Why is it that when you know you can’t eat lots of grains and flour, you really, really want CAKE?!  Especially, in my case, sticky, gooey gingerbread.

I have a couple of go-to books that are great for intolerants.  Cake Angels by Julia Thomas and The Intolerant Gourmet by Pippa Kendrick, who I’ve mentioned before on this blog.

I’ve adapted Julia’s Gingerbread  recipe here and its the one I shall be using for one layer of Wil and Angie’s wedding cake in March #watchthisspace.

Grease and line a 21cm square cake tin.  Heat your oven to 170C.

You will need black treacle and golden syrup here.  Top tip for how to measure it out at the bottom of this page.

175g molasses (black treacle)

75g runny honey

75g ginger syrup from the ginger jar

175g Flora or similar

100g dark  muscovado sugar

350g gluten free plain flour (brown or white)

0.5tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

3 preserved ginger chopped into small pieces

2 tsp ground flax seed (just grind in a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder) mixed with a little cold water

150ml soya or almond milk

Heat the runny ingredients and the margarine in a large saucepan, in a gentle sort of fashion.  Allow it to cool. Add the ground flax seed and its water (this is a raising agent). Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and mixed spice plus the chopped ginger and beat with a balloon whisk until it’s all combined and looks glossy.

Pour into the lined tin and bake in the middle of the oven. Check after one hour by inserting a skewer into the middle. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If not, put a square of tin foil on the top and bake for another 15 minutes or so at a slightly lower heat.

Cool the cake in the tin for an hour before removing to a wire cooling tray.

This cake tastes best if you can bear to leave it for a week in an airtight tin.  It’s lovely with a little runny icing drizzled on top.  Equally, it is delicious with Cheshire cheese!  You can also make more than one, cook in round cake tins and then sandwich together with whipped coconut cream.

Whipped coconut cream

Put a tin of high quality coconut cream (the liquid kind) in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, open it and pour away the liquid, reserving the remaining solid element.  Put this in your food mixer bowl then whisk with the balloon whisk until it is really thick (like double cream).  Add a little chopped preserved ginger, a teaspoon of vanilla essence and a tablespoon of maple syrup.  Whip again.  Then cut your cake in half and slather it on then add the top half!  If you feel really fancy you can even pipe it!

Believe me the combination of rich ginger cake, light coconut, maple syrup and vanilla is #fanbloodytastic


Weigh then grease a shallow dish then coat liberally with cornflour. Pour your syrup and treacle into the dish. Weigh it.  Slide out into the saucepan and you should have a clean dish and no sticky residue! I learned that at school!

Intolerant? Moi??

IMG_2468OK. So I am clearly entering Erikkson’s eighth psychosocial stage.  That of wisdom and despair.  I’m happy with the wisdom bit. And I’m not a despairing sort of person as those who know me will attest.  However I have found over the past 3 years that parts of me – including my digestive system – is more sensitive. Along with my first ever bout of gout, combining alcohol with my drug regime (!) and a dodgy hip.  And so a few adjustments have been made.  The good outcome is dropping two dress sizes.  Less good is being unable to drink beer, eat too much liver, mackerel, smoked salmon, sardines, spinach and cavolo nero, having to moderate the wine intake and be careful about eating too many grains.  Has it driven me to despair though?  No it hasn’t.  It’s another opportunity to adapt and find new things and new ways.  Does it mean I never eat any of those things? No!

So here’s my first ‘sensitive’ recipe.  Gluten-free vegan mince-pies.

Soak 100g raisins and a tablespoon of chia seeds n some hot tea for half an hour.  Drain then add 2tbsp maple syrup, 1tbsp of molasses and the grated rind of a small orange.  Grate two eating apples into the raisins and then 2 tbs pine-nuts and two of pumpkin seeds.  Add about 25g marzipan paste (egg free) chopped into tiny pieces. Add about 1 tbsp of any spirit such as brandy, whisky or port.  Combine all the ingredients.   Best do this a few hours before you are making the pastry – or put in a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge for no more than a week.

I used 240g of Dove’s Farm gluten-free flour for the pastry, half a teaspoon of salt, a sprinkle of baking powder, a little grating of lemon rind and 120g Flora.  Just make it like normal pastry by rubbing the fat into the flour, pull it together with some cold water and leave to rest for half an hour.  You will find that gluten-free flour makes a very ‘soft’ dough and – inevitably – it’s not very stretchy.  But it is perfectly workable with a little care.

Prepare  your tins by greasing liberally first, then  throw in some coarse semolina and swirl around the base and the sides.  This makes the finished article lovely and crisp on the bottom and prevents stickage!  Roll out the dough, use a cutter that’s big enough (don’t know about you, but incy-pincy mince-pies look so mean, so I use a muffin tin – call me greedy if you like).  Fill the bases with your fruit mixture, then add the pastry tops, using a little liquid to seal the edges.

