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Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

This granola from Dishoom has only a hint of sweetness and is much more nutty with hints of butter and spice so it makes a great foil to any fresh or poached fruit (here with Nigella’s pomegranate-poached quinces). It’s also great with just some creamy yoghurt, we loved it. The kitchen smells incredible as it toasts!

Dishoom Granola – makes 10-12 portions

  • 200g rolled oats
  • 100g almonds
  • 80g cashew nuts
  • 75g pistachio nuts
  • 45g desiccated coconut
  • 70g sunflower seeds
  • 70g pumpkin seeds
  • 20g sesame seeds
  • 100g acacia honey
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat the oven to 210C/190C fan/Gas 6-7.

Line two large baking trays with baking parchment. 

Mix the oats, nuts, desiccated coconut and seeds together in a big bowl. 

Put the honey, butter and ground cinnamon into a small saucepan and heat gently until the butter is just melted. Pour over the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix well. 

Divide the mixture between the baking trays and spread evenly, just a wooden spoon to pat it down. Put one tray in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and mix well, then press it down again. Bake for another 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before you stir or move it. Repeat with the other tray. 

Store in an airtight container and use within a month. 

(Original recipe from Dishoom by Shamil Thakrar, Kavi Thakrar & Naved Nasir, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019.)

 

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These are flavour-packed and great to serve with drinks … cannot wait to have someone over for drinks!

Wine Suggestion: despite the spice in this dish we think these go great with a good sparkling, particularly one made using the Champagne method of double fermentation in the bottle. A touch of dosage, creamy mousse and the lift of naturally acidic grapes both lift the flavours and the mood.

Gochujang Chicken Skewers – serves 4 or more as a bite-sized canapé

  • 500g chicken thigh fillets, cut into small bite-size pieces
  • sesame seeds, to serve
  • scallions, finely sliced to serve

FOR THE MARINADE:

  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • a thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp clear honey, plus a bit extra
  • 1 heaped tsp gochujang paste

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and leave to marinate for no more than 30 minutes. 

Heat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/Gas 5.

Put pieces of chicken onto cocktail sticks or small skewers and put onto an oiled baking tray (keep the marinade). Cook for 10-12 minutes. 

Meanwhile, put the marinade into a small pan over a low-medium heat and reduce for a few minutes, you can add a bit of extra honey if you like.

Take the chicken out of the oven and brush with the reduced marinade, then sprinkle the scallions and sesame seeds over the top. 

(Original recipe by Milli Taylor in Olive Magazine, Christmas 2014)

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We loved these little meatballs by Diana Henry. Super tasty and very popular with our 7 year old. We served them with spaghetti and some home-made tomato sauce but we also like Diana’s suggestion of stuffing them into a wrap with some lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Will definitely be trying this suggestion next time.

Wine Suggestion: We think that Sangiovese plays a wonderful balance of power without weight, especially when it avoids too much extraction or oak. A new find, courtesy of an old friend is the Tenuta di Carleone Chianti Classico. Quite new, in the scheme of things but an old property and vineyard, this is biodynamic and delicious.

Chicken, spinach and cheese polpette – serves 6

  • 500g minced chicken
  • 50g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 20g grated Parmesan
  • 60g grated Gruyère
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, or a small onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 200g spinach (discard any thick stems)
  • leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme
  • a generous grating of nutmeg
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Put the chicken mince into a large bowl with the breadcrumbs and grated cheese.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a frying and sauté the onion gently until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, then set aside to cool.

Put the spinach into a large pan with couple of tbsp of water and cover with a lid. Put over a low heat until wilted, about 4 minutes. Drain and leave to cool.

Add the cooled onion to the chicken with the thyme, nutmeg, lemon zest and lots of seasoning.

Squeeze the spinach with your hands to remove the water, then finely chop. Add this to the bowl with everything else and mix well with your hands.

Wet your hands, form the mixture into little meatballs and place on a baking tray. Diana suggests the size of a walnut in its shell which should give about 50 meatballs. I think we only got to about 36 so ours must of been a bit bigger – no matter.

Cover the tray and put the meatballs into the fridge for half an hour or so to allow them to firm up.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the polpette in batches over a medium heat, until they have turned crusty brown all over. Return them all to the pan, lower the heat, and continue to cook for about 7 minute or until cooked through. You can cut into one to check there’s no pink.

