Monday, 20 April 2015

Middle Eastern Cauliflower Cous Cous

A couple of week's ago I took part in Meat Free Week, a movement to raise awareness about the dangers of aggressive over-farming, the importance of compassionate farming and the health benefits of increasing your veg intake. Don't get me wrong, I'm highly unlikely to become vegetarian, in fact my last post on here is for an absolutely amazing leg of lamb. But it is a great way to get more creative with your vegetables. It's coming up to summer holidays, beach wear and just generally feeling good about ourselves so if I can find more exciting ways to eat well and be healthy I'm all for it!

I'd read a lot about cauliflower rice and cous cous over the past couple of years but it wasn't until I tried it myself that I realised how amazing it is. In layman's terms the blitzed up brassica is acting as the starch. It's grainy in texture, surprisingly un-cauliflower like in taste and it's so good for you. I've tried many variations of this over the past few weeks but this one wins hands down. I served it the other night with that pesto lamb, the strong Middle Eastern flavours balancing perfectly against the light mint of the pesto. The spice mix here is ras el hanout which is available in the spice sections of all major supermarkets, it's warm and spicy with a hint of curry from the cumin and coriander. 

Middle Eastern cauliflower cous cous

  • 1 small cauliflower
  • 1 small red pepper, finely sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, finely sliced
  • 1 small red onion, finely sliced
  • 3 tbls olive oil
  • 50g pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 200g drained canned chick peas
  • 1 tbs dried ras el hanout spices
  • 20g chopped parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste

  1. Prepare the cauliflower by removing the outer leaves and stem and cutting into florets. Put a handful of florets at a time in a food processor and pulse until you have grain like texture. Don’t overdo it or you’ll get paste. Pour the grains into a large bowl and continue pulsing a handful at a time until you are done.
  2. Dry toast the chopped pistachios in a hot deep-sided pan (ie not a frying pan) and once ready transfer to a dish for later.
  3. Add the ras al hanout spice to the same pan and dry toast it until the spices release a strong aroma, then add half the oil. Once hot add the chickpeas and fry lightly until golden brown. Transfer to the pistachios dish for later.
  4. Add the remaining oil to the same pan and once hot sauté the sliced pepper, fennel and onion for approximately 15 mins on a low heat until soft and caramelised. Add this veg mix to the chick peas and pistachio nuts for later.
  5. Finally in the same pan again, add all your cauliflower grains, stir carefully over a low heat to get the flavours left in pan evenly mixed with the grains. Place a lid on the pan and leave to heat for 3-5 mins. It must be on a low heat or it will burn, although a little colouring is good. You aren’t cooking the grains, you just want to get them piping hot. Then take all the mix of veg, pistachios and chickpeas and stir through the grains until evenly distributed. Season to taste and serve.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Mint & Rocket Pesto Roast Leg of Lamb

As I write this it's 22℃ outside, the sun is shining, the trees and shrubs are opening up their buds and spring is well and truly in the air. I’m not originally from Surrey but I have to say with each passing year I realise how lucky I am to have ended up here. We have some of the country’s most beautiful landscape on our doorstep and an abundance of walks to enjoy. 

Of course at this time of year the lamb is perfect, tender and widely available from a number of local suppliers, so it's the obvious choice for a special meal.This recipe really encapsulates the freshness of spring. The mint is just starting the poke through in the garden, the basil seedlings on my window sill are just beginning to uncurl and the grocers are full of fresh green spring vegetables and new potatoes. So for a light evening with meal with salad or shared with friends over a long Sunday lunch served with new potatoes and prosecco, this dish will really excite you. And exactly a week from now the British asparagus season officially opens, although to be fair it's been a long winter, so give them time. 