#Three Top Tips.

  • Grease the tins and then throw a little coarse semolina into each depression and swirl it around to coat the bottom and the sides
  • Use a round-bladed knife just to ease the edges away from the pan after you’ve added the tops, then they won’t seal as if stuck by super-glue when you try to take them out!
  • Mix a tablespoon or so of soya milk with a tiny amount of custard powder if you don’t like egg-wash.  Use egg-wash or the yellow milk to glaze the tops.

Bake toward the top of  a pre-heated oven at 200C for 15-20 minutes.  Check just before 15 minutes.  I swear you will burn the roof of your mouth because you won’t be able to wait for them to get cool!


Long day, cold night, hot pilau

So let me tell you about my day….. up early and do a 100 mile round trip to mother’s, counsellling myself to be good, not get cross and to be kind. I did all those things, we had a good natter, I checked through the ‘falls alarm’ details fitted last week, at last we agreed it would be a good idea if I did a supermarket order for her once a month we agreed a timetable for me reminding her to check the falls alarm and at the same time do the Waitrose order. I made her two latte’s, went to the Co-op, mended the phone and reminded her how to turn up the heating thermostat.  We agreed the rules (hers) for her 90th birthday party in May so nothing will be a surprise. Only as I had one foot in the van  did she hit me with her plan to get a mobility scooter. She’s subtle player, my mum.

Home in bright sunshine but by the time the tyres hit the drive it was snowing.  I inspected the crocuses and the #snowdrops, the white camelia buds about to get frost damage and smelled the heavenly scent of the Daphne Odora. And the hellebores were out.  Then I tackled two collapsed panels of side fence –  wind injured last week whilst we were gallivanting in blizzards at Seahouses.  Looking forward to a couple of hours with Jonathan Raban and the wood burner, I collapsed like a frozen thing into the kitchen.

But instead of Jonathan Raban I was sidetracked by Nigel Slater in Turkey on iPlayer and images of vegetable pilau kept floating around in my head.

Last night’s dinner was a good old standby and we had some left over.  Pilau would bulk it out.  Last night we had

Chick peas with coconut, chilli and tomato

This is so ridiculously easy and easily adaptable without fuss.  Pulse two onions, three fat cloves of garlic, a thumb of fresh ginger and a medium sized red chilli in the food processor. Then add two big carrots and pulse again but only so the carrot is chopped not puree’d. Heat some oil sufficient to cover the bottom of a medium sized saucepan or large terracotta dish, throw in the onion mixture, turn around in the oil. Add a cinnamon stick. Sweat for ten minutes.  Add a tin of chick peas and the juice, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, half a tin full of cold water, half a tin of creamed coconut, a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses (or brown sugar).  Mix together, clamp on the lid, bring to a slow simmer and then leave it for three hours. Then remove the lid, add some salt to taste. Take off the heat and just before serving add chopped fresh coriander.

Anyway, half that was left over from last night. Now for the


use a small Le Cruset for this, purchased in alimoges in 1982. It gets very hot on its little bottom and it gives the right amount of ‘crunch’ at the base of the pilau. Essential, I think.  On the hob, add oil and butter to the pan then add sufficient chopped vegetables (whatever you like) – I used cauliflower, onion, loads of garlic, carrot, aubergine, tomato.  Cook on a high heat, then add 1 tsp each of cumin and coriander powder, three ground black cardamom (or green, there is nothing precise here), three ground cloves, one teaspoon turmeric, a teaspoon of fennel seed and about a teaspoon of salt.  Mix well into the vegetables, then add two handfuls of brown Basmati rice, then a layer of spinach, then one handful of rice.  Pour in 500ml stock and put a lid on it and put in the oven.  The idea is to cook the rice with the lid on and crisp up the base.  Leave it for 45 minutes then check it. It should be done. Take off the lid, and dot with butter and a little home made garam masala (use ‘search’ on this site).


You can serve this with some of my chutney and pickle recipes, or just with yogurt.

I have been writing this whilst it is cooking and I can smell it is nearly done..  Himself has kindly poured me a glass of red and I am looking forward to settling down in the depths of the sofa for an hour (with or without Jonathan Raban) before a conversation with a couple about their wedding plans latter in the year (see my alter-ego if you are planning getting hitched) and hopefully you will find I am jus the same on that site too – loving life, loving food, loving new things, loving couples in love)!

Pasta dumplings

It is a dead cert that I will get a brilliant cookery book or two for Christmas. This year it was Kaukasis by Olga Hercules who – since her previous publication Mamushka – has become one of my favourite food writers. The fact that I was given two copies of Kaukasis, one from my daughter in law and one from my daughter just goes to show they both know me well. It wasn’t a problem as someone will be the lucky recipient of the second copy at some point during the year.

