Category Archives: Food

Basic Pasta

Pasta with tomatoes and chilli

The key to success here is cooking the arrabiata sauce low and slow – a little patience will transform a dish you thought you knew into something far superior. Be sure to use whole rather than chopped tomatoes.

An arrabbiata sauce – AKA tomatoes, garlic and chilli. Simple, satisfying, cheap.

Serves 4
400g dried pasta
500g tinned whole plum tomatoes
190ml olive oil, plus a glug
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (more if you want)
½ tsp caster sugar
Salt and pepper

1 Strain the tinned tomatoes through a colander (the juice tends to be acidic and makes the sauce too wet – set aside for another use).

2 Heat a glug of olive oil on a low-to-medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the garlic and chilli and fry until just starting to change colour, then add the strained tomatoes and stir. After 5 minutes, turn the heat down to low, add the 190ml olive oil and the sugar and simmer for 2 hours. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan occasionally to make sure the sauce doesn’t catch. Taste and check for seasoning, You can store this sauce in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

3 Bring lots of water to a rolling boil in a large pan and add plenty of salt – it should taste like mild sea water. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

4 When the pasta is cooked, add a splash of pasta cooking water to the pan of tomato sauce and put the sauce on a low heat. Remove the pasta from the water and add it to the pan of sauce – keep the cooking water. Vigorously toss the pasta in the pan for at least 30 seconds to work the gluten, adding a splash more starchy cooking water if it starts to dry up. Continue tossing the pasta until the sauce emulsifies to a viscous sauce. Serve immediately.

Pasta with Marmite

This Anna Del Conte creation makes perfect sense: the marriage of pasta, fat, and two hits of umami, Marmite and parmesan. Adjust the quantities to your taste.

Serves 2
200g pasta
30g butter
1 heaped tsp Marmite
Grated parmesan, to serve
Black pepper

1 Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of generously salted boiling water, according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Just before you drain it, reserve a cupful of the cooking water. As the pasta drains in the colander, set to work on the sauce.

2 Melt the butter (in the same pan that you cooked the pasta in) with the Marmite and pour in the reserved pasta cooking water, then tip the drained pasta back into the pan. Toss it around to coat the pasta completely, then transfer to bowls or plates, cover with a healthy mound of parmesan and a grinding of black pepper, with more of both on the side.

Spaghetti alla puttanesca

It is said spaghetti alla puttanesca (the last word translates as “in the style of a lady of the night”) originated in Naples. One story goes that it takes as long to cook the dish as it does the lady to take care of her clients. Either way, it has all the heritage of southern Italian cooking: chilli, tomato and olive oil. For me, the spicier the better, with as much dried chilli (or pepperoncini) as you can take.

Serves 4
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, chopped
400g tin of tomatoes
Salt and pepper
375g spaghetti or linguine
2 tsp small capers
A pinch of chilli flakes
10 black olives, chopped
12 white marinated anchovies
Flat-leaf parsley to garnish

1 In a saucepan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil, add the onion and garlic and sauté without letting them colour.

2 Add the tinned tomatoes, season with freshly milled salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes, until it becomes a nice thick sauce.

3 Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pan of boiling salted water, according to the packet instructions (normally about 12 minutes) until al dente.

4 While the pasta is cooking, add the capers, chilli and black olives to the tomato sauce.

5 Drain the pasta well, toss in with the sauce and finish with the anchovies and chopped flat-leaf parsley. Finally, check the seasoning and serve.

Spaghetti with lemon, parsley, garlic and chilli

How much you make of this is of course entirely up to you, depending on how many somersaults you want to happen in your mouth. However you make it, it is an invigorating yet comforting meal.

Serves 4
2 large unwaxed lemons
A big handful of flat-leaf parsley
500g spaghetti
6 tbsp olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves
A small dried chilli or pinch of red chilli flakes

1 Grate the zest from the lemon and very finely chop the parsley, then mix the two together and set aside.

2 Bring a large pan of well-salted water to a fast boil, stir, then add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, very finely chop the garlic and chilli.

3 In a large frying pan, gently warm the olive oil, garlic and chilli over a low flame until fragrant – do not let it burn. Once the spaghetti is cooked, drain it – or better still, use a sieve or tongs to lift the spaghetti and just a little residual water into the frying pan. Stir, add the lemon and parsley, a pinch of salt and, if you like, a squeeze of lemon. Stir again, divide between plates and eat immediately.

Carrot Halva

6 cardamom pods
25g ghee/butter
500g carrots, peeled and grated
250ml evaporated milk (or condensed milk but then no need to add 100g sugar)
50g white sugar
50g soft light brown sugar
Pinch of saffron
Handful of raisins/sultanas/cranberries
20g milk powder (optional)
Handful of pistachios, almonds or cashews, roughly chopped

Serves 4

Squash the cardamom pods to remove the seeds, then roughly crush these to a powder in a pestle and mortar. Heat the ghee in a wide, heavy-based pan on a medium high heat and fry the powder for a minute or so until aromatic, then add the grated carrot and a pinch of salt.

Fry for five minutes on a medium heat, then turn up the heat and fry for another five, stirring all the time. Repeat if necessary until the carrots are soft and dryish – this should take 10-15 minutes in total.

Pour in the evaporated milk, add the saffron and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and simmer, stirring regularly, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Add the sugar and dried fruit and continue cooking, stirring so the mixture doesn’t catch, until thickened, then stir in the milk powder if using and cook for another minute or so. Allow to cool slightly before serving with the nuts on top.

An alternative even richer halwa substitutes the 500g carrots with 500g grounds almonds.

