Tag Archives: Cooking in

Risotto for Autumn

Autumn is here in London, we have been super lucky with the weather this week, it has been sunny and crisp cold – perfect for me to find an Autumnal dinner for us. I chose a Jamie Oliver recipe from his Jamie’s Kitchen book which my Mum has. Roast Squash, Pancetta and Chestnut Risotto. It is a little faffy to cook but well worth it – I have simplified the recipe a little here to make it easier to write down and follow.

Serves 4

1 Squash – cut into chunks, save the seeds

2 dried chillies – diced (1tbsp dried chilli will also work)

1tbsp crushed coriander seeds

Salt & Pepper

12 slices pancetta

100g Chestnuts – diced

1 handful Sage leaves – sliced

1 Onion – diced

2 Cloves Garlic – diced

300g Risotto Rice

2 tbsp butter

1l Vegetable Stock –keep heated

60g Parmesan

Coat the squash chunks in the coriander seeds and chilli with some olive oil and pop into the oven at 200 degrees to roast for 30 minutes. You can keep the skin on as everything gets mushed up at the end. Meanwhile start to make the risotto by slowly frying the onion and garlic in some butter until softened (usually takes 10 minutes or so). Add the rice and stir, when the rice begins to turn translucent add in a little of the stock with some salt and pepper. Gradually top up the stock each time the liquid starts to be absorbed. 

Whilst multi-tasking and keeping an eye on the squash and the risotto, layer the pancetta on a baking tray and scatter over the chestnuts, sage, seeds and a little olive oil. Pop these in the oven until the pancetta is cooked through and crispy – this shouldn’t take any more than 15 minutes.

After 30 minutes the rice should be cooked through at which point stir the parmesan through and reduce the heat.

Ok – so now to assemble everything. Take the squash out of the oven and chop up so its chunky and mushy – add this to the risotto and stir through – season to taste. Spoon this into a lovely bowl and then top with the crispy, fragrant pancetta, chestnut and sage mix.



Summer Puttanesca

Wow! I haven’t blogged for ages! I have been cooking loads but doing so for myself without the pressure to blog at the same time – i used to use my commutes to write blog posts but am using my tube time to watch TED talks, listen to podcasts and read aswell as watching the occasional episode of This Is Us!

Anyway – Summer is here and i fancied a light, fresh pasta dish. Inspired by the NYT Cooking app I cooked Summer Puttanesca – chilli kick, fresh lemon and rich anchovies were lovely in the South London heat tonight!

Serves 2

  • 1 tsp Chilli flakes
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – sliced
  • 1 tin anchovies – chopped
  • 1/2 jar of capers
  • 1 bag rocket
  • 1 Tin tuna
  • 1 bunch parsley (chopped)
  • 2 servings wholewheat spaghetti

Put the spaghetti on to boil as per instructions. In a separate frying pan heat some olive oil and gently fry the garlic and chilli until sizzling and softened. Add the anchovies and capers and allow the anchovies to melt. At this stage, keep mixing all together and add a ladle of the pasta water and add the rocket . Mix together, adding extra water if needed to loosen. Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the mixture and stir in the tuna. Finally stir the chopped parsley through ensuring everything is mixed together and the pasta is smothered in the sauce.

I served my dinner with some toasted lemon zest breadcrumbs on top and a side salad of asparagus, parmesan and pinenuts.


  • Trullo Pastas

    Peter bought me the Trullo cookbook as a pre-Christmas gift and we decided to celebrate the New Year with an Italian themed dinner.

    Trullo is a very popular Italian restaurant in Highbury – North London – its always busy, gets great reviews and serves delicious unfussy Italian food.

    Our starter was Burrata with anchovy paste and broad beans – this is the sort of dish i always order when im out for dinner and it was surprisingly easy to make – blitzing anchovies, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice in the nutri-bullet, and simply topping with the burrata and scattering broad beans on top.

    Anyway – on to the main courses which i will write up here – both very simple and tasty and again, the sorts of dishes I would always order in an Italian restaurant.