It is also a dead cert that rarely do I stick to a recipe as written on the page.  For me, all my (many) cook books are simply inspiration. A starting point. Dyushbara were no exception. In Georgian kitchens these little pasta dumplings would be filled with a mixture of spiced lamb and pork which in my ‘normal’ world would be fine. Except we are approaching 2018 and again I am leaving meat and fish and dairy off the menu for a few weeks.  And David is always and forever a vegetarian and I wanted him to try them too. So there was no meat and the pasta substituted tofu for eggs (there are other similar recipes for egg-free pasta on this blog).

First to the filling.  I spent a relaxing 5 minutes chopping onion, garlic, squash and half a dozen vacuum packed chestnuts and dark green kale into small pieces then I sweated them off in good Sicilian olive oil provided by Nino and Marion until the mixture was very soft.  Further flavourings of a scrape or two of nutmeg, a crushed clove of garlic, some chilli flakes and a little shake of smoked paprika were added.  I mashed it all together and left it to cool.

Then out came the Kenwood and its pasta attachment and into the food processor went 400g OO grade flour, 150g fine semolina, 175g  tofu, a teaspoon of salt, churned a bit till the tofu was mixed in then added  2tbs olive oil and 2tbs cold water. Processed again until it all came together into a clump.  If you press a little pasta between two fingers and it feels dry of grainy, add a little more oil and process again.  Then gather it all together into a ball, knead very lightly then cut the ball in half.  Put half into the freezer for lasagne sheets another day and wrap the other half in cling film,  and put into the fridge for 30 minutes.

Do a little test run with your pasta machine to make sure you remember how to work it! Alternatively, scatter a work surface generously with fine semolina and roll it out with a rolling pin. Either use the pasta machine or a rolling pin to roll out strips of dough then cut into 2cm squares, put just over half a teaspoon of the stuffing into each square wet the edges then fold once, corner to opposite corner, making a triangle. Pick it up and pull down two neighbouring corners to make a ‘tail’  (see picture).  Do this as many times as you need to get a collection of pasta dumplings on your tray.  Apparently in Georgia women make these swiftly and less than half the size. As they do in Italy.  Not in my kitchen – my fingers are not nimble and although this was a bit of a zen experience I wasn’t that keen!

At this point you can freeze them if you wish, or drop into a wide shallow pan of stock for 2-3 minutes remembering that home made pasta cooks in no time at all,  and serve in individual dishes with a little stock in the bottom and  sprinkled with sweet crispy fried kale or grated parmesan.

I can hear you muttering “too much hassle Dawn”.  But if you have a spare afternoon and it is too wet and cold to go fossil hunting in West Runton and the traffic in Norwich is sufficiently atrocious to prevent any attempt to get to the Rembrandt exhibition at the Castle Museum, then what could be lovelier then pottering around in the kitchen and messing up someone else’s recipe!


Post script – they were delicious!

Quick, light, easy pickles for last minute guests and as gifts

You can make all these in less than 45 minutes!

Davinder’s Lemon Pickle

Sandip brought these round one night – he is always so generous with his foodie gifts and they are always so delicious.  Later on his mum Davinder texted me the recipe for which I was very grateful – it couldn’t be easier.  Slice a lemon into eight pieces. Do this with 6 lemons. Put in a stainless steel bowl with a teaspoon of turmeric, as many chilli flakes as you dare, a couple of fresh chillies if you double dare.  Add six tablespoons of salt and half a small bottle of lemon juice. That’s it.  Pack everything into sterilised jars and add the juice and leave a week before eating. Keep in the fridge.

Cornersmith’s Fennel Pickle

This is from one of my favourite cookbooks – Cornersmith  – which is a co-operative in the suburbs of Sydney.  They take excess garden and allotment produce and make lovely things with it. Including this. I’ve adapted it slightly. One day I will go there. Slice two bulbs of fennel and one brown onion very thinly.  Put in a stainless steel bowl along with one tablespoon of fennel seed, one tablespoon of mustard seed, one tablespoon of nigella seed, one tablespoon of chilli flakes. one tablespoon of salt.  Mix.  Put 500ml organic apple cyder vinegar in a stainless steel saucepan along with 60ml agave syrup. Bring to the boil.  Pack your fennel tightly into sterilised jars and pour over the hot vinegar and seal.  Ready in a week, or sooner.  Will keep in the fridge for about a month but no longer. Great with cold meats and anything vegetarian, it doesn’t mind which.