I tend to always use hazelnuts in my pesto nowadays as the quality of the pine nuts coming from China is sinking and I recently had a bout of pine mouth which was as disturbing as it was thankfully short lived! And of course you can always use parmesan rather than the slightly saltier pecorino. But why would you? I bloody love pecorino, and a good one is always worth the effort of seeking out. The times listed below assume the lamb is room temperature before cooking and will produce a perfect pink, succulent roast.  If you possess a meat probe/thermometer you want the central core of the meat to be 50C to produce a medium finish.

Mint and rocket pesto roast leg of lamb

Serves 4
  • 1kg half leg of lamb
  • 1 tbs sunflower oil for searing

For the pesto
  • 30g mint, roughly chopped
  • 30g basil, roughly chopped
  • 60g rocket, roughly chopped
  • 50g finely grated pecorino
  • 25g chopped hazlenuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • juice of 1 lemon

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/450F/Gas Mark 8.
  2. In a food processor add all the pesto ingredients except the olive oil and blitz until relatively smooth. Now add the oil glug by glug until you have a slightly wet paste. You may not need it all. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Season the lamb, heat the oil in a red hot frying pan and sear the lamb until golden brown on all sides. Place in a roasting pan and take a sharp knife to score a criss cross pattern lightly into the skin. Using your hand or a spoon smear half the pesto across the top of the meat and rub into the scores you have made.
  4. Place the roasting pan in your very hot oven for 15 mins, then turn the heat down to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and cook for a further 15mins, remove from the oven and cover with the rest of the pesto. Then cook for a further 10-15 mins on the same heat. This will give you perfect medium lamb. If you don’t like it pink, add a further 15 mins onto your cooking time.
  5. Now remove the roast from the oven, cover with foil and rest for 30-40 mins.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Wholemeal Hot Cross Buns

All images by Guildford Photographer Matt Pereira -

Can you think of anything nicer than warm, lightly toasted fruit bread with melting salty butter? When I was a small child Easter was such an exciting time, not just for the chocolate eggs but also for the abundance of hot cross buns. Fruit bread is my weakness. My kryptonite. Even now the sight of a Little Chef brings back memories of long journeys dragging a caravan and a collie down the M1 with the occasional Toasted Teacake break, although a recent attempt to relive that memory with my husband resulted in the worst latte I've ever had in my entire life.

Presented with toasted fruit bread all will power and good intentions fade to naught and these light wholemeal hot cross buns are just the ticket to persuade me I'm actually being healthy. This Easter, whatever your plans are, make yourself a batch of these and brew a lovely pot of fresh coffee. Take 10 minutes out of your morning to sit and relax before the egg hunts start and the sugar rush kicks in.

Happy Easter.

All images by Guildford Photographer Matt Pereira -

 For the buns
  • 200g strong white flour
  • 250g strong wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 3 tsp, dried activeyeast
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 100g currants
  • 50g chopped candied peel
  • 50g soft  butter
  • 150ml luke warm milk
  • 75ml luke warm water
  • 1 large egg, beaten
For the crosses:
  • 40g plain flour
  • 3 tbsp water approx
For the glaze:
  • 1 tbs caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water

  1. Pre­heat the oven to 220°C, gas mark 7.
  2. Whisk the dried active yeast together with 75ml of luke warm water and 1 tsp of the caster sugar, leave it to activate for 10 minutes. It will froth up like beer.
  3. Mix together all the flour, mixed spice, salt, caster sugar, dried fruit and mixed peel and mix it all together well. Make a well in the centre of this dry mix.
  4. Add the butter and beaten egg to the to the well and start to combine. Add the yeast mix to the dough and enough of the luke warm milk to combine into a nice soft dough. You may not need all the milk. The dough is ready when it has a nice smooth finish and the bowl is clean. Knead it for about 10 minutes. Alternatively this can also be done in a bowl mixer.
  5. Cover the bowl with lightly oiled cling film and let it rise. Leave the bowl at room temperature - it should take about 1.5 -2hrs. When it has doubled in volume it is ready.
  6. Now turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and very carefully knock back the dough by folding the sides back into the centre. Don’t be too rough here. We don’t want to lose all the air in there,
  7. Divide the mixture into twelve using a knife. Depending on how precise you wish to be you can weigh the total amount of dough and then weigh out 12 equal portions.
  8. Roll out twelve even buns and place on a lined baking sheet. Make a cross on the top of each one with a knife, cover with the lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  9. To make the crosses mix the plain flour with the water to make a thick paste, fill up a piping back and snip off a very small piping hole.
  10. When the buns are risen pipe a cross of paste on top of each one and bake for 15-20 mins in the middle of the oven.
  11. To make the glaze dissolve the sugar and water together in a small saucepan until you have a smooth syrup.
  12. Remove the buns from the oven when ready, brush lightly with the syrup and then leave the tray to cool on a rack to get the air flow beneath it.

