Ready Steady Cook 3: Shakshuka

Ready Steady Cook Viral Antidote 3 is for Sheila Horner.  Oh Sheila, how we wish we were sitting on your terrace staring at the Sierra de la Contraviesa!!  I’ve cooked this – and variations of it – many times in your kitchen.

Sheila asked what can she do with a tin of tuna, a tin of chick peas and tomato puree.  Well you live in Spain girl, the answer is in your kitchen!

Shakshuka is a smoky mix of onions, red pepper and eggs.  Today I am adding tuna and chick peas.

In a wide shallow pan,  gently fry onions and chopped garlic in lots of olive oil.  When soft, add 2 sliced red peppers, a good heaped teaspoon of hot smoked paprika, four large or six small fresh tomatoes, a tin of chick peas with its liquid, a generous tablespoon of tomato puree. Mix it all together an add another 150ml water, salt, black pepper. Clamp on the lid and simmer away for 10 minutes then remove the lid, stir and simmer for 20 more.  The aim is to reduce the liquid by half but still leave juice in the pan. Now chop a generous handful of parsley and some fresh coriander add a desert spoon of brown sugar and stir the sugar and the herbs into the pan.  Check the seasoning. It should be deeply tomatoey, slightly sweet and thick but not runny. Drain the tuna and dot the chunks over the surface, pushing them down slightly.  Now make four indentations in the mixture and drop an egg into each indentation.  Lightly sprinkle the eggs with hot smoked paprika. Put the lid on again and cook gently for about 10 minutes. If you want your eggs runny cook it for about 5 minutes. Always with the lid on.  Take off the heat, remove the lid and leave for 5 minutes.  Serve with crispy bread and salad.

Best eaten on Sheila and Jack’s terrace about 21.30 with a bottle of rough musto from Pampaniera! I dare you not to finish it.

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)!

#12Days Get ahead with the veg! Day 2

photo (1)I’m offering some suggestions for get-ahead festive veg. You know what it’s like…… opening presents takes an age and you are planning on eating about 3.   Will they please hurry up with thenunwrapping? My advice is to get ahead and do your veg tomorrow. Then on Christmas Day, quaff back the fizz and relax!

Roast potatoes. My tips.

  • Peel and cut into big chunks. Plunge into boiling water for 3 minutes,  drain. Chuck them about a bit in the colander. Heat fat in a big roasting tray – my preference is duck fat or coconut oil – guaranteed for real crispness – then throw in the potatoes, turn them round in the fat. Put back into the oven  for 30 minutes till they are almost done and starting to go crispy. Then take them out. Either leave,  in a cool place, covered with a clean cloth,  and finish off the next day  in the same pan for 20 minutes, or cool then down and freeze, and cook from frozen for 30 minutes.
  • This method works for roast parsnip, celeriac, any root vegetable in fact
  • If you like you can add slices of onion and chunks of garlic  and black pepper for the second roasting.


God, do I really have to mention sprouts with chestnuts,  or sprouts with lardons? No! I will not!

  • Cut the sprouts in half and stir fry in a wok with some olive oil until slightly charred (you can add chestnuts if you like – I use Merchant Gourmet, vacuum packed
  • This is Hetty’s method. Prepare your sprouts in your usual way, boil them in salted water until just done and drain well. Then mash them with a potato masher till broken up but not mushy.  You will need to use your judgement now because you need to return them to the pan with a little olive oil, a squeeze of garlic, some black pepper, a good grind of nutmeg, and enough double cream to bind it together. Serve in a piping hot dish.


  • wash your carrots and if they are big, cut in half lengthways and again so you have quarters. Butter a baking dish, add the carrots, season with salt and black pepper and the juice of one lemon plus a flat dessert spoon of soft brown sugar. Cover with foil and bake on the bottom shelf for about an hour. You could do this the day before then reheat them.