(Original recipe from A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2015.)

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This soup is super simple but it’s really good with the toasted feta tortillas on the side for a weekday lunch.

Bean soup with feta tortillas – serves 4

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 heaped tbsp chipotle paste
  • 500g carton passata
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 x 400g tin of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 x 400g tin of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 200g feta
  • 4 large soft flour tortillas
  • a handful of coriander, roughly chopped
  • sour cream or yoghurt to serve

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion over a medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, or until soft.

Add the chipotle paste, passata, stock and beans. Season, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, crumble the feta over one half of each of the tortillas, then sprinkle with the chopped coriander and season with black pepper. Fold the uncovered side over and press together. Heat a dry frying pan and cook the tortillas for a minute on each side or until crispy and the cheese has melted.

Serve the soup in warm bowls with a dollop of sour cream or yoghurt if you have it and the feta tortillas on the side.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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You could have these for dessert with some crème fraîche but we like them for breakfast with yoghurt and granola.

Pomegranate-poached quinces – serves 6

  • 700ml pure pomegranate juice
  • 300ml cold water
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 tsp pink peppercorns
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • pomegranate seeds, to serve (we skipped these)

Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan. 

Put the pomegranate juice, water and sugar into a heavy casserole with a lid. Stir well, then add the bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme. Put the casserole over a low heat and leave to warm gently. 

Peel, quarter and core the quinces and add to the pan with the pomegranate juice. 

Bring to the boil, then scrunch up a piece of baking paper, slightly bigger than the pan, then unscrunch again and press down on top of the quinces, tucking it in and up the sides of the pan. Cover with the lid and place in the oven. 

Cook for 1½-2 hours or until tender. Remove the lid and baking paper, then scoop out the quinces with a spoon. Strain the liquid, then return to the heat and bubble until reduced by half. Pour the liquid back over the quinces and leave to cool. Keep in the fridge until ready to eat, they keep well for a few days. 

(Original recipe from Cook, Eat, Repeat by Nigella Lawson, Chatto & Windus, 2020)

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It’s difficult to know how to introduce this recipe by Rosie Birkett. It is far from shy in terms of flavour, bursting with it in fact, and we’d suggest you have to be a bit adventurous, as it has so many punchy layers. Great to see celeriac getting the attention it deserves.

The recipe is not difficult, but it does take a little effort to make all of the separate components.

Wine Suggestion: to match such a punchy, savoury dish you can go all out with a wine to match these levels of flavour, or go light to be complimentary. We went the latter route and opened an easy, dry Rosé. Tonight a bottle from a friend, the Domaine le Novi Côté Levant Rosé, which tasted of fresh red berries, hints of citrus and light tannins, finishing zesty and minerally.

Gochujang-glazed celeriac with black beans, green salsa & crispy shallots – serves 2

  • about 25g of sea salt flakes
  • 1 medium celeriac, about 750g, peeled, halved and cut into 3cm thick wedges
  • sunflower oil, for frying
  • 1-2 shallots, finely sliced

FOR THE GLAZE:

  • 2 tbsp gochujang paste
  • 50g salted butter
  • 3 tsp honey
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

FOR THE BLACK BEANS:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • a small bunch of coriander, stems finely chopped and leaves reserved
  • a pinch of ground coriander
  • 400g tin of black beans, don’t drain them as you need the liquid
  • ½ lime, juiced (you will need the other half for the salsa)

FOR THE GREEN SALSA:

  • 1 green apple, roughly chopped
  • ½ green chilli, deseeded
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Line a tray with baking paper and sprinkle the salt over the top. Put the celeriac slices on top of the salt, then roast for 15 minutes at the top of the oven.

Make the glaze while the celeriac is baking. Put the gochujang, butter, honey, a pinch of salt, 1 tbsp water, the orange juice and cornflour in a pan. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes or until smooth, then set aside.

Leave the celeriac to cool slightly, then remove any excess salt and toss each piece in the glaze. Discard the salt from the tray, return the wedges to it and roast for another 10 minutes. Glaze again and scatter over the sesame seeds, then roast for a final 10-20 minutes or until sticky and caramelised (turn the oven up a bit if you need).

