Dinner Lunch Quick and Easy Starters Starters and Salads Uncategorized


If you are after a quick lunch or easy starter that delivers on flavour, is big on nutrition and looks beautiful into the bargain then look no further than this easy and delicious courgette salad. It is also very useful as a side dish – try with some simple chicken or lamb and it will turn the mundane into something special. Pomegranates combine brilliantly with the salty feta and the ruby jewel seeds bring this simple salad alive. To remove the seeds simply slice the fruit in half and bash hard with a rolling pin over a bowl. The seeds will just fall out (up to a point!). Try and pick the firmest courgette you can – the bigger they are the more water they contain and you will lose both texture and flavour.

There are lots of different feta cheeses to buy out there. My favourite is the Greek barrel aged feta made from ewe’s and goat’s milk and stored in brine. It is worth paying that little bit extra as it will make all the difference to your finished dish.

Sumac is a dried and ground berry from a bush grown mainly in the Middle East and is an essential ingredient in many recipes from that region. Slightly acidic and reminiscent of lemon, it not only adds a lovely flavour but looks very pretty as well with its deep red colour.

If you want a truly healthy salad then just make courgette ‘carpaccio’ but slicing very fresh and firm courgette with a potato peeler into ribbons. Leave to sit in the lemon & oil for a few minutes before eating.

Serves Four

Four small or two medium courgette
200g good quality feta
Large handful of washed fresh mint leaves
One lemon
Rapeseed or light olive oil for griddling
One pomegranate or a handy pack of ready done seeds
Sea salt & black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

For this recipe you will ideally have a ridged grill pan, nice and shallow.

Cut the courgettes on the diagonal into long pieces about 2mm thick.

Heat a little oil in your grill pan and once hot lay on the courgette slices, a few at a time. Sear on each side so that they have pretty brown marks and remove to a plate lined with kitchen towel while you cook the rest. Finely chop the mint, crumble the feta and remove the seeds from the pomegranate.

Take either one large plate or four smallish. Layer up the courgette, feta, mint and pomegranate, seasoning as you go and sprinkling each layer with lemon juice. Finish with a final flurry of mint and pomegranate and drizzle over extra virgin olive oil. Finally, sprinkle over some sumac and serve with flatbread.

courgette and pomegranate salad

Dinner Meat Uncategorized


For years we have been cooking beef fillet to precise timings and nervously standing by the oven waiting for precisely the right moment to take it out of the oven.

This recipe provides a wonderfully relaxed approach to cooking what for many is a special occasion piece of beef and produces a beautifully even, perfectly pink piece of beef that cannot overcook and is almost trouble free.

One fillet of beef, about 800g to 1kg (centre cut if possible)
Two cloves garlic
Fresh thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper

For the jus

One onion
One stick celery
One carrot
One clove garlic
A little oil (olive or sunflower)
One bay leaf
Fresh thyme
500ml red wine
400ml fresh beef stock/consomme
50g unsalted butter
Salt & pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 75C or similar.

Crush the garlic up with the thyme and salt and rub into the beef with the oil. Cover with a good grinding of black pepper and dust over a little more sea salt. Sear in a hot pan to colour all over. Put into a roasting tin (best have it ready warming) and put in the oven for about 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours. Take out of the oven and cover with foil. Leave for about half an hour or so in a warm place. It should be soft and very pink all the way through.

Chop the vegetables and sauté gently in a little oil until beginning to soften and caramelise. Add the red wine and reduce by half. Add the stock, the herbs and seasoning. Simmer for about half an hour or until very well reduced.

When you are ready to serve, strain the liquid into a clean pan. Bring up to a simmer and make sure the jus is well seasoned. Add any juices that have come out of the beef whilst resting. Whisk in cubes of chilled butter and serve with the beef.


Serve with a delicious salsa verde and roast or boiled new potatoes.
beef & salsa verde

Canapes Starters and Salads


Makes about 30 canapes

350g Maris Piper potato
2 balls\300g beetroot
100g butter, clarified
Fresh thyme
Salt & Pepper
Tub crème fraiche
Jar of horseradish sauce
One pack of smoked venison/beef/hot smoked salmon
Herbs to garnish (thyme, dill, parsley, chervil, chives)

Mix a couple of teaspoons of horseradish into the crème fraiche and season. Put back in the fridge to firm up for a few hours.

Peel and grate the beetroot, using a coarse grater.

Grate the potato using the same coarse grater into a clean tea towel and squeeze out the moisture. Put your potato into a bowl and add two good tablespoons of the clarified butter. Mix well and season. Add the beetroot and season again. Add some finely chopped thyme. Heat the oven to 180c.