  • Peel your parsnips, plunge into boiling water for two minutes then drain them. Heat some oil in a roasting tray. Add a dessert spoon of cumin seed. Put the parsnips in the pan, drizzle honey over the top then roast for 45 minutes. Or roast for 15 minutes the day before and put back in the oven for 20 on the day

Dauphinoise potatoes

  • probably the easiest potato dish dish in the world, with the exception of jacket potato!
  • use your food processor to slice your peeled potatoes into thin slices (To serve 10 you will need 2kg)
  • pour 1litre full cream milk and 500ml double cream into a large saucepan and add two crushed cloves of garlic and some salt. Bring to a medium heat then add the sliced potatoes and bring almost to the boil.
  • Generously butter a large shallow dish then pour in the milk and potatoes.  Double wrap with foil and cook in the oven at 175C for about 90 minutes. Remove the foil for the last half hour.  The potatoes will have absorbed all the liquid.  At this stage you can either serve immediately or, cook the day before you need it and reheat the next day.


  • Wash and thinly  slice dark green cabbage then drain. Quickly cook the greens in a scant amount of water until they are slightly underdone, then drain and refresh with cold water, to keep them bright green.  In a wide shallow pan, heat olive oil and a little garlic. Add the greens, stirring round quickly, then add chopped almonds (not flaked almonds, use whole almonds which you can break up by placing in a plastic bag then hammering with a rolling pin!  Stir the greens around in the hot oil till reheated, then serve.


Put two slices of stale bread into the food processor with a couple of green spring onion tops. Pulse. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with a grind of black pepper and a grating of lemon zest.

Cook your cauliflower in the usual way until it is just cooked. Drain it well then return to a buttered dish.  Put a little,oil in a wide pan and heatbit, then add the breadcrumb mixture, stir round to brown it slightly then sprinkle over the cauliflower.

i could go on and on (against my nature, surely?!). But this should give you some non standard options, many of which you can do tomorrow to give you more present opening time on Christmas Day!  Good grief, as I writemImrealise it is only 30 minutes to Christmas Eve.  One more posting on #12Days. Thanks for all your feedback.

Biryani on a hot, sultry July day

It was hot. Sultry. Steaming. Oppressive.  And that was just in the garden.  I had the germ of an idea for supper but it felt incongruous. But then again, it felt right. Vegetable biryani. All the windows and doors were wide open but not a breath of cool air. I was drawn to warm sweet spices – cumin, cinnamon, chilli, cardamom this evening.

In a heavy based wide shallow pan warm plenty of (about 30ml)  gorgeous Yare Valley rapeseed oil. It is so beautiful. Almost the colour of saffron.Lightly cover the bottom of the pan with chilli flakes and cumin seed, crushed green cardomom and half a stick of cinnamon broken into pieces.  Let the spices heat very gently, then added sliced shallot, some chopped fennel, chunks of the last butternut squash from last year’s winter garden, and chopped courgette – cooking them gently for 10 minutes with the lid on.  Then turn up the heat, added a large chopped tomato (minus the pips), black pepper, a little salt and a scant dessert spoon of sugar which combined with the high heat will char the edges slightly.  By now the vegetables should be just cooked but still firm.  Add two handful’s of basmati rice quickly followed by 750ml hot vegetable stock and the lid!

When the steam is vigorously belching out from under the lid, KEEP THE LID ON and turn the head down low, letting it gently steam away.  Don’t be tempted to lift the lid. The idea is that the stock turns to steam and the steam hits the lid then drops back down on the rice. That way you get lovely fluffy rice and no mush.

Whilst it is placidly gurgling away to itself on a low heat, put more rapeseed oil into a pan and add more cumin seed and chilli flakes then fry sliced onions until golden brown.  You will have noticed that these so-called measurements are desperately imprecise.  That’s because 1) whatever is in the fridge will go in the Biryani, 2) I have no idea how hot or spicy you like your Biryani but you do! 3) The freshness of your spices will influence the over all flavour.  A gorgeous Biryani will be full of flavour and spice without it overwhelming the flavour of the vegetables. The spicing should enhance the vegetable flavours, not drown them.  Anyway, after 20  minutes  (with the lid on!) the Biryani will be ready. Resist temptation.  Just leave it there for another 10.  The flavours will develop and will offer up intense warm spicyness and aroma without too much of a fiery chilli hit. When you are ready to eat, simply remove the cinnamon sticks and discard them, and  tip the crispy onions onto the top.  In my view the Biryani is best eaten about 30  minutes after this – still warm and definitely not hot.