Meanwhile, make the beans. Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the cumin and bay leaf until sizzling, then add the onion, coriander stems, ground coriander and a good pinch of salt. Fry, stirring, for about 8 minutes or until golden and soft. Add the beans with their liquid and a pinch of salt, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 5-8 minutes, stirring, until the beans look creamy and the liquid and almost gone. Remove the bay leaf, stir in the lime juice, then set aside and keep warm.

To make the salsa, put the apple, chilli, pumpkin seeds, lime juice and reserved coriander leaves in a food processor and whizz until combined but chunky. Add the oil and whizz again, then season to taste.

To make the crispy shallots, heat the sunflower oil in a small frying pan and fry the shallots over a low-medium heat for 15 minutes or until golden and crispy. Drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper and season.

Serve the beans on warm plates, topped with the celeriac, salsa and crispy shallots.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Our default lockdown lunch is soup, it helps with the heating bills! We ran out of soup last week and found this recipe when looking for lunch inspiration that would use the only ingredient left in the fridge – carrots. It was really very nice. 

Spicy Carrot & Chickpea Pitta – serves 4

  • 50g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 heaped tsp of cumin seeds
  • 4 large carrots, cut into 2cm thick rounds
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely sliced
  • finely grated zest of an orange, plus a good squeeze of the juice
  • 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 pitta breads
  • yoghurt or sour cream to serve

Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry for a couple of minutes, then add the carrots and fry for 8-10 minutes. The carrots should be tender and starting to brown, but still with a bit of bite. 

Add the garlic, orange zest, paprika, and chickpeas and cook until the chickpeas are hot. Remove from the heat, season well with salt, pepper and a good squeeze of orange juice. 

Warm the pitta breads in a toaster or under the grill, then stuff the mixture into the pockets and top with yoghurt or sour cream. 

(Original recipe from River Cottage Veg Everyday! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Bloomsbury, 2011.)

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You can’t beat a steak sandwich and this one is super spicy and extra tasty! It certainly brightened up an otherwise uneventful Saturday for us. 

Bulgogi cheese steak sandwich – serves 4

  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp light brown soft sugar
  • 2 tbsp gochujang paste
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • ½ pear, peeled and cubed
  • 2 sirloin steaks, trimmed of fat and very finely sliced (this is easier if you freeze for 20 minute before slicing)
  • 1 baguette, cut into 4
  • mild cheddar cheese
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • sesame seeds

Mix the ginger, garlic, sugar, gochujang, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar together in a large bowl, then mash in the pear. Add the steak and leave to marinate for an hour. 

Halve the pieces of baguettte and add a layer of cheese. 

Heat a wok over a high heat. Add the beef and marinade, bring to a simmer and stir until the meat is cooked through. 

Spoon the meat into the baguettes and sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds. 

(Original recipe from Lulu Grimes and Anna Glover in Olive Magazine, January 2016.)

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It’s about this time of year when we usually get a bit tired of root veg and starting craving food more associated with Spring. Not so this year and largely due to Gill Meller who can do wonders with winter veg. Baked potatoes stuffed with celeriac didn’t sound super appealing to us but we can assure you these are delicious!

Wine Suggestion: a winter white called tonight: Jean-Michel Gerin’s La Champine Viognier from a young vineyard near their Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu vineyards. Great value from this top maker and while not as rich as their Condrieu it has charming fruit and a fresh purity.

Celeriac baked potatoes – serves 4

  • 4 large baking potatoes
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 small celeriac, peeled and cut into 2cm dice
  • a handful of dried ceps (or any dried mushrooms)
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100ml full-cream milk
  • 1 tsp dried seaweed flakes (these are optional but we used Dulse Flakes from Aran Islands Seaweed which you can buy online)
  • a handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
  • a handful of grated cheddar cheese

Start by baking the potatoes. We like to scrub them, then rub in a little olive oil and sprinkle over some salt. Bake at 220C for 20 minutes then turn the heat down to 200C and cook for 40-60 minutes, or until cooked through.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, cut them in half and scoop out the flesh, taking care not to damage the skins. Return the empty shells to the oven for 10 minutes to crisp up.