All images by Guildford Photographer Matt Pereira -

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Gluten free chocolate and raspberry torte

This chocolate torte is light and airy and goes perfectly with a lovely cup of tea. The whisked egg whites give a glorious ganache like texture to the torte and the end result is indulgent and rich. Don't be put off by the whisking. It's a remarkably easy cake to make but you do need to remember a couple of basic principles when whisking egg whites: always use incredibly clean and dry bowls and utensils as any impurity will result in the whites not whisking quite as well. This is turn will give you a slightly heavier torte. It will still taste like heaven though!

  • 200g gluten-free dark chocolate (70% - 80% cocoa solids)
  • 50g butter
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50ml single cream
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 150g raspberries
  • 20cm spring-form tin

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
  2. Line the base of a spring-form tin with baking paper. and brush the sides with melted butter and then lightly dust with ground almonds
  3. Heat the chocolate and the butter in bain marie
  4. Whisk the yolks and the sugar together until fluffy peaks start to form.
  5. Stir the melted chocolate and butter into the egg and sugar mix and gently combine. 
  6. Stir in the single cream and the ground almonds.
  7. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form then gently fold them into the chocolate mixture a third at a time.
  8. Now fold in the raspberries, taking care not to knock too much of the air out of the mix
  9. Pour into the prepared cake tin.
  10. Bake in the oven for about 25–30 minutes. The sides should be cooked but the centre should be slightly underdone.
  11. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin before turning out. I like to sprinkly the top with a coating of sieved icing sugar and serve with a handful of raspberries and some whisked cream.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Raspberry, white chocolate and macadamia nut blondie

Most of us are familiar with the chocolate brownie. The gooey, nutty, bitesize chunks have been a firm favourite at kids parties, barbeques and round these parts as after run treats, for as long as we can remember. This little beauty is a variation of kid's favourite. It uses white chocolate instead of dark and incorporates the upmarket macadamia nut and raspberry. So it looks and sounds a little bit more adult. Don't worry though, it's still unctious and soft and just that right level of sweet to compliment your coffee. I've been known to keep a batch of these ready cut and individually wrapped in clingfilm in my freezer so that I can take one out before my run and then enjoy one with coffee once the effort is over. You don't have to freeze them of course, but with my will power it's the only way I can guarantee I won't just eat the entire tray in one sitting. The important thing to remember here is that due to it's high fat content white chocolate burns very easily. If the tray isn't cooked in the allotted time simply knock the temperature down by 10 degrees and keep it baking for a touch longer, just keep checking after 5 min intervals. Don't be tempted to turn the heat up all the top will darken very quickly.