Me. Him. The sofa.  Beer. Wallander.  The rain and the thunderstorm came about  2 hours later.

Cavalo Nero

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Black cabbage to you! or Tuscan kale. Either way it has long stemmed leaves and a beautiful range of colours from black to deep dark green. It has a dense flavour – lots of iron. I love it. So do the caterpillars in my garden – it attracts them like a bee to honey. My favourite way to eat it is with pasta. any pasta. Yes I know I have said on these pages that I don’t crave pasta. But with cavalo nero I make an exception. So gather your ingredients. This is done and dusted, pan to plate in less than 15 minutes. Proportions here are for two. Lay the table now, and pour the wine.

Fill your kettle and bring to the boil. Meanwhile take your cavalo nero and wash it (just checking for caterpillars here). Split the stems and cut out the bottom bit if they are a bit thick. Then pile the leaves atop one another so you have a stack – maybe eight or ten leaves depending on the length. Roll them up length ways and then starting from the top, finely slice from top to bottom. Posh chefs call this a chiffonade
By now the water will have boiled. Pour into a large saucepan and add salt. Never, never cook pasta without salt. To do so is like cooking bread without salt. Or eating roast potatoes without salt. Yuk. Add enough pasta for two – penne, conchiglie, orchiette, or linguine, whatever takes your fancy – and cook till just underdone.

Meanwhile add plenty of excellent olive oil to a shallow pan, add the zest of half a lemon and two grated garlic cloves. Keep it moving so the garlic doesn’t frazzle. Then add the cavolo nero and 30ml water from the pasta pot. Stir it round, add a little salt, then clamp on the lid, shake it around a bit and cook on a high heat for 5 minutes until just al dente. Your pasta should be ready, so drain it and leave in the colander over the saucepan, reserving about 50ml of the cooking water. Pour 25ml olive oil over the pasta and a good grind of black pepper. Lift the lid and test the greens. They should still be bright green, but cooked, and there should only be a speck of water left in the pan. Now add a large handful of grated parmesan to the greens, about 50ml single cream or creme fraiche, then the pasta and the reserved cooking water. Toss with two large forks until all the ingredients are combined. You should have a bright green mixture of cavolo nero, garlic, parmesan and pasta coated with a creamy sauce. Sometimes I add some chopped basil at this stage. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon juice and grate more parmesan on the top and lots of black pepper. Ready to eat. You can use ordinary garden kale in this way, also.

Post script: the veggiebox has twice had those purple globed vegetables that look like purple-all-over turnips. I have to reveal that I detest turnip. They are the devil’s food. Many friends of mine love them. I do not. If they remain ubiquitous next week, I shall be forced to invent a recipe for them, as I must admit that I have none in my repertoire. If you have a favourite turnip recipe, let me know. You could write a guest blog on turnips, just for fun!

Celeriac and potato roast, or gratin

Quick way to bang some carbs into the freezer and pull out over the Christmas season.

Peel potatoes and celeriac. Chop into large chunks if roasting, slice if baking or gratin.

Put a large pot of salted water to boil then throw in the potato and celeriac. Drain and cool quickly after 3 minutes.

ROASTING: Heat the oven to 200C. Heat golden rapeseed oil in a roasting pan on the hob. Toss the potatoes and celeriac gently in seasoned coarse semolina. The easiest way to do this is to put the semolina in a carrier bag with the seasoning. Carefully empty the potatoes and celeriac into the bag and gently move it around till they are all coated with the semolina.  Sounds wierd. But it works, trust me. Then drop them carefully into the hot roasting pan and oil. Keep on the heat for 5 minutes then turn them. Then put in the oven for 20 minutes only.  Take them out. let it cool, then freeze on the tray. When you  need them, remove from the freezer and put back into the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes tops until golden brown.


Layer slices of potato in a buttered dish and add sufficient stock to cover them. Then season, add a bay leaf, cover with foil and cook in the oven for 1 hour. Cool and freeze. Return to the oven for another hour (when defrosted) when needed, or if you want them straight away, cook for 2 hours removing the foil at the half way point.