You’ve read about this  before but it is my go-to condiment for fish, vegetarian, pasta, meat – the lot.  Go out in the garden and cut a very large handful of rosemary. Come indoors and turn on Radio 6Music. Remove all the leaves from the stems by stripping them off against the way they grow.  Use a nifty zester to remove the zest from three lemons.  Chop 4 large cloves of garlic.  Now get nifty with a knife or a mezzaluna and chop everything very fine – don’t use a blender or processor as it over-processes it and loses the freshness.  Put everything in a stainless steel bowl and add an equal quantity of seasalt or rocksalt.  Pour into a jar or jars.  Will keep for ages.  I suggest you don’t use this in cooking but rather use it as a last minute sprinkle just as the dish is finishing off in the oven – or on pasta once its drained.

An easy supper for a cold winter night

image from

OK so we’ve been out all day and driven 100 mile round-trip in all weathers except sun. It’s rained, hailed, snowed, was foggy and now it’s freezing fog and raining again.

The first priority when we arrived home was to get the woodburner going. The next, kettle on.  Then the easiest prep for the easiest of suppers.

Roughly chop a half of one medium sized cauliflower – into moderately sized florets but you don’t need to be careful about it.  Slice one onion. Peel and chop four cloves of garlic.  Chunk a couple of sticks of celery, chop two medium sized potatoes and slice one red pepper into thick slices.  Chop half a preserved lemon having first scooped out the flesh and discarded it.  Throw everything into  big bowl.  Season liberally with seasalt, chopped rosemary and grate in the rind of one lemon.  Add one dessert spoon of powdered turmeric and the same of hot smoked paprika.  Add 30ml olive oil.  Mix thoroughly and go away and read a book for a couple of hours in front of the fire and drink tea.

Turn on the oven to 190C.  Put just a little oil into a baking tray and put the tray in the oven to get smoking hot.  Whilst it is getting hot add 250ml tomato juice or a tin of chopped tomatoes to the contents of the bowl in which you are marinading the vegetables.  Add one 1litre jar or two tins of chick peas and their water.  Mix in with the vegetables. So far so easy huh?

Remove the smoking hot tray from the oven.  Pour in the contents of the bowl. Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon. Put the tray back in the oven for 40 minutes.  Pour a gin and tonic.  Go back to the sofa and your book.  It just gets easier and easier!

When 40 minutes is up, empty one bag of pre-cooked rice into a jug and microwave for two minutes.  Chop some kale into a saucepan and add a scant amount of water, clamp on the lid and set to high so that it steams rather than cooks – just for a couple of minutes – you will know you’ve done it right if you don’t need to drain the kale and it’s done!

Take the tray of scorching hot vegetables out of the oven and drizzle some pomegranate molasses over the top – maybe 20ml or so.  Take a jar of aubergine chutney out of the cupboard. Take a jar of fermented carrots out of the fridge (recipe to come later) and pour 150ml Kefir into a small bowl – or you can use good organic yogurt  – and sprinkle with some fennel seed.  Now let everything that is hot rest for five minutes.

Now plate up – some rice, some roasted cauliflower and chick pea with sauce, some crispy kale. all garnished with carrot, some chutney and some cooling raita.  All in the time it takes to drink a G&T and read a couple of chapters.

Woodburner is burbling away. Himself is watching Japanese woodturning on Youtube with his headphones on. I’m on the sofa contemplating a second G&T and whether I should read another chapter of David Storey’s Saville or watch the final episode of Outlander. It’s been that sort of a day.

Veganuary Days 12 & 13 Ceps, Porcini and all things mushroom

mushroom-976592_1920We are huge fans of mushrooms in this house.  On non vegan days, lots of them, cooked in butter and garlic – on sourdough toast  – over a leisurely breakfast on Saturday. With lots of coffee, and long conversations before we get started with the day.

Or large and small mushrooms chopped and fried with onion and garlic and a little potato and finished off with cream. On non vegan days.

Or sautee’d with leek and garlic and topped with sourdough breadcrumbs and parmesan and flashed under the grill. On non vegan days.

Or very lightly smoked, chopped fine in the food processor and mixed with a little salt, black pepper and cream cheese then dropped into hot pasta. On non vegan days.

But what about the VEGAN days?  Mushrooms in all their various forms can definitely hold their own without need for dairy.

On Day 11 I was browsing around Norwich market and at the front of my favourite fruit and veg stall  were some beautiful ceps. I had no inkling that I was going to buy ceps that day but they looked so wonderful it would have been a sin not to.  So I bough four big fat ones.  I was succumbed to an unbidden vision of them settling into a fragrant fennel, leek and pea risotto. And so it was.