    Firstly for the Orecchiette with Broccoli, Anchovy and Chilli

    Serves 2
    500g Tenderstem or Purple Sprouting Broccoli
    2 Garlic Cloves – finely diced
    Sprinkle of dried Chilli flakes
    1/2 tin Anchovies
    200g Orecchiette Pasta (Farfalle is recommended if you cant source the “little ears”)
    Olive Oil
    Salt & Pepper
    Parmesan – for seasoning at the end

    Boil the broccoli for 7 minutes and leave to one side.
    Boil the pasta according to instructions – ours took around 10minutes which is exactly how long the sauce took to cook!
    In a shallow frying pan gently fry the garlic and chilli in some olive oil until the garlic starts to colour. Add the anchovies to melt for 3 minutes. Add the broccoli and a dash of water and pop a lid on the pan for 8-10 minutes. Remove the lid, season and add more olive oil for a little extra richness. Mix together with the pasta and serve with parmesan shavings on top.

    The second dish was Linguine with Crab – this used both white and brown crab meat and was a completely new but easy and super tasty way of cooking a crab and pasta dish.

    Serves 2
    1 tin White crab meat
    80g Brown crab meat
    200g Linguine
    1/2 Red Chilli – diced
    20g Butter
    Olive Oil
    Lemon Juice
    Salt & Pepper
    1tbsp Parsley – chopped

    Cook the linguine in boiling water for 10 minutes – again this is roughly how long the crab takes to prepare.
    In a bowl, mix together the brown and white crab, chilli, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper and leave to one side.
    In a large shallow frying pan, gently fry the butter and add the crab mixture – mix well, adding a splash of pasta water to seperate if needed. Once the pasta is cooked and drained – add this to the crab and mix thoroughly – adding more pasta water if needed. The sauce will emulsify as it coats the linguine.
    Serve with a little extra black pepper to taste.

    New Year’s Resolutions

    My new year has been pretty tough so far – yes I know – only 12 days in, but amongst the stress and tiredness I have found solace in cooking and contentment in eating healthy and nutritious, tasty food. My January issue of Olive magazine inspired me with some new recipes and I wanted to note them on here – partly to share them but also to serve as a record of the recipe as Elix and I tend  to forget the recipes we love and end  up spending ages trying the locate them in all my old magazines and cookbooks.

    The first is a Smashed Beef Laap with Fennel & Ginger which was filling without being stodgy, easy to make, tasty and good for you with plenty of fresh herbs, vegetables and aromatics. I have made a couple of changes from the original recipe, adding salad leaves in and also leaving out the roasted rice powder which is added to the dressing.

    A laap is a traditional Loatian dish which is usually cooked with minced meat  flavoured with fish sauce and lime juice and served with sticky rice. Whilst this salad uses sliced steak I think it would be tasty whether served with griddled meat, minced meat, seafood or vegetables including mushrooms would work well.

    3cm grated Ginger
    1tsp Fennel Seeds
    3 sliced cloves Garlic
    1 Sirloin Steak
    2 sliced Shallots
    A handful of salad leaves
    1/2 stick Lemongrass – finely sliced
    2 shredded kaffir lime leaves
    1 Lime – half to serve in wedges and half juiced for the dressing
    2 tbsp Fish Sauce
    2 tsp Caster Sugar
    1/2tsp Cayenne Pepper
    1 Red Chilli – finely sliced
    1 small bunch coriander & mint
    Steamed Rice – to serve

    Pound the ginger, 1 garlic clove, fennel seeds and some salt into a paste and rub over the steak. Leave to marinade overnight in the fridge.
    One ready to cook, brush the steak with oil and sear on a griddle pan for 2 minutes on each side (or, as done as you like your steak) and leave to rest.
    Fry the rest of the garlic and mix with the remaining ingredients to make a lightly dressed salad.
    Serve the rice and salad side by side topped with the flavoursome juicy sliced steak.


    The second recipe is the cover picture from Olive and I can see why – it looks colourful, light and delicious and trust me, was amazing to eat. Supergrain Salmon Salad with Chilli and Mint Dressing uses freekeh which is a North African/Middle Eastern wheat grain which has a nutty taste and is full of protein and fiber. If you struggle to find some in the shops you could use quinoa, pearl barley or couscous. I added avocado to this recipe because I love it, I also think other veggies including tomatoes, cucumber, broccoli and spinach would work really well – whatever you like!