As above but add half milk and half cream instead of stock. And grated parmesan on top for the last 20 minutes if you wish.

Endless sprouts. And a joke.

At this time of year Brussels Sprouts are ubiquitous. As are leeks and all things dark green. But if you love those dark green flavours this is absolute heaven, as the greens can take all sorts of flavours.

So don’t just boil them! Try this:

Fry small pieces of smoked pancetta until the fat is rendered (translucent) then add 100g vacuum packed chestnuts. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Allow to cool then put in a blender with 250g butter and whizz.. Add a little black pepper and whizz again. Now simply put all of this in an airtight container and on Christmas day, prepare your sprouts as normal, but slather them with bacon and chestnut butter when they are drained. I could eat a plateful all on its own! The butter should keep for 4-5 days in the fridge. Try it on bread with peanut butter. Naughty but nice.

Because they have quite a bit of sugar, sprouts will char easily. Which means that if you peel and quarter them and then stir fry in a little vegetable oil with some chilli flakes, they will caramelise and taste really nutty.

Hetty has a brilliant way with sprouts. I don’t know if it’s Dutch (she is) but when we spent Christmas in North Norfolk with Het and John a few years ago I tasted this for the first time. Boil your sprouts as you would normally, drain them well and then mash them – not too mushy – then add cream, black pepper and nutmeg and turn into a dish. The sprouts that is, not you! Divine.

Finally. Is there anything better than left over cold roast potato, mashed potato and left over sprouts in bubble and squeak? Imagine this. Before you go for a long walk on Boxing Day, mash all the potato and left over sprouts together with lots and lots of black pepper. Put some good sausages in a small roasting pan with some wedges of onion and a little olive oil.

Now go for that walk to clear away the cobwebs and the hangover. When you come back put the sausages in a hot oven just as they are. Meanwhile put a good heavy frying pan on the hob and add a generous glug of golden rapeseed oil and heat till almost smoking. It is worth it – if you can bear it – to NOT use a non stick frying pan. And I’ll tell you why. You want it to stick!

Throw in the bubble and squeak and press it down. Now leave it until you can smell it charring. Don’t be scared. It adds flavour. After 10 minutes, release the edges from the edge of the frying pan and gently slide a palette knife underneath. Invert the whole thing onto a plate. Add a little more oil, then repeat, sliding it back into the pan, uncooked side down.

Now check your sausages. They should be almost done. Turn them over. Pour the rest of yesterdays gravy in with the sausage and onion and a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard. Put back into the oven until the gravy is hot. Now the bubble and squeak should be crispy on the underside too. Slide it out onto the plate. Put the pan with the sausage and onion gravy on the table, along with the B&S, HP sauce and a glass of beer. Cut the B&S into big wedges and serve with the sausages. Start as you mean to go on!

Now here’s the joke…

1) boil Brussels sprouts
2) eat Ferrero Rocher whilst sprouts are cooking
3) save wrappers
4) melt chocolate whilst sprouts are cooling
5) roll sprouts in melted chocolate
6) wrap chocolate covered sprouts in Ferrero Rocher wrappers
7) enjoy the delight on the children’s faces tonight

A fine vegeburger

OK, so it’s never going to be a fine steak burger. But in our house, a confirmed vegetarian would never eat a steakburger anyway. So the search is always on for a good, tasty veggieburger that does’t taste of dehydrated soy product. I think this might be it.

Finely grate one carrot. Microwave 4 small potatoes. Finely chop half a pack of vacuum packed chestnuts. Finely chop about 5cm from the tops of a bunch of spring onions. Finely chop a handful of flatleaf parsley. You will notice I have not used the food processor! A little gentle chopping is very soothing. And chopping in a processor does tend to bring out the juice in any of the ingredients.

Remove the potatoes from their skins and put in a bowl with all the other ingredients. Add a quarter of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a good grind of black pepper, salt, a teaspoon of freshly ground coriander seed. The secret ingredient is a dessert spoon of goat curd – or you could use cream cheese. This helps bind it all together without the need for an egg, which would make it too wet. Get your hands in the bowl and squeeze all the ingredients together.