Leek, fennel and pea risotto with porcini mushrooms

rotfurohrling-1571066_1920Risotto is a friendly  and comforting meal and at home we always have it in a bowl. Never on a plate.  It is quite hard to spoil it and my preference is for it to be ‘soupy’ and definitely not dry like a paella. Don’t get the two confused.  This is why you use different rice for these two dishes.  Arborio rice – for paella – has a shorter grain and a starch that melts around the edges of each grain which gives the risotto creamy texture. Paella rice is harder has a long grain which means the grains tend not to stick to one another.

For two people, saute finely chopped onion (one small), celery (one stick) and fennel (half a medium sized bulb) in olive oil. When soft, add two chopped cloves of garlic and the grated zest of half a lemon. Then add a mug full of arborio rice and move it around gently to coat the grains in oil. Then turn up the heat and add a wine glass full of Noilly Prat or Fino sherry or dry white wine. My preference is for the Prat. Let it bubble and splutter and boil away until the alcohol has reduced to almost nothing. Then turn the heat down to low and add a ladle full of hot vegetable stock, stir, and gradually add stock as needed (every time it has all but disappeared from the rice pan), it really does make a difference if you add the stock bit by bit and stir every few minutes. Don’t be tempted to throw it in all at once. In fact,  consider it your gift to yourself. This is all you need to do for the next 20 minutes. Just stand, ladle in more stock and stir. It is a contemplative and simple task.  You will probably use about 750ml stock using this method.  You can be clever and make your own stock – which I sometimes do – or use one of those lovely Knorr (or similar) stock pot thingys.

Wipe two medium sized ceps and make sure they have no evident grit.  Slice them into thick slices, length ways, and drop into good olive oil and garlic and fry gently until they are tinged with golden brown at the edges. Did I just say ‘golden brown’? …… until they are brown at the edges.

Back to the risotto.  Check the stock level in the risotto – by about 20 minutes it should be nearly ready – by which I mean the rice will be just cooked and there will still be stock in the pan –  and it should be looking creamy.  At this stage check the seasoning. I suggest you don’t add salt early in the cooking because if you are using stock pots or cubes they are likely to be salty. So check the seasoning and adjust toward the end of the cooking time, and if you are not vegan,  add a handful of parmesan and frozen peas and a large knob of butter. And maybe a little chopped fresh mint leaves.  If you are vegan, just add the peas and the mint!  Cook for a couple more minutes and then serve.  Just be aware that the longer you wait at this stage, the quicker the rice will absorb any liquid, so always have a little more liquid than you think you need in the pan because by the time you have fiddled for a couple of minutes the thirsty grains will have sucked it all up.

Make sure your bowls are warm then spoon in the creamy risotto.  Top with the ceps, a grating of lemon zest and sea salt flakes. And parmesan if you must.  In our house it is obligatory to eat this curled up on the sofa, accompanied by slurping and little gasps of pleasure.

Mushroom pate – would that be smoked or unsmoked madam?

mushrooms-1167181_1280Take 250g mushrooms of any type and check they are grit and dirt free. If you are smoking them, either use your home smoker or if you don’t have one I suggest you use an old saucepan and a camping gas stove and do this outside.  Throw a small handful of the  wood shavings of your choice into an old pan or enamel breadbin with a rack (maybe an old cooking rack cut to size).  Huge Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage book on simple smoking and preserving is a good one and gives you more detail.  Place the mushrooms on the rack and light the wood shavings (make sure the rack is a few inches above the shavings so any initial flames don’t flare up and scorch the mushrooms).  Put the lid on and allow to smoke away for about 15 minutes.  Then remove them and allow to cool.

Now to our old friend the food processor.  Process the cooled mushrooms (or the unsmoked mushrooms) until finely chopped then add one tub of Tofutti cream soy cheese (or cream cheese for non-vegans), and combine with the mushrooms. Check whether it needs any salt, and add a couple of grinds of black pepper and a little tiny grate of nutmeg. That’s it!  Remove from the processor then if you like you can add chopped chives or herbs such as chopped dill or tarragon.  It really is yummy  — on toast, in sandwiches, on crackers and in jacket potatoes – but make sure use it up within a couple of days.

#12Days Spinach, pine nut and sweet potato b’stilla Day 10


In Morocco b’stilla is just ‘pie’.  You can fill it with whatever you like, and I have made a chicken and a pheasant version. But this one is for vegans and vegetarians.  It’s one of those dishes that people eat, look quizzical and ask “oo, what’s in it”?  It’s flavoured with a little cinnamon and spices. It’s rich and the flavour goes on and on. It looks impressive too. Especially if you drift just a little icing sugar over it.  Yes! It is a classic combination of North African flavours that include sweet and savoury. The proportions are entirely up to you, however. This recipe feeds 8. Just make two if you have more guests!