    100g Freekeh
    2 Salmon Steaks
    2 tbsp Harissa Paste
    Salad Leaves to serve
    1 Avocado diced
    For the Dressing:
    Juice of 2 Lemons
    1tsp Ground Cumin
    1 Red Chilli – finely chopped
    Finely Chopped Mint

    Cook the freekeh in vegetable stock for 30 mins or until tender and drain. Mix with the dressing ingredients and some olive oil.
    Brush the salmon with the harissa and grill for 5-6 minutes, when cooked as you like it, use a fork to gently flake into chunks.
    Pile the grains, greens and dressing and top with the salad for a tasty lunch or light dinner.

    image (1)

    Salads that I like

    Mum gets ever increasingly frustrated when she serves a side salad at dinner time – I hate them! I find your average garden salad, mixed leaf salad or side salad incredibly dull, tasteless and needing lots of dressing to jazz up – they also add little flavour to the main accompaniment. My only exception is rocket with balsamic vinegar which I could eat by the bowlful – peppery and crispy rocket with sweet balsamic drizzle is beautiful and perfect with parmesan.
    One of mine and Elix’s favourite side salads is from the Polpo book – quite simply it’s rocket, torn basil (tearing the basil rather than chopping it is said to retain more flavour aswell as colour) and thin strips of courgette (a mandolin or peeler is good here). Occasionally Elix and I will add asparagus, green beans or cherry tomatoes. The salad is lightly dressed (Elix isn’t a huge fan of salad dressing) with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and finely grated parmesan. I haven’t included quantities because it really is up to taste and also depends on what the salad is being served with. We usually refrain from too much cheese and keep the salt and lemon subtle. This is a favourite salad with pasta, pizza, risotto or steak. Anything Italian will taste lovely with this salad.
    As we needed to branch out, I have recently started making Thomasina Meirs’ Winter Mexican Salad. This brings together fresh leaves and red onion, peppery radish, sharp orange segments, spicy chilli along with a light dressing of warming lime juice and olive oil. The proper recipe scatters with feta, tortilla chips, pomegranate seeds and coriander. I have adapted this to be more nicely eaten alongside a main course so often will omit the cheese and tortilla chips. I love this salad because it’s colourful, tasty, crunchy and very healthy – great with grilled swordfish or grilled chicken and a fantastic element of a Mexican meal alongside fajitas and quesadillas.

    Mexican Salad

    A “main course” salad which is very quick and easy and lovely in the Summer is Rick Stein’s Sautéed Squid and Chorizo Salad with Garlic, Rocket and Chickpeas and as its getting warm enough for al fresco dining I’ve
    included the recipe below for you all to try.

    100g chickpeas
    300g squid prepared and cut into bite size pieces
    8 cherry tomatoes halved
    1.5tbsp lemon juice
    6 tbsp olive oil
    1 chilli thinly sliced
    2 garlic cloves finely diced
    Small handful of fresh parsley chopped
    50g chorizo sliced
    20g rocket leaves (we also threw in some spinach)
    Salt and Pepper

    Start by boiling the chickpeas in water (if dry will need overnight soaking and then 40mins on the hob, if tinned will only need 5 minutes) when cooked, drain and leave to cool. Meanwhile lightly fry the squid pieces in oil until no longer translucent and remove from the pan. In the same pan fry the garlic and chorizo, as they start to colour, add the squid back in ensuring it gets covered in the chorizo oil. Once all nicely caramelised remove from the pan.
    Playing up literally involves chucking everything onto the plate, sprinkling with the chilli, parsley and oil and devouring in the angelic knowledge that this salad was tastier, healthier, prettier and more exciting than a pizza!

    Chorizo Squid Salad

    Our Second Annual Christmas Buffet of Joy

    Both this year and last year Elix and I have hosted a Christmas buffet for our friends. Both years I have set out to keep it simple with mulled wine, cheese and biscuits and both years I have gotten carried away (inspired by all the Christmas recipes in my magazines) preparing hams, baking bread and serving a few sweet things so we send everyone away with doggy bags and have days worth of leftovers for us to snack on!

    our xmas buffet
    I thought I would share with you a couple of things which have gone down well and which I love to make :

    Apricot, Poppy Seed and Walnut bread wreath from Good Food.