Form into burgers (or sausage shapes), dip in beaten egg, then drop into coarse semolina or polenta, mixed with some cayenne (to your taste) and make sure it is all covered. Put on a plate and put in the fridge for half an hour.While the burgers are settling down and recovering, fry some onions and set aside. Make a chopped salad. In ours tonight we had cucumber, apple and dill; fresh fennel and avocado; chicory, red pepper and celery. The dressing was a thick vinaigrette, loosened with a little plain yogurt and a dash of maple syrup.

Heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the burgers gently on both sides will they are golden then stuff between tasted focaccia (left over from lunch today) with the onions. Serve with the salad and maybe sauce, or chutney or wholegrain mustard.

What to do with all that chard?


1-photo (3)The garden is bursting with produce in spite of the heat. Or maybe because of it. Winter was cold. Spring was interminably wet and gloomy. Then summer bursts upon us and we are overburdened with produce.  The greenest green – broad beans and peas, chard, lettuce, mizuna, fennel, basil, mint, flat leaf parsley; the brightest reds and oranges – chard, peppers, carrots, radishes; the darkest burgundies of beetroot and black beans, aubergine.

Last night we were tired and edgy and at the last minute decided to go out to eat. The Inn on the Green was closed but its sister pub was open. At The Gamekeepers we scoffed hugely satisfying and piping hot halibut in beer batter with hand cut chips and home made minty mushy peas.  But tonight we are going green. Sometimes I yearn to eat plates brimming with green things and tonight is the night for chard. I guess this is really a take on Spanokopita. It uses Fielding Cottage goats curd, and the harder Norfolk Mardler.

Take a handful of chard – more than you think you need. First chop the stems off at the bottom of the leaf, then slice the stems lengthways and chop. The roll the leaves lengthways and slice thinly across the rolled leaf – it’s called a chiffonade apparently!

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Add a glug and a half of Yare Valley rapeseed oil or olive oil and a knob of butter to a shallow pan, allow it to heat gently then add the chopped chard stalks and chopped spring onion tops and clamp on the lid.  Steam away merrily for a couple of minutes, then add the chard leaf and a cup of peas (frozen if you dont have fresh).  When the leaves are only just wilted it is time to grate in two cloves of garlic. Don’t chop it or add it too early – you want the fresh hit of garlic as opposed to the sweet roasted flavour.  Season very lightly with seasalt and black pepper.  Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, unpack your filo pastry carefully and spread in single sheets in one long line, overlapping edges by about 2.5cm having first oiled the edges with oil (I use a mixture of rape seed and walnut oil here.  The add the cooled greens along the top edge, then crumbled curd cheese (or you could use feta) and chopped parsley, basil and chives.  Oil the edges and turn them in toward the middle, then quickly and carefully, roll it up like a swiss roll, then curl it round like a pinwheel.

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It will feel (and is) fragile, but no matter, do the best you can.  Use a flat blade or two flat blades.  Drop into a springform, loose bottomed tin (I just dust it with semolina or polenta).

Cook toward the top of the oven at 190C for about 25 minutes.  When it’s done it looks like this

1-photo (3)-001then whilst it is still warm, grate a little Norfolk Mardler (semi curado goat’s cheese) over the top and it looks like this.


!! προσχηματικός

Johansen’s surprise with smoky bacon cabbage

Johannsen’s surprise with smoky bacon cabbage

Urgent need for comfort food. Running late on everything. Need warmth, ease, flavour, just a fork. In a bowl. On the sofa.

Thinly slice 750g potatoes and a large onion (use the slicer on your food processor if you have one, it’s done in a trice). Put them in a deep saucepan with salt, chopped garlic, a tin of anchovies and the oil (yes, I know, but trust me) and enough full cream milk to just cover. The add about 2 tablespoons of dried dill. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are just soft.