First the filling.  Sweat a large chopped onion with three chopped garlic cloves, a small de-seeded red or green chilli, a grated thumb of fresh ginger. Then add a large peeled and chopped sweet potato and some chopped carrot.  Sweat these till they are soft too.  Add a good grating of nutmeg and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, four large deseeded and chopped tomatoes, salt and black pepper. Stir these in and sweat for a further 10 minutes. Add a little more oil if necessary.  Now you have a choice.  If you have chard in the garden or can lay your hands on some, then chop about 5 large leaves and stalks and lay on top of the mixture in the pan. Alternatively you can use spinach or kale or broccoli. Add about 30ml water put the lid on the pan and cook again for 5 minutes to just cook the greens. Check the seasoning again.  Add a good helping of chopped flatleaf parsley and coriander leaf. At this point you can, if you wish, add about 100g pine nuts and 100g Lexia raisins if you wish.

Now, take a packet of Filo pastry you purchased earlier.  Either use individual tins (see picture) or a large springform cake tin, or just a baking tray on which you can make a parcel. Grease and shake some coarse semolina around the tins. Regular readers of this blog will know that semolina is my favourite ingredient when it comes to greasing and lining tins. It adds a bit of crunch and is better than dusting with flour in my opinion.

Lay squares of overlapping filo over the tins with lots of pastry hanging over the edge. Grease the filo sheets with a little oil as you go. Rotate the tin clockwise with every sheet of filo so the points of the pastry are in different places. Add the filling and push to the edges, sift a little icing sugar over the filling, then fold the pastry sheets over the top, scrunching them up a bit in a haphazard sort of way.  Brush with oil and bake in the oven at 190C for about 35 minutes.  If you are making a big pie, you can do this on a lined baking tray. Use the same method re the pastry except use whole sheets. Pile all the filling in the middle, flatten it out, then fold the pastry over the top. This one will take about 50 minutes to cook. Lining the tray makes it a) stop sticking and b) you can drag the whole thing off the baking tray and onto a flat plate!

If you like the idea of a sweet edge then very lightly dust with icing sugar when ready to serve.  You could even, if you’re feeling fancy, scorch lines on the top with a hot skewer. Or not, if you have a life!


Hummus is a regular in our house but it took me ages to get to the stage where I was happy with it. Happy enough to say yes, that’s just about as good as I’ve eaten in Turkey. I thought I knew what hummus was until I ate it with warm flatbread lounging on a large cushion in Istanbul.  Then I realised it is meant to be creamy not sliceable, and that it is enhanced by more lemon.

Take one tin of chickpeas and drain them but keep the liquid.  Life’s too short to boil dried chick peas for an hour, let’s face it.  Put in the food processor with two cloves of garlic, half a teaspoon of cumin powder (fresh, not that stuff you’ve had in the back of the cupboard for years please), a three finger pinch of salt.  Blitz in the processor till broken into fine bits. Then scrape down the sides of the processor and add 100g tahini. Blitz again. Then add the juice of a lemon, about a tablespoon of good olive oil and then in a slow trickle, add about 75ml of the liquid you drained from the can, running the processor all the time until the hummus is smooth. Really smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Now, some of you might have already known about the adding the liquid trick. But I didn’t and it makes all the difference – turning the hummus into a wonderful smooth emulsion.

Smoky stuffed aubergine

I invented this in Spain where, you  will remember, we had one working gas ring and a woodburning oven.

First, slice your aubergine/s in half lengthways.  First brush with olive oil.  Then season well with salt and pepper.  Insert slices of raw garlic into the flat side.  Put your griddle pan on the heat until it is very hot.  Then put the aubergines flat side down on the griddle. Note that I oiled the aubergine and not the pan.  That way, you reduce the amount of black smoke in your kitchen!  The idea is that you char the aubergine on both sides.  Don’t be tempted to turn it over too quickly or you will leave the contents of the aubergine on the griddle.  Leave it until it is brown and crispy. There is method in the madness here because this is what gives the aubergine its wonderful smoky flavour.  When brown and crispy on the flat side, turn it over.  Depending on the fierceness of the heat it can take between 20 and 30 minutes to cook the aubergine so that the flesh is soft and cooked inside.  If you don’t have a griddle pan use your woodburning oven (that was a joke!) or put them under the grill.

Meanwhile put about a cup full of couscous into a shallow dish (one cup full for two aubergine, so double up for more).  Pour boiling water over the couscous until it is just covered. Then put a tea towel over the dish and it will steam away gently all by itself.  Whilst it is cooking itself under the tea towel, gently soften some onion in plenty of butter and olive oil and add a big chopped garlic clove and a measure of sunflower seeds near the end of the cooking time.  Then add, to your taste, chopped green or black olives, chopped ripe tomato (minus the seeds and juicy bits).  Putting the tomato in last is deliberate.  I’m not aiming for a thick tomatoey sauce here – more a cous cous content with texture and tomato evident as tomato instead of juice.

