Tag Archives: Cooking in

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.


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    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!

    My Cookbooks – all 55 of them

    This weekend my newest cookbook was delivered – the Moro cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark. Moro the restaurant is a lovely place to go for wine and sharing plates in Exmouth Market in North London. The book contains recipes originating in Spain, North Africa and the Middle East and i cant wait to try the monkfish and saffron paella.
    Last week Elix’s friend asked her (and me) for some advice on which cookbook would be a good gift for someone who enjoys throwing dinner parties – as we have an eclectic collection what would we recommend. Given how many cookbooks i now own and have added to my collection since i started the blog (i think i have 5 new ones), i thought i would take some of my most used ones and describe my favourite recipes from them.
    Seafood – without doubt the best one is Rick Stein’s – A Seafood Odyssey – not only does this book break down fish and seafood dishes by country of origin including Australia, India, Britain, Spain and France it also details substitute items you cannot find what the recipe contains.
    Desserts – this was a tough one and i’ve narrowed it down to two. Jason Atherton’s Gourmet Food for a Fiver and the Masterchef cookbook. Both contain loads of easy and cheap ideas for desserts and what i like most about them is that they contain recipes which are made in individual portions. As someone who isn’t as comfortable making desserts as i am with Main Courses this makes the task at hand somewhat less intimidating whilst still inventive and pretty on the eye. My favourites are Jason’s lemon posset and the Masterchef’s homage to Nadia Swahalia’s individual pavlovas.
    Pies Hairy Biker’s Pie Book. Without doubt our most used book during winter. This book contains recipes for both savoury and sweet pies and tarts plus handy pastry recipes, which can be made in individual portions and also large ones for groups to eat. Elix and I are trying to cook our way through the whole book – highlights so far include cornish pasties, white chocolate and raspberry tarts and ham, leek and potato quiche.
    Asian this was a toughy as i have so many amazing asian cookbooks, Neil Perry, Rick Stein, Luke Nguyen and Anjum Anand. After consulting Elix who is head curry maker in our house we decided on Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey. This book is split by country ranging from Vietnam to Sri Lanka and Cambodia to Malaysia. It has a good mix of stir fries and curries, noodle and rich dishes aswell as good balance of meat, fish and vegetables and, in true Rick Stein style, a little background to the recipe. The book also has recipes on how to make sauces, spice mixes and dips which can come in useful for any recipe, not just the Rick Stein ones.
    Weekday Dinners – my top 2 here are easy – Neil Perry’s Good Food and Lucas Hollweg’s Good Things to Eat. Neil Perry has so many tasty, healthy fish recipes including our favourites, trout with lentils and salmon with chickpeas and yoghurt aswell as lovely curries (chicken braised in coconut milk with spices is yummy), rice dishes and pasta. Lucas Hollweg splits his book by dish type so there are chapters on pasta, fruit, tarts and roasts. His meatballs which are cooked with spices and served with pasta and a spicy tomato sauce is one of my favourite dishes to cook and to eat and one which many of our friends have been given.
    Cooking for Friends – two of our dinner parties stick out here as ones which were a pleasure to cook for aswell as eat and i think our friends left well-fed and happy. Firstly – i cooked a Chinese feast once for my girlfriends before a night out on the town and all the recipes were from…Gok Wan’s Gok Cooks Chinese. His recipe for Char Sui Pork is super easy and looks and tastes amazing. Other good recipes from his book include Char Sui buns, Egg Fried Rice, Chilli and Salt Squid and Prawn Chow Mein. He helpfully introduces the cook to those ingredients and equipment which you need to have in before you start and once you have these (wok, soy sauce, rice wine etc) and the holy trinity (garlic, spring onion, ginger)you are good to go. Secondly i am including two books by one chef – Thomasina Meirs and both of her Wahaca cookbooks. With ideas for sharing recipes including quesadillas, fajitas, guacamole, salsa, salads and tacos as well as big group-feeding dishes such as Quick Beef Chilli, Humble Chicken and Corn pie and Pork Pibil – these books can always be relied upon to help me rustle up tasty Mexican dishes which everyone loves.

    So there you have it a quick and easy summary of some of my best cookbooks and favourite recipes from them. I know i’ve missed out Bill Granger, Michel Roux, James Martin, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Tom Kitchen and loads more but im sure as i carry on cooking lots il do another Book Review blog soon.

    Happy Reading and Cooking!