Meanwhile, heat a heavy pan over a medium-low heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt and start to bubble, then add the onion, garlic, celeriac and dried mushrooms. Season with salt and black pepper. Cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring often, until the celeriac is soft. If it starts to catch just add a splash of water and lower the heat. When the celeriac is nice and soft, add the cream, milk, scooped out potato flesh, seaweed flakes and parsley. Stir to combine and season again if needed.

Stuff the crispy potato skins with the celeriac mixture, then place on a baking tray and scatter over the grated cheese. Return to the oven for 12-15 minutes or until hot. Serve with a dressed green salad.

(Original recipe from Root Stem Leaf Flower by Gill Meller, Hardie Grant: Quadrille, 2020.)

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Such a simple and foolproof way of cooking rice from Ottolgenghi Simple. This gives a lovely texture and the salsa is delicious. We served with pulled lamb shawarma but it would be great with all sorts of dishes. 

Baked mint rice with pomegranate and olive salsa – serves 6

  • 400g basmati rice
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted
  • 800ml boiling water
  • 50g mint (leave 40g on the springs and shred the leaves of the remaining 10g for the salsa)
  • 150g feta, crumbled into 1-2cm pieces

FOR THE SALSA:

  • 40g pitted green olives, thinly sliced
  • seeds from a small pomegranate
  • 50g walnut halves, lightly roasted and roughly broken
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed

Preheat the oven to 230C fan or as high as your oven goes. 

Put the rice into a high-sided roasting tin, about 20 x 30cm. Season with ¾ tsp of salt and plenty of pepper, then pour over the melted butter and boiling water. Top with the mint sprigs and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 25 minutes, until the rice is fluffy and the liquid absorbed. 

Meanwhile, mix all of the salad ingredients, except the mint leaves, together in a bowl with ¼ tsp of salt. Mix well and set aside. 

When the rice is ready, pull the leaves off the mint sprigs and scatter them over the rice, then sprinkle over the feta. Just before serving, stir the shredded mint into the salsa and spoon over the rice. 

(Original recipe from Ottolenghi Simple, Ebury Press, 2018.)

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It’s about this time of year when purple sprouting broccoli arrives and saves us from the monotony of root veg. We’ve yet to be rescued and therefore had to use some imported tenderstem instead, which was fine, but definitely inferior to the local purple variety.

Wine Suggestion: We think this goes really well with Viognier. A richer, more aromatic white with a bit of phenolic grip as opposed to acidity and compliments the richness and body of the food. This wouldn’t work if the acidity was too high. A good, well-priced suggestion is the Cline Cellars North Coast Viognier, from a selection of well sited organic vineyards on the Sonoma coast in California. Well judged and avoids some of the OTT characters other Californian wines can exhibit.

Peanut Butter and Broccoli Pad Thai – serves 4

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 6 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 3 tbsp runny honey
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice

FOR THE TOFU & BROCCOLI:

  • 450g purple sprouting broccoli or other long-stemmed broccoli, put the florets to one side and cut the stalks into 1cm pieces
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1.5cm ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
  • 225g firm tofu, drained and cubed
  • 250g flat folded rice noodles
  • rapeseed oil
  • 6 scallions, finely chopped
  • a handful of sesame seeds
  • a handful of Thai basil leaves, shredded (use regular basil if you have to)
  • a handful of fresh mint leaves, shredded
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges

Make the sauce by mixing the peanut butter, tamarind paste and honey in a bowl, then slowly mix in the soy sauce, lime juice and 4 tbsp of water.

Cook the noodles according the instructions on the pack, then rinse under cold water, drain, and drizzle with a tbsp of rapeseed oil. Toss gently with your hands.

Heat 2tbsp of rapeseed oil, over a medium-high heat, in a large non-stick pan or wok with a lid. Fry the tofu for 5 minutes, turning every minute, until pale golden. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli and cook for 2 minutes, then add the broccoli stalks and 4 tbsp of water. Cover the pan and steam for 2 minutes or until the stalks are tender. Add the broccoli florets, the sauce and scallions (reserving a few to garnish), stir to combine, then cover again and leave for 2 minutes.