  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g melted butter
  • 150g plain flour
  • 225g white chocolate
  • 100g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
  • 100g fresh raspberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 150C
  2. Place a bain marie on the stove and break 200g of the white chocolate into it. The chocolate will melt in the bowl as the water simmers beneath it
  3. Beat together the sugar and butter until you have a light, creamy texture
  4. Carefully beat in the eggs one by one. If the texture looks like it is starting to split you can add a tablespoon of the flour and continue to beat until all the eggs are incorporated into a smooth mixture
  5. Slowly fold in the flour until all the lumps are removed. You should now have a nice light, airy mix
  6. Mix in the white chocolate until completely incorporated
  7. If you are using a bowl mixer now remove the bowl attachment and stir the nuts, the raspberries and the remaining chocolate (roughly chopped) into the mixture so that they are evenly spread.
  8. Pour into the pre-lined 9" square pan and place into the centre of the oven for approximately 1 hour. Do a taste with a cake tester (or a thin skewer) after approx 45-50 mins.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Roast Carrot Spaghetti

I know it's Christmas and everything but this gradual weight gain has just got to stop. I've injured my foot and can't run as much as I normally do although I suspect that is going to pale into insignificance now it's December and I have eaten at least 4 mince pies a day since the first of the month.

So I've been trying to get as much veg and juice as I can, in order to fill me up with good, healthy, energy giving sustenance before the festive season really kicks off. This next recipe came to me one night as I was foolishly attempting to survive on a green juice and a handful of nuts for my evening meal. Don't do it. It's a stupid idea. I knew I had the most amazing red and gold heritage carrots from Secretts in the fridge and I was amusing my hungry brain with taste combinations.

By itself this is a beautiful vegetarian salad, packed full of vitamins and minerals. We accompanied it with a nice fresh barnsley chop.

  • 300g carrots, spiralised  Alternatively use a peeler to slice of long strips or do a fine julienne with by hand.
  • 5 beetroot, cooked, peeled and quartered
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced
  • 70g pumpkin seeds
  • 70g goats' cheese
  • Olive oil for roasting
  • Balsamic vinegar for roasting
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C, or 180C fan assisted
  2. Toss the carrot with salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil, spread on a large baking tray and roast in the oven for 20 mins
  3. At the same time toss the beetroot in balsamic vinegar with salt and pepper, spread on another tray and roast them off for 20 mins.
  4. Sauté the onion and garlic on a low heat until completely soft but not browing. This should take as long as it takes the carrot and the beetroot to soften.
  5. When everything is ready carefully mix it all together in a large bowl with the pumpkin seeds and crumbled up goat's cheese. The carrot spaghetti is delicate so be carefully not to break it up too much. Season to taste and serve.

Bakewell Tart

Bakewell or Derbyshire tart reminds me of school. I went to a tiny little infant and junior school in West Yorkshire and have very fond memories of the school dinners there. Mainly because while the majority of the food was fairly standard school canteen fayre, certain things stood out as being a cut above the rest. Bakewell tart day was always a good day and I can still remember the glee with which we'd read the blackboard as we formed our neat yet noisy little uniformed queues.  At school it was always served in little squares with a liberal helping of glutinous custard. Nowadays I prefer to make the little individual tarts and serve with a light dollop of chantilly cream or just good ol' plain double cream poured straight over the top.

I've included the recipe the pastry and the jam filling. You can of course buy these. Let's be honest, it's easier. When I first learned how to make frangipane I was amazed that something so rich and complex tasting could possibly be so easy, so basically if you buy your pastry in and use a supermarket jam, you've got yourself a quick, simple yet stunning crowd-pleaser.

For the sweet pastry
  • 250g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 100g unsalted butter (soft)
  • 2 eggs at room temp
  • 100g sifted icing sugar
For the frangipane