Turn into a wide shallow dish. Let me rephrase that.  Pour the contents of the saucepan into a wide shallow dish and without further ado put it into the oven with no further fuss – at 180C for about 40 minutes.  By then the potatoes will have absorbed the milk and the top will be crispy.  Then take out of the oven and leave for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile put some butter and oil in a good sized pan. Add chopped smoky bacon offcuts and fry gently for five minutes. Then add lots of sliced savoy cabbage and grated rind of half a lemon.  Stir round a bit.  Slap on the lid and steam away for about 5 minutes.  Depending on how crunchy you like your cabbage either leave the lid on and add no more water, or add a little water – by this I mean probably 100ml tops – and steam away for another couple of minutes.  Add some black pepper and you are done.

Now, take a bowl.  Serve yourself some potatoes, cabbage and bacon and enjoy some simple culinary heaven.

Gloomy November afternoon

November gloom outside but soothed inside by R3, Beethoven and the gentle rhythm of rolling out flatbread. A few gems gently simmering on the stove – gorgeous orange squash with garlic, red peppers, chick peas, fennel seed and a base mix of spices (roast Urud dhal, cumin, black cardamom, clove and a hint of chilli). Later I will flash roast aubergine in strips and lace with pomegranate jewels (can you hear Nigella?) and a little spritz (again?) of pomegranate molasses. And then maybe a crisp herb salad full of spinach, pine nuts or walnuts (can’t decide), parsley and mint.  What better for a November evening?

Unctious peppers

I should be asleep. But I’m not. I should be out for the count. But I’m not. I should be warm and cosy under the duvet listening to the gentle snorts and incomprehensible sleep mumbles of my man. But here I am with cold feet and jet lag, whiling away the hours till sleep arrived from mid-Atlantic to meet me. So this is for John and Eleanor. You requested it today. Maybe it was the seed of guilt that I had not sent it to you that is keeping me awake!

This pepper dish serves you well for supper with good bread. As a starter. With tapas. Or completely whizzed and pulsed into a puree, spread onto a pizza base and dotted with dollops of mozarella and fresh basil. Or spread thickly on a bagel over some cream cheese. Or spooned over buttery new potatoes. Or pasta. It’s that versatile.

Halve as many red, yellow or orange peppers as you like. But don’t use green ones. Try hard not to break the halves, and leave the stalks on.  Remove the seeds and the white stuff in the middle.  Place in an earthenware dish. Into each pepper half, put one small tomato, one anchovy fillet, one clove of garlic, an olive or two and a leaf or two of fresh basil. Put a few tomatoes into the dish too. Add a scant spinkle of chilli seeds – or leave them out if you prefer. Generously glug golden rapeseed oil (and the anchovy oil) into each pepper, and around them. Add about 1.5ml deep syrupy balsamic vinegar to each pepper half. Season with salt and black pepper.

Place the dish in the middle of a preheated oven at 175C for at least an hour until they are soft. You want the peppers to collapse and to have a slightly charred edge. Leave in the oven for longer if they are not done. Then either serve hot, warm or cold as suggested above with a good Rioja or Barolo.

1001 ways with a courgette

For years my friends teased me about my obsession with writing a cookbook on 1001 things to do with mince. I guess those times were linked to cooking on an extremely low budget and I needed to do something to lift my spirits; like writing a cookbook about mince.  I can see the irony in it now.

But here I sit with a glut of courgettes, as there is every year. And every year those same friends say ‘why dont you write a cookbook about 1001 things to do with a  courgette’. At risk of appearing both rude and crude, I have resisted.  However here are a few ideas.


Slice the courgettes on the diagonal, drizzle with olive oil, rock salt and black pepper.  Heat a ridged pan till it is smoking then sear the courgettes on both sides, leaving them to cook until they are only just done.  Then turn into a warm dish and add the zest of a lemon and chopped lemon balm, a squeeze of juice and some beautiful golden rapeseed oil