Turn the heat down to the lowest setting, then add the noodles a handful at a time, mixing them in gently to coat with the sauce, then turn off the heat.

Divide the noodles between 4 bowls, sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions, then drizzle over some sesame oil and scatter over the herbs. Add a generous squeeze of lime and serve.

(Original recipe from East by Meera Sodha, Fig Tree: Penguin Books, 2019.)

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Thanks to a kind and generous birthday gift from friends we have been endowed with lovely smoked fish from the Connemara Smokehouse. The smoked mackerel made a lovely weekend brunch.

Smoked mackerel & leek hash with horseradish – serves 2

  • 250g new or salad potatoes, halved
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 large leeks, thinly sliced
  • 2-4 eggs
  • 100g peppered mackerel, skin removed (we used regular smoked mackerel and that was good too)
  • 2 tbsp creamed horseradish

Steam the potatoes until tender. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, then add the leeks and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until softened. You will need to stir now and then to stop them sticking. 

Add the cooked potatoes, then turn up the heat and fry for a couple of minutes so they start to crisp and brown a bit, then flake through the mackerel.

Make some holes for the eggs in the mixture, then crack an egg into each, season, then cover the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes. You’re looking for set whites and runny yolks. Serve the horseradish sauce on the side. 

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Meera Sodha’s daily Dal that she inherited from her mother. Nothing complex but very satisfying and like so many dishes, tastes better the next day. We served with rice, naan bread from the takeaway, yoghurt and mango chutney.

Daily dal – serves 4

  • 225g red lentils
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 6cm ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 400g tin plum tomatoes

Rinse the lentils in a sieve until the water runs clear then put into a deep saucepan with a lid. Add 600ml of cold water, then bring to the boil over a medium-high heat. Cover with the lid and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes without stirring, until tender.

Meanwhile, put the oil into another deep saucepan. When hot, add the peppercorns and cloves and stir-fry for a minute, or until fragrant, then add the onion and cook for 8-10 minutes, until golden. 

Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for another 4 minutes before adding the chilli powder, coriander, turmeric and salt. Stir well, then add the tinned tomatoes, crushing them with your hand, then cover and simmer gently for about 8 minutes. 

The tomatoes should look paste-like now with only a little juice. Add the lentils using a draining spoon, then pour in any remaining water that they were boiling in, a little at a time, or until the consistency is good. 

Cover the pan again and cook on a low heat for a final 10 minutes. 

Taste and season with salt and more chilli if you like. 

(Original recipe from Made in India by Meera Sodha, Penguin: Fig Tree, 2014.)

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We often end up with all sorts of odds and ends after cooking at the weekend. So a regular Monday night dinner for us is lots of veggie side dishes, all served together. It’s a bit like a roast dinner but you really don’t need the meat and you get to try lots of new dishes too. We served these with Cooleeney & tarragon cauliflower cheese, roasted parsnips and steamed sprouts. Don’t worry to much about the herbs, just use what you have, parsley on it’s own would be fine.

Sautéed potatoes with bacon lardons & persillade – serves 6 (easily halved)

  • 1kg potatoes, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 300g smoked bacon lardons (we used pancetta)
  • 25g unsalted butter

FOR THE PERSILLADE:

  • small handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2tsp chopped chervil
  • 1 tarragon sprig, leaves chopped
  • 1 banana shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed

Put the potatoes into a large saucepan, just cover with boiling water, then simmer for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and leave to steam dry.

Mix all of the persillade ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat, add the bacon or pancetta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly caramelised. Add the potatoes, then the butter.

Season with salt and black pepper and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until golden brown all over. Stir in the persillade, then serve.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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We made this a little while ago because we had some spare ricotta in the fridge. It was a really tasty mid-week meal with great flavours; lovely with some greens on the side.

Wine Suggestion: Keep it simple and go for a lightly oaked Chardonnay, Domaine Ventenac’s Cuvée Carole is a old favourite that has a lovely light touch.

Stuffed chicken with lemon, capers & chilli – serves 2

  • 2 large chicken breasts, with skin on
  • 4 tbsp ricotta
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 1 tsp crushed chilli flakes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • small handful of parsley
  • greens to serve or potatoes if you like

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.

Cut a slit in the side of each chicken breast, then use your fingers to make a pocket.