Heat a non stick pan over a medium heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of the clarified butter. Take, if you have one, a 1.5 inch cutter. Put in the pan and half fill with your potato mixture. Start at 12.00 in the pan and work round, filling the cutter, pressing the potato down and then pulling the cutter off. Once you have filled the pan start turning the rosti over with a pallet knife, making sure they are turning golden brown underneath. Once you have browned them on both sides remove to a baking tray until you have cooked all the rosti. Keep an eye as they do burn!

Bake in the oven for about ten minutes or until tender all the way through. Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes.

Top the rosti with some horseradish crème fraiche and a piece of smoked venison/beef/salmon. Garnish with herbs.

You can make the potato mixture the day before and the rosti can be made in advance and then refreshed in the oven if you think they need it. The raw mixture will keep in the fridge for 24 hours.

Lunch Starters and Salads Uncategorized


The new season for British Asparagus arrives in late April; a highlight of the foodie calendar and one greeted with greedy anticipation by everyone in this household.

A perfect fat bunch of those tender green spears needs little more than a gentle boil or steam for a couple of minutes and is best served as simply as possible. Salt, pepper and a drizzle of melted butter is perfect, but if you want to go a step further and serve up something truly special, worthy of the freshest fat bunch you can find then try this lime and mint hollandaise. It’s a gorgeous lunch for a warm day or an elegant, simple starter. You can keep the hollandaise warm over a pan of hot(ish) water or an easier way is just to put it into a thermos flask (you will have heated it first with boiling water). It will keep well in there for a couple of hours.

A useful tip when preparing your asparagus is to take the stem, holding it at each end and snap in half. It will break perfectly at the point where the stem is no longer tender.

Serves 4

Two bunches of fresh British asparagus
2 free range egg yolks
110g unsalted butter
A little boiling water
1 lime
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper

First make the hollandaise.

Take a bowl and put in the egg yolks. Cut the butter into small chunks. Add a couple of teaspoons of cold water and whisk well. Sit the pan over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk the yolks for a couple of minutes. Then slowly add the butter, a piece of two at a time. The sauce will start to form, thin at first and then thickening up as the yolks start to cook. As you add the butter just be sure that the pan doesn’t get too hot. You should always be able to touch the bottom of the bowl with your hand with.

Keep whisking, adding the butter. As it starts to get very thick add a teaspoon or two of boiling water and whisk that in. Add salt and pepper and squeeze in the juice of half a lime. Taste and add more until you have the right balance. Keep whisking until you have a smooth, glossy and thick hollandaise. Put to one side while you cook your asparagus.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the asparagus and cook for two to three minutes depending on the thickness of your stems. Put the thickest in first.

Drain well (keep a little of the asparagus water if you can) and season. Shake in a few drops of extra virgin olive oil and toss through.

Back to your hollandaise. If it is still quite thick you can add in a little of the asparagus water. Stir through your finely chopped mint leaves and serve with the warm asparagus and some crusty bread. Delicious!

Asparagus and mint hollandaise



Makes about 12

For the Salted Caramel

60g soft brown sugar
40g caster sugar
50g unsalted butter
125ml double cream
1 teaspoon black treacle
Sea Salt (e.g Maldon flakes)


200g dark chocolate
175g butter
250g caster sugar
75g light muscovado sugar
125g plain flour
3 eggs
50g pecan nuts, toasted and chopped

First make the caramel. Melt the sugars and butter together in a pan over a gentle heat and simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the double cream and treacle. Simmer for a minute or two more and then add salt to taste. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool, stirring every now and then until cooled and thickened.

Pre-heat the oven to about 160 fan.

Break the chocolate into a bowl and add the butter. Sit over a saucepan of gently simmering water and melt. Don’t allow the chocolate to get too hot.

Remove from the heat. Add the sugars and stir well. Stir in the plain flour (quickly whisk first to remove any lumps). Whisk the eggs and fold those through until the mix is smooth. Add the pecan nuts.

Take a 9 inch square shallow baking tin and line with baking parchment. Pour half of the brownie mixture in and spread out to cover the bottom. Top with spoonfuls of the salted caramel so that you have a thin layer. Pour in the remaining brownie mix and drizzle a little more caramel all over the top. You will probably have about half of your caramel left – don’t overdo it or it will be too much!

Bake in the oven for around 25 to 30 minutes or until just set – you want it still soft and if the top is beginning to crack it is certainly ready.

Cool in the tin and then set in the fridge. Although they are delicious warm with vanilla ice cream.

Cut into squares and dust with icing sugar.

Store any leftover caramel in a jar in the fridge. It will last for at least a week or more.




Wonderful Spring. At last, after the dark evenings and short days of winter the natural world is bursting into life and with that brings all sorts of possibilities for an opportunistic cook.