Buried somewhere on this blog are a couple of versions of this summer staple.  Grate 2 large courgettes and lay them on a clean tea towel. Sprinkle with salt and leave for 10 minutes. Then wrap the grated courgettes in the teatowel and squeeze hard over the sink. Loads of water will come out. You want to get it as dry as you can.  Then soften shallot  in oil in a pan the pedigree of which you can trust in the oven – my trusty  copper frying pan is the one I use most often. It looks dead posh but actually came from Sainsburys about 12 years ago.  I digress: when the shallot is soft, add squeezed garlic – as much as you like – stir it around a bit then add a little more oil and then the courgette.  Season with pepper but no more salt, then add about 200g feta or goat cheese or goat curd and a really big handful of chopped fresh mint and chives. Then beat 4 eggs with 80ml plain yogurt (or you could use cream, or milk) and pour over the courgette and cheese mixture (keeping the heat fairly high). Move the mixture around a bit to make sure the egg is well distributed and  keep on that high heat for 5 minutes – the purpose of this is to seal the bottom so it will easily turn out of the pan.  Then clamp on a lid, turn down the heat and cook on low to medium for about 10 minutes. After that just put it under the grill till the top is golden brown. Then invert onto a plate and serve, you can eat this hot or cold. However there’s never enough left to eat it cold in our house.


Slice courgettes  on a broad diagonal so you get plenty of surface area.  Beat one or two egg whites (depending on the size of the eggs) till really stiff, then fold in 75g cornflour, 50g plain flour, a pinch of salt.  Then add the essential ingredient – about 190ml very cold carbonated water. Mix it all together, dip courgette slices into cornflour till lightly coated, tap them on the side of the plate and then into the batter and immediately drop into very hot rapeseed oil. They will pop and hiss and fluff up and will be ready in 2 minutes.  Drain on kitchen towel.  For the aioli, take 6 tablespoons of excellent mayonnaise mixed with some tomato puree and crushed garlic to your taste.  Or you can make it yourself with a stick blender.  The trick is to keep the blender flat on the bottom for 10 seconds then slowly lift it up.  It will turn the ingredients into a beautiful emulsion 100% – every time. Use 2 egg yolks, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt, 15ml white wine vinegar and 250ml rapeseed oil. Then add a tablespoon of tomato puree and a crushed clove of garlic. I found this really easy method on the BBC Good Food Youtube clip and it is completely failsafe.


Use my usual recipe for nutroast already on this blog, but instead of using tomato and cheese in the middle, use grated courgette. Treat it to the salt and teatowel method described on this page, then mix with fresh herbs like lemon thyme or marjoram, and add a 1.5 cm layer in the middle of the nut roast. If you add more than than then I suggest increasing the cooking time.


Cut the courgettes in half then scoop out the seeds in the middle till you have a channel along ithe length. Lay the courgettes on a thick bed of seasoned de-seeded chopped tomatoes and spring onions, then lay the nutroast mixture on top of the courgettes.  Season well and cover with more chopped tomatoes and spring onions. Bake covered in foil at 180 for 20 minutes then uncovered for 10 minutes.



Think of carrot cake. What’s the difference using a courgette? Not a lot is the answer. Essentially the carrot/courgette/whatever adds some texture but mostly it adds moisture.  So any cake recipe which calls for grated carrot can also use grated courgette.  For this recipe grate 2 large courgettes (about 200g) and treat as before. Then add them to 225g wholemeal flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate soda, the zest of an orange and 100g sultanas.  Whisk 2 eggs, 175ml rapeseed oil and 4 tablespoons of orange juice into the mixture.  Pour into lined muffin tins or greaseproof cups and cook for 25 minutes at 180C. bet there won’t be any left by tomorrow!


OK so beetroot and chocolate is de rigeur.  But I prefer courgette!  Grate 500g courgettes and prepare as before.  Mix 150g self raising flour and 200g wholemeal flour with 1 teaspoon of mixed spice and 300g raw cane sugar. I advise not using muscovado, which makes a lot of liquid in the cooking.  Whisk together 3 eggs with 175ml rapeseed oil, two teaspoons of good vanilla extract. Then add the courgettes and the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix carefully.  Finally add 140g toasted chopped hazlenuts, or even better in my view, pine nuts.  Pour this into a lined 24cm springform tin and bake for 40-45 minutes.  When it is done, let it cool completely, remove from the tin then carefully melt 200g 70% cocoa solids chocolate  in the microwave and add 100ml hot cream.  Mix well and it will thicken.  Leave it 5 minutes then pour this ganche onto the cake.  You can keep your devil’s foodcake.  This is the one for me – light, deeply chocolatey, studded with nuts and a gooey topping. I dare you to eat only one slice!