if needed.

Serve immediately with steamed rice and the pak choi below.

Sesame Pak Choi – serves 4 as a side dish

  • 500g pak choi
  • salt
  • 25g sesame seeds, toasted
  • 15ml sesame oil

Remove the stems from the pak choi and cut into similar-sized lengths.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the stems and cook for a minute or two or until just tender, then stir in the leaves and drain immediately.

Place in a dish, sprinkle over the toasted sesame seeds and sesame oil and serve.

(Both recipes originally from Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen by Rachel Allen, HarperCollins, 2013.)

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Marinated Tuna with Cherry tomato salsa

Tuna steaks are definitely at their best when seared on a hot barbecue. The marinade would also work well with other firm fish fillets such as swordfish or kingfish.

Wine suggestion: we think a light bodied red would be a treat here which goes against traditional pairings. The trick is to get a lighter body and lower tannins. We drank a Beaujolais-Villages from Domaine Rochette, a delightful wine which balances it’s lightness with an obvious care from the winemaker and good fruit from the vineyards; polished and elegant as well as joyfully youthful.

Paprika- and Oregano-Marinated Tuna with Cherry Tomato Salsa – serves 4

  • 4 x 150g fillets of fresh tuna
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for cooking
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked spanish paprika
  • lemon wedges, to serve

For the Cherry Tomato Salsa: 

  • 250g cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 long red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
  • sea salt and black pepper

Put the fish in a shallow non-metallic dish. Mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano and paprika. Pour this over the fish, cover with cling-film and refrigerate for half an hour.

Preheat the barbecue to high and brush lightly with olive oil. Barbecue the fish for a couple of minutes on each side (longer if you prefer the fish well done).

Toss all of the ingredients for the cherry tomato salsa together and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve the fish with some salsa over the top and a lemon wedge.

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Basmati rice with orzo

Such an impressive and versatile rice dish. Great with Middle Eastern-style food or indeed anything you deem rice an appropriate side for. We served with these delicious meatballs.

Basmati rice & orzo – serves 6

  • 250g basmati rice
  • 1 tbsp melted ghee or unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 85g orzo
  • 600ml chicken stock
  • 1 tsp salt

Wash the rice well, then put in a large bowl and cover with lots of cold water. Soak for 30 minutes, then drain.

Heat the ghee or butter and oil on a medium-high heat in a medium heavy-based saucepan. Add the orzo and sauté for a few minutes, or until the grains turn dark golden. Add the stock, bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes. Add the drained rice and salt, bring to a gentle boil, stir gently, then cover the pan and simmer on a very low heat for 15 minutes. Don’t lift the lid during this time!

Take the rice off the heat, remove the lid and quickly cover with a clean tea towel. Put the lid back on over the towel and leave for 10 minutes. Fluff up with a fork before serving.

(Original recipe from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi, Ebury Press, 2012.)

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Smoked Haddock witha creamy green lentil stew

The pictures just don’t do justice with how delicious this dish tasted; highly recommended!

Wine Suggestion: Try complementing the smoky fish with an oaked white such as a New World Chardonnay.

Smoked haddock with lentils – serves 2

  • 250ml double cream
  • 350g piece of smoked haddock, skin removed
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • a thick slice of butter
  • 150g green lentils
  • 400ml vegetable stock
  • a large handful of chopped parsley

Put the cream in a shallow pan. Add the haddock, peppercorns and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then turn off and cover with a lid.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a moderate heat. Cook the carrot and onion in the butter for about 5 minutes, then add the lentils and vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are almost soft, then stir in the cream from the fish. Continue cooking until the liquid has reduced to just cover the lentils.

Add the parsley and season. Divide the lentils between two dishes and serve the haddock on top.

(Original recipe from Nigel Slater’s Eat: The little book of fast food, Fourth Estate, 2013.)


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