One of the first gems of spring is the wild garlic plant. It grows randomly and with great abandon in woodlands, fields and actually in one of my more formal flowerbeds. How it got there I have no idea but it is a very welcome guest and a wonderful addition to my spring kitchen. It makes a fabulous pesto; delicious with linguine and goats cheese or just wilt some through a risotto for an elegant twist. Or just make a simple soup, brilliant green and a tantalising overture of good things to come.


Serves Four

Four shallots, finely chopped (Or one onion)
Two new potatoes (approx 150g, charlotte are good), chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 small leek, chopped
One clove garlic
One tablespoon light olive oil
Knob of butter
A large bunch of wild garlic leaves, picked fresh if possible
One litre of vegetable or chicken stock
50ml double cream (optional)
Salt & Pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Wild garlic flowers

Take a saucepan and heat the oil and butter. Add the shallot, leek, celery and potato and cook for a few minutes until softened, pale and translucent. Add the crushed garlic and cook for a couple of minutes more.

Add the stock and simmer gently for about fifteen minutes until the veg is soft. Add the wild garlic leaves and cook briefly, about two minutes.

Blend until smooth and stir in the double cream. Season well with seasalt and pepper.

Serve with a garnish of wild garlic flowers and a gentle drizzle of extra virgin oil.

If you have any wild garlic pesto spare that would be rather delicious garnishing the soup as well.

If you can’t find wild garlic in your garden or surrounding countryside then I am fairly sure that a good greengrocer will have some at this time of year. It is a treat not to be missed.

wild garlic soup

Ice Creams and Granita Lunch Puddings Quick and Easy Suppers

A Quick Pudding for Friends

Homemade ice cream is one of life’s great pleasures and it is very easy to make.
Of course, there are some great ice creams nowadays that you can buy in the supermarket but nothing quite comes close to your own and this recipe is so much easier to make than the classic method as you don’t need to go to all the bother of making a home-made custard.  This is really a matter of stirring some rather wonderful ingredients together and then sitting back and accepting the inevitable compliments, safe in the knowledge that it really wasn’t an entirely taxing experience in the first place.  But no less delicious for that and not necessarily a detail that you have to share.

I made this ice cream the other day for a Friday night supper party.  I was rather short of time and had one of those tubs of peaches rapidly ripening in the larder.   The ginger ice cream made  a lovely accompaniment to them which I braised in a marsala syrup, stuffed with amaretti and dark sugar and spiced up with some cinnamon and vanilla.

Serves Six to Eight

1 tub mascarpone
250ml double cream
Four pieces of stem ginger, finely chopped plus syrup from the jar
2 tablespoons ginger preserve (I use Waitrose own)
2 egg whites
50g caster sugar
Lightly whip the cream and whisk in the mascarpone.  Add the ginger preserve, the finely chopped stem ginger and about three tablespoons of the syrup.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then gradually add the caster sugar until you have a glossy meringue.  Add to the ice cream mixture and fold in.

Pour the whole lot into an ice cream machine and churn.  If you don’t have a machine then put in the freezer in a plastic tub and whisk with a  fork every half an hour to break up the ice crystals that will be forming.  You will have to do this about four or five times.

Keep in the freezer but take out and put in the fridge for about 45 minutes before serving if you are not using it immediately.

Serves Eight

Eight fairly ripe peaches
Eight amaretti biscuits (crunchy ones)
Dark muscovado sugar
400ml sweet marsala
100g caster sugar
One fresh vanilla pod
2 sticks of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180c
Remove the skin from the peaches by sitting them in boiling water for a minute or two.  The skins will slip off easily.

Cut in half and remove the stone.  Put in an ovenproof dish and fill the centre of each peach half with some crumbled biscuit and a teaspoon of sugar.  Heat the marsala with the caster sugar and pour around the peaches.  Bake in the oven for forty minutes, basting the peaches occasionally.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with the ice cream or softly whipped double cream.

Starters and Salads

Some Ideas for Beetroot

I love cooking with beetroot.  It deserves it’s superstar status as a superfood with it’s earthy deliciousness.  This beetroot houmous is not only extremely moreish but a stunning magenta colour that that looks as beautiful as it tastes.  Serve it as a prelude to supper with some healthy crudités, crunchy tortillas or even better, herby pitta toasts.  Its extremely addictive so make lots!


Serves Six

Four globes of beetroot (about 400g weight)
1 tin chickpeas (400g)
Three tablespoons tahini paste
Clove Garlic
Juice 1 lemon
Cold water
Salt & Pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh coriander

Pre-heat oven to about 200C.

Wash the beetroot. Wrap in an oiled piece of kitchen foil and roast in the oven for around an hour or until tender and soft. Cool. Skin the beetroot and put into a food processor. Blitz until becoming a puree. Add half the tin of chickpeas, the crushed clove of garlic, half the lemon juice, the tahini paste and a splash of cold water. Blitz again until well blended. Add a little more water if it is rather solid. Add a good lot of seasoning and more chickpeas. How many you add is up to you. Blend again and taste.

