Monthly Archives: January 2018

Minestrone Soup

On a cold, dull winters day this soup brings a welcome vibrant warmth. I seem to be in need of that at the moment as this follows on from my Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Lasagne.  I am obviously longing for blue skies and warm sunshine in my subconscious!    It reminds me of summer yet it’s base is the Italian combination of carrots, celery and onion known as sofrito that is available all year round. Add some red or yellow pepper, some frozen sweetcorn or peas and a jar of passata instead of fresh tomatoes, and you are immediately under summer skies again and you’ve banished any winter blues with yellows, reds and bright verdant green.


Vibrant Minestrone Soup

Continue reading

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Lasagne

Italians will tell you that the best bit of a lasagne is the crispy edges. The bits of the pasta sheets you let overhang the sides and that go all brown and crunchy as the lasagne cooks.  Italian families fight about who gets them! For years I’d been dutifully tucking them all in – as I suspect most of us non-Italians do – until, by chance, I had lunch with some Italians.  I was converted, they were amazed that I didn’t know about it, and now I am sharing it with you.


Lasagne with pasta sheets overhanging sides prior to going in oven.


Crispy edges after baking

Continue reading

Lemon Meringue Pie

Soft billowing meringue tops the zesty lemon filling. An old fashioned Lemon Meringue Pie is a thing of beauty.  Soft, billowing meringue sits on top of a tangy, zesty lemon filling all held in place by a short, buttery pastry.  It speaks of the best of times gone by yet is ideally suited to today’s light and fresh tastes.  Best of all worlds.  I don’t know why I don’t make it more frequently

There is a recipe for easy shortcrust pastry that you make in the food processor on the site. Shortcrust Pastry    If you don’t want to make pastry you can use a bought, baked shortcrust pastry case or use ready made pastry both of which cut down on preparation time considerably.

The pie itself is not difficult to make though there are tricks to making a good one. The meringue seems to be the main concern with bakers.  It needs not to weep or slide off the lemon layer.  These two problems are usually due to the sugar in the meringue not being dissolved thoroughly into the eggwhite and the filling being too cold for the meringue and filling to meld together.   I find that if you start making the meringue before the lemon filling this solves any problems. I also think it’s important to spread the meringue right to the edges so there are no gaps.   My final tip is how to keep the pastry crisp. I like to sprinkle the cooked shell with a dusting of ground almonds (or semolina for those with nut allergies) as this really seems to help.

Continue reading

Shortcrust Pastry


I know that making pastry is something that fills a lot of people with dread  But honestly if you follow this method you shouldn’t have any problems


  • If you make pastry in the food processor it’s quick and providing you pulse the mixture in short bursts it avoids the pastry getting overworked (or the need for cold hands!)
  • Using milk to bind the pastry together rather than water (or you could use egg), and resting the dough in the fridge before rolling out, helps stop any shrinkage whilst baking
  • Leave an overhang  of pastry if you are making a tart shell and trim it only after baking helps to ensure a perfect sized case every time
  • Placing a baking sheet in the oven does away with any chance of soggy bottoms
  • If you need to blind bake, pricking the pastry over with a fork and using a crumpled greaseproof paper and baking beans keeps the pastry flat

So gather your courage and give it a go   Now you know the whys and wherefores of pastry making you should have no problems

Continue reading

Mushroom and Aubergine Bolognese

This is the most amazing bolognese sauce.  It’s rich, tomato-ey and earthy and has a silky texture.  Have this with a glass of red wine for a perfect cozy supper.  Oh, did I forget to mention that the sauce is vegan?  I really think this fact would surprise anyone who ate it – its the perfect dish to persuade meat lovers that by eating veggie dishes they aren’t missing out on flavour

There are several tweaks here that make this dish special.  Firstly, I admit that though it does sound strange to peel an aubergine it really does work here and adds to the silkiness of this dish  Yes, the addition of walnuts is unusual but if you choose to use them does add to the layers of flavours in this sauce (though it is delicious without)  Similarly the sprinkle of cinnamon owes more to middle eastern cookery but, along with the sugar, it balances out the acidity of the tomatoes and you don’t detect it as a separate ingredient

Do simmer this for the half an hour to let the flavours mingle properly  – it makes such a difference   If the sauce is getting too thick add a little water to stop it sticking   The end result will be a rich luscious sauce  Serve with spaghetti and top with Parmesan (if you are vegan the vegan Parmesan is good) and lots of basil  Toss it altogether before serving – I didn’t in the picture purely because it looks better in the photo Continue reading

Cheese and Leek Quiche with Roasted Butternut Squash

I know that quiches have a bad rep.  Whilst we might have moved away from the “real men don’t eat quiche” cliche the fact that so many quiches seem to have doughy pastry and a rather eggy filling puts people off eating and making them.