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 10g plain flour
For the raspberry jam
  • 250g raspberries
  • 30g caster sugar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • handful of flaked almonds for topping
  1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the icing sugar, butter and salt mix in with your finger tips, as if making a crumble. Once the flour mix is slightly grainy make a well in the middle and add the egg, working the egg into the flour until a dough begins to form. Once the dough is amalgamated knead it one or tho times, wrap in cling film and chill down for 2 hours before use.
  2. Preheat your oven to 180C and grease a 23cm tart tin or smaller individual tin. On a floured surface role out the pastry and line the required tins, cover in a paper cartouche, fill with baking beans and blind bake for 10-15 mins, or until golden brown.
  3. While this is baking make the compote by adding fruit, sugar and lemon juice to a pan and heating to a low simmer for approximately 10 minutes. The mixture should start to thicken into a loose jam consistency. Leave to cool slightly.
  4. To make the frangipane beat the sugar and the butter together in a large bowl until fluffy then add the eggs one by one and beat until the mixture is completely smooth and light. Gently fold in the ground almonds and the flour until full incorporated and devoid of lumps.
  5. When you remove the pastry from the oven carefully remove the beans and paper and check to see if the pastry looks crisp on the bottom. If not, pop it back into the oven for a couple of minutes. This will prevent sogginess. Now spread the compote across the bottom of the pastry case in an even layer. Carefully spoon the frangipane onto the jam layer, using a wide knife to completely cover it, taking care not to mix it in too much. Once you have a nice even top of frangipane pop it back into the oven and bake on 180C for 20 mins. You can tell when it's ready as it will start to rise in the middle. Sprinkle the top with the almonds and return to the oven for a final 5 minutes then cool on a rack. Do not remove from the tart case until it is completely cool. Once the tart is completely cool you can trim the pastry with a sharp knife.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Sous vide by Victoria Glass

A couple of years ago my friend and fellow caterer gave herself the mammoth task of cooking the entire alphabet over the course of 12 months. Each supper club had a designated letter and every fortnight Vic and her partner invited a varied selection of like-minded gluttons into their home for bacchanalian feasts that sometimes had as many as 13 courses. Let's just say she likes to cook. She likes to feed people. She likes people to be happy.

So when I received an email stating that she was cooking an entire meal in the sous vide and would I like to attend I pretty much cleared my diary. As a chef I've cooked in a sous vide before but it's honestly not an instrument I've used a lot. Each item is carefully vacuum packed or wrapped and then submerged into the water bath to be cooked at a very precise temperature. The results are astounding. Vegetables taste as vibrant and fresh as if they were raw, meat cooks evenly from end to end and turns into an almost butter like texture, and the texture of fish changes completely until you get an almost cevicche texture with a piercing fresh flavour..

Now I'm going to be honest here, while I love the flavours and textures produced by the sous vide this is not a method of cooking that is ideal for the home due to a certain level of hassle.  As mentioned there's the wrapping and you still have to seal/brown the meat if you want it to have that lovely crisp texture on the outside. I think if you were cooking one element in the machine for a dinner party it would be fine, but the challenge here was to cook everything. And this led to time constraints that wouldn't be necessary under less contrived circumstances. That was fine for us guests through, we all got on famously and we had plenty of wine to get through and even had some indoor fireworks to play with, what with it being bonfire weekend.

It was a Sunday Lunch. Naturally I got home just before midnight!

The menu was divine.  Our hostess is a heavenly cook, and can match flavours better than anyone I know. She really outdid herself here. I think if there was any weak element for me it would be the starter, a game bird terrine that somehow lacked the coherent textures I was expecting. The ham that was used to line the terrine still retained an oddly raw texture as a result of the sous vide procedure. The flavours however were delicious.

The main course is where the fireworks really started. The most succulent piece of pork belly I've ever tasted was served with a toffee apple, liquid smoke fondant potato, smoked garlic and pumpkin puree and kale. All lightly covered with a pork and port gravy that looked like velvet and tasted like ambrosia.

And the finale? Well I'm just going to describe it you. I think the ingredients say it all. Bonfire toffee, rum and ginger creme caramel using the sous vide machine as a precise bain marie. Creme caramel is my favourite dessert in the world, and since I've now shamelessly stolen her recipe this is the one I shall make forever more.

Sous Vide Bonfire Menu

Milli Taylor's spinach, fennel and cumin ricotta cakes 
from her new book, Party-perfect Bites.