Mix the ricotta, half the lemon zest, Parmesan, capers, chilli flakes and seasoning in a bowl. Push this mixture into the chicken breasts, then secure with a cocktail stick.

Place the stuffed chicken into an ovenproof dish, drizzle over 1 tbsp of the olive oil and season. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the other tbsp of oil in a saucepan. Add the chopped garlic and cook gently for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, season well, then simmer for about 10 minutes or until thickened.

Spoon the tomato sauce onto plates, top with the chicken and sprinkle over the parsley and the rest of the lemon zest.

(Original recipe by Jennifer Joyce in BBC Good Food Magazine, October 2012.)

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This is a good family meal, with lots of veg and a rich creamy sauce – it’s really filling. Quick and easy too and you can  double to serve many people or a crowd of kids, when crowds of kids exist again.

Wine Suggestion: This goes really well with a white that can cope with a rich, creamy dish.Keeping the Italian theme we’d suggest a good Verdicchio which tend to strike a nice balance between a fuller body, polyphenols (those white wine tannins that give texture and grip) and a nutty, saline freshness. The textures and the body make it work with the marscapone, ham and tomatoes especially well.

Farfalle with peas, mushrooms & ham – serves 4

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • a small onion, finely sliced
  • 125g diced cooked ham
  • 50g frozen peas
  • 100g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 75g mascarpone cheese
  • 250g farfalle pasta
  • a small handful of chopped basil
  • grated Parmesan, to serve

Bring a very big pot of water to the boil and add lots of fine salt.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for a few minutes over a medium heat. Add the ham, peas and mushrooms and keep cooking for about 5 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes, stir well and simmer gently for about 8 minutes, uncovered. Add the mascarpone, season well, then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente, then drain and tip back into the pot. Pour the sauce over the pasta, then add the basil and stir together for about 30 seconds. Serve in warm bowls with Parmesan over the top.

(Original recipe from Pronto! by Gino D’Acampo, Kyle Books, 2014.)

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Roasted red pepper and walnut dip – Muhammara – serves 4

A new favourite side-dish/dip, called Muhammara, from Falestin, one of our favourite books of 2020, the year we did nothing but cook! This is such a handy thing, good with pitta breads but also as a delicious side dish. We served it with lamb and rice.

  • 110g walnut halves
  • 6-7 red peppers (1kg)
  • 80ml olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp Aleppo chilli flakes (or 1 tsp of regular chilli flakes)
  • 35g panko breadcrumbs
  • 1½ tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 160C fan.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Add the walnuts and roast for about 8 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Set aside.

Increase the temperature to 220C fan. Put the peppers onto a parchment-lined baking tray and toss with 1 tsp of oil. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until completely soft and charred. Transfer to a bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to cool for about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the skin, stems and seeds.

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a medium sauté pan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 7 minutes, until softened and browned. Add the garlic, tomato purée and spices and cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Remove from the heat and tip into a food processor with the roasted peppers, panko breadcrumbs, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp of salt and some black pepper. Blitz for about 30 seconds to get a coarse paste. Add 90g of the walnuts and pulse again briefly, just to break the walnuts down a bit. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Roughly crush the rest of the walnuts with your hands and sprinkle these over with the parsley.

(Original recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, 2020.)

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A truly delicious veggie main. Perhaps best made by someone else if you would prefer not to see the amount of cream and butter involved. It’s cold outside, and we really didn’t feel like a salad tonight.

Wine Suggestion: A homely, oaked chardonnay is our choice. In our rack both the Rustenberg from Stellenbosch and the Domaine Ventenac in Cabardes are vying for attention. The latter won out tonight, but it could have gone either way. Nice to have choice.

Potato, leek & blue cheese pie – serves 6

FOR THE POTATO TOP:

  • 1kg large potatoes, peeled (use a variety good for mashing)
  • 175ml full-cream milk
  • 100g unsalted butter

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 4 leeks, sliced into 3cm rounds
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 50g plain flour
  • 125ml whole milk
  • 180ml double cream
  • 150 frozen peas
  • 100g blue cheese, crumbled into small chunks
  • a small handful of flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Start with the topping. Cut the potatoes into even-sized pieces, not too small. Put into a large saucepan and just cover with cold water, season with salt. Bring to the boil over a medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain the potatoes, then return to the warm saucepan and leave to steam for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, gently heat the milk and butter together in a small pan until the butter has melted.