The recipe for this quiche will change your mind.  The pastry is crisp and cheesy, and the filling has a creamy, cheesy and smooth bechamel sauce that is worlds apart from the eggy custard that is often used.  I love using a layer of sautéed leeks in the base and then adding another layer of flavour (such as the roasted squash) before pouring on the sauce and scattering over the cheese and baking. In this version I’ve gone vegetarian but you can use leftover slices of roast chicken or gammon instead of the squash if you want to use up leftovers.  Maybe you could try other roast vegetables such as courgettes, peppers etc.  Throw in some spinach or leftover broccoli. Variations are endless but always end up delicious.  The cooked quiche itself is great eaten warm (particularly with chips/wedges but that may just be me) and salad or have it for a picnic/packed lunch. Continue reading

Thai Mussels with Lime Risotto

I promised myself that this year I would eat more fish.  It’s an ingredient I sometimes struggle with and get a bit stuck on what to do with.

I have, however, made this recipe for Thai Mussels regularly over the last couple of years and I really enjoy it.   The way the mussels are cooked is really a variation on moules mariniere but uses the Thai flavours of lemongrass, coconut, ginger and chilli   Serve this with the rather surprising sounding lime risotto which pairs with the mussels amazingly well and really enforces the Thai influence.  This is an ideal sharing, hands on meal for two and would make a brilliant date night dish  It only takes about 30 mins to make so its quite quick to put together.   The two of you can be sipping wine and chatting whilst stirring the risotto and maybe the other does the mussels so its great for unwinding together

Give it go and surprise yourself with not only how good it is but how easy it is to make

Continue reading

Marmalade, Cardamon and Pistachio Drizzle Cake

It’s marmalade time and the Seville oranges are already with us in the shops.  There is already a recipe for Seville Orange Marmalade  on this site if you feel the want to make some!  I thought it would be a good time to put on a recipe or two showing things to do with your marmalade other than spreading it on toast or making marmalade sandwiches! I made a start last year with Breakfast Martini  Mind you As I didn’t get any further with my marmalade alternatives it was obviously a bit more potent than I thought

This recipe is essentially a marmalade version of lemon drizzle cake and is full of the middle eastern flavours of pistachio and cardamon and orange blossom water    It is taken from the book Marmalade: A Bittersweet Cookbook by Sandra Randell and  I have taken the liberty of tweaking it a very little bit   It is absolutely delicious, quick to make as it uses the all in one method and it is as easy to have a slice with a cup of coffee or tea or to serve with whipped cream/icecream for a pudding.  It is buttery, tangy, spicy and warming all at the same time and it transports easily should you be asked to bring a cake for anything or just need a slice for a packed lunch or picnic

Paddington would approve! Continue reading

Monday Pie

I know Mondays are often “meatless” and are part of eating more mindfully but to my mind, and on a par, is not wasting food and in particular not throwing out any leftover meat. Monday Pie was the dish my family used to call this when we used up the Sunday roast lamb  Maybe, given the popularity of Meatless Monday it’s name should be updated to Tuesday Pie!

So essentially this Pie is a shepherds pie although, rather than starting with raw mince, it uses the leftovers from Sunday’s joint.  I like to foil wrap a bulb of garlic and roast it alongside the joint just for this recipe as it adds a depth to the dish but if you forget you can use garlic purée instead.  Mix these with mushrooms, thyme and other veg – include the secret addition of tomato ketchup – and then top off the pie with a mix of mashed potato and cauliflower. You could, of course, just use the potato, but I think the cauliflower not only sneaks in another of your five a day (or whatever the latest figure is) but it makes the finished dish lighter too

It doesn’t seem very exciting to write recipes using leftovers – and to be honest I didn’t think it would be something I’d do on this blog –  but its a recipe that I love and use and that I thought others would be interested in. So I am going to start to include ones for leftovers.  I hope you enjoy them as some of the recipes would be those I’d cook a roast for just to make the leftover dish!  Now that’s an interesting concept….. Continue reading

Chloe’s Ratatouille

I am absolutely stuck as to what to call this. There is nothing that I can think of that does it justice  My mother would have probably called it a melange, you could call it a stew – I’ve called it a ratatouille because it’s based on an Ottolenghi recipe called Tamara’s Ratatouille

I made this for Chloe (hence the use of her name in this recipe instead) and I was stuck for vegan recipes   I tailored the original to her tastes and I think this version is even better  Chloe hates courgettes – I swear she can smell one at 100m so there is no point putting any in as she wouldn’t eat them.  However,  she loves olives, a bit of spice and those tomatoey arabica sauces so that’s all been adjusted from the original too   What I haven’t changed is the final roasting of the ratatouille right at the end which elevates this into the most delicious intensely flavoured dish of vegetables you can imagine – until you try it you have no idea how good it is




Serve it as it is for a vegan meal, it’s lovely with toast and a poached or fried egg on top (try cracking the eggs directly in the tray on top of the veg for the last 5 mins of roasting = much less hassle). Ideal for meatless Monday’s.  Or for meat lovers use the Ratatouille as the side dish to roasted chicken or lamb   Yum!

PS leftovers are great for a packed lunch or salad the next day or blitz it with some water and heat it up to make a veggie soup (though perhaps eat the olives first and remove bay leaves)

Continue reading