Having removed the aubergine from the pan when it is cooked, it is probably cool enough to handle now.  Put a double layer of kitchen towel on one hand and scoop out most of the aubergine flesh with a dessert spoon and mix into the cous cous mixture.  Try to keep the skin intact. Now you have a wonderful smoky filling, moist with tomato and garlicky onion, spiked with salty olives. The only thing left to do is to add loads of chopped mint, season with salt and black pepper, then pile back into the aubergine skins.

Put in the oven (woodburning or otherwise) at 160C for about 25 minutes till hot and the skins practically bursting.  If you wanted you could add a  little feta on the top before serving and a fresh sprinkling of mint.  We served this with a salad of green beans dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt and fresh oregano.

Chestnut Pie

Forever ago, in the 70s I remember Delia published a recipe for chestnut pie in the London Evening Standard. I cut it out and put it in one of those little scrap books many of us had in our kitchens when we were young, eager and acquisitive. A couple of years ago my brother in law Mark made the most delicious chestnut pie when we were staying with them in Bristol and he said it was a Delia recipe. My old scrap book had long been consigned to the bin but I was really pleased when he photocopied it for me (typewritten, faded, spattered with dried-on ingredients).

So. Here we go.

Melt some butter, add a finely chopped onion and celery and a large clove of garlic. Fry until soft then all one chopped skinned tomato, 225g chestnut puree, 200g chopped cashews and walnuts, 125 finely chopped mushrooms, half a teaspoon of paprika, chopped fresh thyme and basil, one beaten egg, 1 tablespoon of brandy. Mix all the ingredients together and season well with black pepper a little salt and a tablespoon of Burgess’ mushroom ketchup. Put in the fridge.

Then fry slices of large field mushrooms in butter and garlic, sufficient to fill one layer of your tin.

I find the pie is easiest to manage (ie serve) if I put it in small loaf tins rather than one big tin. Doing this ensures it is cooked in the middle and the slices are a good enough size without being unwieldly. So I use two small (500g) loaf tins, preferably non-stick.

Cut a big square of baking parchment. Chop off 80% chunk of pastry and roll it out on the parchment till you have a rectangle large enough to fit the base and sides of your tin. Put four little bits of pastry in each corner of the tin and drop in a piece of baking parchment along the length of the tin and up the ends (not sides). Press it down onto the little bits of pastry. Crazy I know. But foolproof. Not all ‘non-sticks’ are non-stick and there is nothing more frustrating than a pie in a tin that won’t budge when you want to get it out. This way, you can just lift it out.

So, with pastry in the tin add the filling and then top with the field mushrooms you cooked earlier. Then roll out the pastry lid, brush a little beat egg round the edge of the pie, roll the lid onto it , press down to make a good seal, then ‘knock up’ the edges with the blunt side of the knife. Brush with egg wash, piece the top and cook in the middle of the oven at 220C for about 25 minutes. It’s yummy.


My dear bruv-in-law has corrected my previous posting about Chestnut, walnut and mushroom pie. And I stand corrected. Here’s what he said:

“actually for the sake of accuracy/credit where credit is due the recipe is by Rose Elliott (rather than Delia), it was her famous Woman’s Hour recipe – back in the days of fact sheets it was the subject of the highest ever number or requests for a WH factsheet and the pdf I sent you was a scan of our original copy. The recipe is now in a Rose Elliott vegetarian recipe book, still described as the Woman’s Hour recipe. It’s a great favourite of ours and works well for a veggie Christmas dinner, non veggie guests like to have some too – it’s like stuffing to go with their turkey or whatever”

Thanks Mark.

Punchy Noodles

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There is no doubt in my mind, that this noodle dish is a combination that gets me salivating every time.  It is hot, fragrant, smoky and crispy.  You could add a small handful of crushed unsalted peanuts if you wanted. Or prawns. Or chicken.  Tonight it is sans everything with the exception of marinated smoked tofu, which is rapidly becoming one of my favourite ingredients.

Chop the tofu into chunks and marinade in dark soy sauce (about 25 ml) and a good squeeze of agave nectar.  Then chop and slice your favourite stirfry ingredients – tonight it is spring onions, long red peppers, carrot, fennel, little slivers of spring green.  Pound together two large cloves of garlic and a stick of lemongrass (if you look closely you can see mine has ice on it – it freezes really well) and a couple of red or green chillies and a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger (this also freezes well) and mix these ingredients with about 25ml rapeseed oil. Put 50ml fish sauce and 50ml tamarind concentrate in a saucepan with a couple of dessert spoons of agave nectar or brown sugar, bring to the boil and then take off the heat.