Start mashing the potatoes, then gradually add the hot milk and butter mixture. Keep mashing until well combined and smooth. It will seem like you have too much milk and butter but keep going. Season well with salt and pepper and keep warm.

Next make the filling. Put a large pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks, half the thyme leaves, 25g of the butter and the garlic. Add 100ml of water, season with salt and pepper, then cover with a lid and steam until just tender, about 8 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400 F/Gas 6.

Put a colander over a bowl, then drain the leeks in the colander and reserve the cooking liquid.

Rinse the pan and return it to a medium heat. Add the rest of the butter and when melted, stir in the flour and cook for a minute over a low heat. Add the leek and cooking liquid, plus the milk and double cream. Whisk the sauce well until it is thick and creamy, it’s ready when small bubbles are just starting to break on the surface.

Stir in the peas, leeks and half the blue cheese. Add the parsley and lots of salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into a dish and level it out. Heap the mash on top but don’t worry about being too neat. Dot the remaining cheese over the top, then sprinkle with the rest of the thyme leaves. Season the top with salt and pepper, then bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

(Original recipe from Root Stem Leaf Flower by Gill Meller, Hardie Grant, Quadrille, 2020.)

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We don’t think you can covert sprout haters, but if you do like sprouts, you will love this! Serve with steamed rice.

Wine Suggestion: Albariño is not just great for seafood, its has versatility stamped into its very core and can be used for a good deal of food matching, like this dish here. Tonight’s wine was made by Pazo de Señorans, a distinct favourite in our house. Bone dry but with a lovely creamy core from the 5-6 months on lees.

Brussels Sprouts with Thai Flavours – serves 2-3

  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp Thai green curry paste, we use the Thai Gold brand
  • 1 green chilli, roughly chopped, then pounded in a pestle and mortar
  • 175ml chicken stock
  • 450g Brussels sprouts, cut in half, blanch in boiling salty water for 2 minutes, then drain in a colander and refresh under cold running water
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, if you use dried ones you need to soak them in some warm water before using
  • ½ tbsp palm sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 20 Thai basil leaves, regular basil will do if you can’t get Thai
  • 1 large red chilli, roughly chopped, then pounded in a pestle and mortar

Heat a wok over a gentle heat. Pour in 110ml of the coconut milk, then add the green curry paste and the green chilli and mix well.

Next, add the stock, the rest of the coconut milk, Brussels sprouts, kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar, fish sauce, half the basil leaves and the red chilli. Stir constantly over a medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the sauce boils and foams up. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring all the time to avoid splitting, for about 10 minutes. The sprouts should be tender and the sauce slightly thickened.

Add the rest of the basil, season to taste and serve with steamed rice.

(Original recipe from Cook, Grow, Nourish by Darina Allen, Kyle Books, 2017.)

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There’s not many treats to be had at the moment, so we recommend treating yourself at breakfast with this delicious granola recipe by Yasmin Khan. We like it with yoghurt and roasted quinces.

Persian granola – makes a large jarful for a few breakfasts

  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 150ml date molasses or maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ¾ tsp vanilla extract
  • 350g jumbo rolled oats
  • a large pinch of sea salt
  • 25g sunflower seeds
  • 25g pumpkin seeds
  • 35g pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 35g flaked almonds
  • 50g dried fruit (optional), we used dried cranberries but you could use any dried fruit or a mixture

Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3½

Mix the oil, date molasses or maple syrup, honey and vanilla extract, together in a small bowl. 

Mix the dried ingredients, except the flaked almonds and the dried fruit, together in a large bowl, then pour over the sticky mixture and stir well to coat. 

Divide the mixture between two baking trays and pat down with a wooden spoon. 

Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, then remove and stir through the flaked almonds. Return to the oven and cook for a further 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Keep checking though as it can burn easily. 

Leave to cool on the trays, then stir through the dried fruit if you’re using. It will keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight jar. 

(Original recipe from The Saffron Tales by Yasmin Khan, Bloomsbury, 2016.)

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