    500g White Bread Mix
    100g Chopped Walnuts
    140g Dried apricots chopped
    25g Toasted Poppy seeds
    400ml milk
    a little oil
    1 egg beaten

    Mix the bread mix and walnuts together, add the apricots and half of the poppy seeds until all incorporated together.

    Add the milk and knead for 10 minutes or so until smooth and springy. Leave in a bowl with some oiled cling film for an hour until risen.
    After this, stretch into a roll and make into a wreath shape. Leave on a baking tray covered with cling film and leave for another 30 minutes. Cover with the egg wash and sprinkle the rest of the poppy seeds on top. Use scissors to make snip the top which will give a lovely rustic finish.
    Put in the oven for 30 minutes at 180 degrees or until browned on top and sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped.
    Best served with cheese and chutney.

    apricot bread

    Sweet Glazed Ham
    I did intend to use another Good Food recipe but made the last minute discovery that we didnt have any maple syrup or demerara sugar in so i improvised and made up the following :
    1.4kg unsmoked ham (not on the bone)
    1 cinnamon stick
    2 star anise
    1 onion quartered
    1tbsp black peppercorns
    20 cloves
    4tbsp honey
    2tsp dijon mustard
    1tsp allspice
    4tbsp dark muscavado sugar
    Rinse and soak the ham in cold water. Place the onion, cinnamon, star anise and peppercorns in the bottom of a roasting dish and fill 2cm deep with water. Place the ham on a rack on top and cover and seal with foil and heat in the oven at 180degs for 90mins (this will change depending on the weight of the ham).
    Meanwhile heat all the glaze ingredients in a saucepan until thoroughly mixed and a glossy glaze remains. The liquid should be the consistency of syrup and no thicker than jam. I make ham every christmas and you can make a glaze with loads of flavours, maple syrup, apricot jam, ginger, worcester sauce – just mix together over heat with sugar and some mustard to cut through the sweetness and you will be sorted!
    After 90 mins, remove the foil and cut any fatty skin off the ham and score in a diamond pattern the remaining fat on the outside, stud with cloves along the lines.
    Brush the ham with two thirds of the glaze and place back in the oven, covered in foil for 10-15minutes. Remove the foil, baste with the remaining glaze and place back in the oven, uncovered for 10 minutes.
    This sort of ham is lovely served hot as part of Christmas lunch with veg and mash potato but is just as good serves cold with bread, cheese and chutney. My mum has asked me to cook a ham with a memberillo glaze this Christmas so i’ll let you know how I get on!

    glazed ham

    Chocolate & Ginger Brownie Cake (my friend Jen who is a fantastic baker and made amazing flapjacks for this year’s buffet requested this recipe) from Olive (Dec 2011) :

    175g butter
    225g dark chocolate (chopped)
    200g golden caster sugar
    3 eggs (separated – obviously i forgot to do this and had to use twice as many!)
    75g plain flour
    50g preserved ginger plus 2tbsp syrup (i used 50g ginger preserve which I know isn’t right but Tooting didn’t have any preserved ginger and the cake came out just fine!)
    300ml double cream
    cocoa for dusting

    Heat the oven to 180 degs and butter a 20cm cake tin. Put 175g of chocolate with the butter and sugar in a pan and gently melt until all mixed together – leave to cool. Whisk the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture, fold in the flour, ginger and the remaining chopped chocolate. Separately whisk the egg whites until soft peaks are formed and then fold in the chocolate mixture. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 35-40mins until a crust has formed on top.

    Whisk the cream, fold in the ginger syrup (or just some more ginger preserve if you are me!) and spoon/dollop on top of the cake dusting with cocoa.

    chocolate ginger cake and cookies


    And thats it….until next year – sorry its taken me over a month to get this post up but it took me a while to find the recipe for the brownie cake – seeing Jen last night reminded me I have slacked on this – now i have found it though my New Year’s diet will well and truly come to an end as I intend to make this again at the weekend!