When you are ready to eat, pour boiling water over as many rice noodles as you want, leave them for just a couple of minutes and then drain and cool by running them under the tap.  Whack the wok on the burner with a little oil in the bottom.  When it is smoking, add the garlic/lemongrass/chilli and ginger. Stir it round for a couple of minutes then add all the vegetables.  Keep them moving round in the wok all the time for just a couple of minutes then throw in the tofu with its marinade (or chicken or prawns and.or peanuts). Stir round again till hot, then add the fish sauce mixture or, as an alternative, 100ml coconut milk.  Add the noodles last, mix gently whilst still on the heat.  Pour into bowls, squeeze over some lime juice and chopped coriander leaf.

Head for the sofa with this steaming fragrant bowl of loveliness, a glass of beer and a good book.  Bliss.

via Facebook.

Seitan pot pie

I am not going to post a picture because quite frankly, Seitan looks disgusting. But in the spirit of enquiry I steeled myself to make this. The recipe is adapted from one in Veganomican which has become my bible this month. I’ve learned a lot in the process.

So. Seitan? It is wheat gluten – obviously no good for wheat intolerants – separated from the rest of the wheat. You can make it yourself and I haven’t tried that yet, Instead I bought some ready-made in a jar from Rainbow Wholefoods. It looks distressingly faecal. Sorry!

Drain the liquid and marinaded the seitan chunks in dark soy sauce, a squeeze of agave nectar, a crushed clove of garlic and a little cayenne for a couple of hours. Meanwhile, sauté a cup of finely diced onion, another of carrot, another of celery and celeriac, plus some garlic, in about 75ml olive or rapeseed oil till soft and then add 3 tablespoons of gram (chickpea) flour which is really soft and a beautiful creamy yellow. Turn the heat down and keep stirring, you are aiming for the colour to deepen. After 4-5 minutes, add 1 teaspoon of mustard powder and gently pour in 100ml white wine, stirring all the time till the sauce thickens. Then add the seitan and its marinade, about 100ml vegetable stock and some frozen peas. Because i have become obsessed with Freekah this month, I also added a tablespoon of that too. Cook it gently for about 15 minutes till all the flavours have combined and the vegetables are soft.

When I tasted it I was so surprised, and delighted, to find the flavour deeply savoury and with no need for further seasoning. Pour into a deep pie dish (cute little porcelain blackbird in the middle) and let it cool.

Meanwhile make pastry! 50g wholewheat flour, 50g plain flour and 50g gram flour, a spoon-end of baking powder with some salt and 75g margarine (yes, in the old days, it would have been butter!) roughly rubbed in and bound with unsweetened almond milk till it comes together in the bowl. Cover and leave till you are ready and the seitan and vegetables are cooled. Then roll out the pastry between two sheets if parchment paper, make a little running strip of pastry around the edge of the dish, moisten the top and then lay on the pastry lid and crimp up the edges. Make a milk wash by mixing one teaspoon of mustard powder with 25ml almond milk and brush it all over the top and the edges of the pastry. Place in the centre of the oven at 190c for about 30 minutes or until the juices are bubbling up around the blackbird and the pastry is golden.

Served with peppery potato and leek mash let down with olive oil, and dark savoy cabbage it makes a hearty supper. I cannot tell a lie. So long as you do not have to look at seitan, in this dish it tasted delicious! I would be interested to hear from you if you use seitan regularly- tell me what you cook!

#Veganuary Day 7 Freekeh with pumpkin and Collejas

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This is a quick and easy one.  After a busy day (reading, gardening) I just want something quick and easy.  Freekeh, like quinoa, is stacked with protein and doesn’t need to be combined with legumes to complete the protein chain (unlike, for example, brown rice).  Simply boil it in a little stock or water. It only takes 10 minutes.  I combined mine with chunks of roasted pumpkin and shallot and the sweetest, smokiest black garlic sent by Fran from the Isle of Wight. For which many thanks. My own experiment with black garlic has yet to produce anything remotely like the Isle of Wight black garlic.

Now to the main act.  Collejas.  Greens with almonds to you! It’s one of David’s favourite dishes and he is in charge of cooking it in case you think I’ve had a sex change.

Chop any sort of greens (David used Savoy here, but spring greens are just as lovely).  Saute chopped carrot and onion in olive oil or Yare Valley rapeseed oil till soft and then season. Remove from the pan, then add a good handful of whole almonds (preferably with skins on) and saute them for a couple of minutes. Remove from the pan. Whilst cooling, quickly blanch the greens in about 100ml of water with a lid on tight till slightly underdone, then drain – keep the cooking water.  Crush the almonds, but keep some chunky bits. Put the carrot and shallot back in the pan with the oil, add the greens then throw in the almonds.  Season.  Add a small amount of the reserved cooking water, clamp on the lid and cook for one more minute.  Voila!