You may prefer a smooth houmous or one that has more texture.   Adjust the flavour with more lemon juice, seasoning and maybe more tahini. Add a couple of tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil and blitz again.

Serve in a beautiful coloured bowl with more oil drizzled over and lots of finely chopped coriander sprinkled over the top.

Extras: Grate in a little bit of the rind of an orange (a little goes a long way) and add a teaspoon of freshly roast and ground cumin seed for a different flavour.


Here is another idea for using beetroot.  (I’m quite addicted to it at the moment so we seem to be eating rather a lot of it).  This salad is perfect as a starter or just a lovely lunch.  You can pile it up prettily individual plates but more often than not I just present it in one large bowl and pass it around the table so that people can help themselves.
beetroot houmous
Serves Four 

250g small carrots (baby or chantenay)
Four beetroot (or eight very small)
1 dessertspoon of harissa paste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Squeeze honey
A little lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. fennel, toasted and crushed
50g toasted chopped walnuts
Fresh Rocket
4 tablespoons cooked puy lentils, tossed in a little oil and lemon juice
Handful of fresh mint
1 lemon
Four tablespoons natural yoghurt

Pre-heat the oven to 220c (200c fan oven)

Cut the carrots into small lengths.   Peel the beetroot and cut into small chunks. Take a shallow roasting tin. Mix the harissa, oil, lemon juice and honey.   Toss through the beetroot and carrot and turn into the roasting tin.   Add seasoning and roast for 30 – 40 minutes until well roasted. Remove from the oven.

Allow to cool a bit for a few minutes. Toss into a bowl and mix with the lentils, walnuts and rocket. Check the seasoning. Mix the yoghurt with lots of mint and lemon juice. Season to taste Pile onto plates and drizzle over the minted yoghurt or serve that separately.


One pack of white pitta bread
Light olive oil
Fresh thyme, finely chopped
Sea salt & black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 180c Cut the pitta in half horizontally and then cut each into even strips. Brush each with olive oil (or just use one of those spray bottles) and sprinkle with finely chopped thyme and season.  Bake in the oven for about eight minutes or until a pale golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack and store in a tin.  They will keep for about a week.

Dinner Fish and Seafood Uncategorized


Sometimes it’s nice to make something a little bit special when there are just two of you for an evening in and this certainly hits the spot for us. Scallops are, undeniably a bit of a treat ingredient and this is a lovely way of cooking them. They look so pretty with their pink corals still attached but if you prefer not to eat these then just leave them out. Prawns are a natural partner and the whole thing is enhanced with some gentle spicing. Make the lentils and dressing in advance (up to two days ahead but no more) and skewer the seafood in the morning, leaving a not particularly onerous task later of some quick cooking and heating up. Tahini is a favourite ingredient of mine and it is put to good use here to make a speedy sauce that is big on flavour and a lovely enhancement of this recipe. I hope you enjoy it.

8 scallops with roe
12 prawns king raw
teaspoon cumin
teaspoon coriander
rind half lemon
olive oil

50g puy lentils, rinsed
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
250 ml boiling water
1 heaped teaspoon marigold stock powder or similar
Half a small broccoli, the florets sliced.
Two tablespoons natural yoghurt
One tablespoon tahini paste
Lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Freshly chopped coriander
Freshly chopped flatleaf parsley
Half a lemon or lime
Four wooden skewers, soaked in cold water

Stir the tahini and yoghurt together and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste and let the whole thing down with some ice cold water until like thick double cream. Add a teaspoon of extra virgin oil. Set aside.

Clean and devein the prawns. Put into a bowl with the scallops (I leave the roe attached) and add the marinade ingredients. Leave for about half an hour while you get on with the lentils.

Finely chop the shallot. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the shallot. Soften for a minute or two and then add the grated ginger, garlic, cumin and coriander. Cook for a few more minutes and then stir in the lentils. Add the boiling water and stock. Simmer for around twenty to twenty five minutes until the lentils are tender and all the water has been absorbed. If the lentils are cooked and you have too much liquid simply drain any excess away. Add some seasalt and black pepper, a little olive oil and lots of freshly chopped parsley and coriander.

Put the scallops and prawns on the skewers. You will have more prawns than scallops so double up occasionally. Heat a griddle pan until smoking hot. Sear the skewers on all sides until the scallops are cooked through and the prawns pink.

Heat more oil in a frying pan and quickly sauté the broccoli slices with some finely sliced garlic until tender and a bit charred.

Heap the lentils up on a plate. Top with the broccoli and the skewers. Drizzle around the tahini dressing and scatter over more coriander. Serve with a wedge of lemon or lime.