Game Bird Terrine: pheasant, pigeon, partridge and guinea fowl 
(Apparently James I couldn't be contacted immediately about 
the gunpowder plot because he was off on a shoot!)

Pork belly served with toffee apple, liquid smoke fondant potato, 
smoked garlic and pumpkin puree, kale and pork and port gravy

Bonfire toffee, rum and ginger creme caramel

Milli's lovely spinach, fennel and cumin ricotta cakes.
Served with a glass of sparkly, naturally.
Game bird terrine

Pork belly served with toffee apple, liquid smoke fondant potato,
smoked garlic and pumpkin puree,
kale and pork and port gravy

Bonfire toffee, rum and ginger creme caramel
with dessert wine

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Perk up juice

I used to juice regularly but I somehow got out of the habit. I think I just got into blended smoothies a little more. But right now I'm trying to be as healthy as I can so I've gone back to using my juicer as a snack machine. By this I simply mean that I eat as healthier as I can across every single meal but rather than reaching for carb based snacks I'll opt of a juice. 

They are of course naturally very high in sugar so you have to be careful of your intake, but as an alternative to a couple of slices of toast, a cliff bar or (heaven forfend) a snickers, these are a great way of staving off your hunger with something sweet between meals at the same time as counting towards your 5-10 a day.

My afternoon pick me up tends to be this juice. The beetroot and apple add vitamin C, among other things, while the lettuce and celery bring an abundance of dietary fibre and also Vitamins A,C and K. The beetroot and apple lends a sweetness that stave off my chocolate cravings but the earthy flavour of the lettuce and celery balance it out so after you've drunk it you almost feel like you've had a meal. 

I love this juice.

  • 1 x juicer
  • 1 x glass
  • 1 x beetroot
  • 1 x apple
  • 1 x stick celery
  • 1 x romaine heart 

  1. Juice
  2. Pour
  3. Drink

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

All hail kale!

I'm having a bit of a love affair with kale at the moment. Those lovely thick, springy leaves offer so much in terms of health benefits, packed as they are with vitamins A, K and C, calcium, not to mention folic acid, magnesium and iron. And it's virtually fat free with a very low calorific content.

It's a powerhouse of a vegetable, it comes in many different forms, (curly, plain leaf, cavolo negro, purple, or spear) but the humble winter harvested brassica still has a bit of a bad rep. Despite all this good stuff it's too often associated with soggy, waterlogged leaves served in the deepest of winters, when everything else has given up the ghost. 

Such a shame, as it's just so versatile. Recently I've been using it raw in smoothies, or lightly blanched in salads but it can also be fried up all crispy with pork (think crispy seaweed), served with cream as a side dish, or added to dishes such as fish cakes, pies, risottos, curries, or omelettes. The irony tang goes exceptionally well with fish, bacon, goat's cheese, and pine nuts. 

This light salad is so quick and easy to prepare. I regularly roast a couple of chicken breasts to have with it or crisp up some pancetta to run through the salad. The dressing I use here is a very simple mix of shop bought mayonnaise, with a dash of white wine vinegar and sugar. It's also delicious with a homemade french vinaigrette or a caesar dressing. I'm a firm believer that there is a time and a place for hand made mayonnaise but a mid week, quick lunch is not one of them.

Cavolo negro, black bean and pine nut salad
  • 400g roughly shredded cavolo negro leaves
  • 150g black beans (ready to use not dry)
  • 50g pine nuts, toasted
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 stick celery, finely diced
  • 1 inch or cucumber, finely sliced
For the dressing
  • 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped dill

  1. Blanch the shredded kale in boiling water for approximately 5 minutes (until it has an al dente bite), drain and immediately plunge into ice cold water to stop it from cooking further. Then drain and squeeze any excess water out of the leaves.
  2. In a clean jam jar add all your dressing ingredients, screw on the lid and mix well by shaking the jar.
  3. Mix all the salad ingredients in a large bowl with the dressing.