Stuffed Peppers (zeytinyağli biber dolmasi)

Bell peppers stuffed with rice, raisins and pine nuts.

This is the classic Turkish rice filling for vegetables to be served cold. Choose plump bell peppers that can stand on their base. I prefer to use red peppers because they are sweeter and for the colour, but in Turkey green ones are more often used.

Serves 6
onion 1 large, chopped finely
extra-virgin olive oil 6 tbsp
short-grain or risotto rice 250g
salt and pepper
sugar 1-2 tsp
pine nuts 3 tbsp
currants or tiny black raisins 3 tbsp
tomato 1 large, peeled and chopped
ground cinnamon 1 tsp
ground allspice ½ tsp
mint a handful, chopped
dill a handful, chopped
flat-leaf parsley a handful, chopped
lemon juice of 1
green or red bell peppers 6 medium
natural (full-fat) yogurt 250g, mixed with 1 crushed garlic clove to serve (optional)

For the filling, fry the onion in 3 tablespoons of the oil until soft. Add the rice and stir until thoroughly coated and translucent. Pour in 450ml of water and add salt, pepper and sugar. Stir well and cook for 15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed but the rice is still a little underdone. Stir in the pine nuts, currants or raisins, the tomato, cinnamon and allspice, mint, dill and parsley and the lemon juice, as well as the rest of the oil.

Retaining the stalk, cut a circle around the stalk end of the peppers and set on one side to use as caps. Remove the cores and seeds with a spoon and fill the peppers with the rice mixture. Replace the caps.

Arrange the peppers side by side in a shallow baking dish, pour about 1cm water into the bottom, and bake in an oven preheated to 190C/gas mark 5 for 45-55 minutes or until the peppers are tender. Be careful that they do not fall apart.

Serve cold, accompanied, if you like, by a bowl of beaten yogurt, with or without crushed garlic.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

So I dug out this recipe from the Guardian for the lemon drizzle and since they both sold quickly and feedback was excellent, I thought I’d note down the recipe for next year.

Felicity's perfect lemon drizzle cake

175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
2 unwaxed lemons
3 eggs
100g self-raising flour
75g ground almonds
A little milk
100g demerara sugar

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C fan. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper. Beat together the butter, caster sugar and the finely grated zest of 1 lemon until light and fluffy. Add a pinch of salt and the eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined before adding the next.

2. Sift over the flour and fold in, followed by the almonds. Add just enough milk to bring the mixture to a dropping consistency (so that it falls off the spoon), then spoon into the prepared tin and even out the top. Bake for about 50-55 minutes, until a skewer comes out dry (crumbs clinging to it are fine).

3. Briefly mix together the remaining lemon zest, and the juice of both the lemons with the demerara sugar, then poke holes all over the top of the warm cake and pour over the drizzle, waiting for the cake to absorb one lot before adding the next.

4. Allow to cool in the tin before turning out.


So there’s a fete coming up and I’m wondering what cakes and jams I need to commit to making.

There are some obvious ones that will always sell:

  • banana bread
  • gingerbread – but really only for ladies of a certain age
  • lemon drizzle (or similar cake such as marmalade cake)
  • Victoria Sandwich
  • chocolate cake, loaves are easier to knock up
  • coffee cake
  • chocolate drizzled flapjacks
  • party cakes

& then there’s some that are nice to make but may not sell so you wouldn’t want to make more than one

  • yoghurt cake with fruit, maybe apple or blueberries

Quick Aubergine Curry

Meera Sodha’s aubergine, black eyed bean and dill curry.

This is a simpler version of an aubergine curry. It’s the one to cook when you want something quick. It has no onions or ginger to peel and fry (saving much time), and uses only chilli and turmeric for spice, rather than the usual ground cumin and coriander. For extra depth and flavour, you could add all those ingredients; but sometimes, most times,  simplest is best.

Serves four.

4 tbsp rapeseed oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
4 big vine tomatoes, roughly chopped (or 400g tinned tomatoes)
1 ¼ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (or regular mild chilli powder)
¾ tsp turmeric
1⅓ tsp salt (or to taste)
900g aubergines (about 3), baked until tender in a combination microwave (or griddle)
400g tin beans, drained
40g fresh dill, finely chopped, or coriander

Heat the oil in a frying pan on a medium flame and, when hot, add the garlic and let it sizzle for a couple of minutes, until it turns pale gold. Add the tomatoes (take care, because they might spit) and cook for 5 minutes, until creamy, then add the chilli, turmeric and salt. Cook for a couple of minutes more, then gently fold in the aubergine slices and pop a lid on the pan.

Cook for 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes, until the aubergines are soft and collapsing, then stir in the beans and cook for two to three minutes more, until the beans are hot. Finally, stir in the dill.

Serve with steamed basmati rice, chapatis and a non-dairy yoghurt of your choice.

Aubergine Pasta Pie

10 best aubergines: a pie yesterday

Aubergine pasta pie

A stunning dish, full of different flavours – the pasta is encased in the fried aubergines.

Serves 6
For the sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves
900ml passata

For the pie
2 aubergines (700g in total)
About 150ml olive oil
400g penne or rigatoni
900ml passata
50g parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 large eggs, hard-boiled and sliced
150g Italian salami, thickly sliced and cut into strips
200g mozzarella cheese, sliced
50g caciocavallo (or provolone) cheese, sliced
2 tbsp dried breadcrumbs
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

First make the tomato sauce: fry the garlic in olive oil for 30 seconds, add the passata, season and simmer for 40 minutes.

Preheat a grillpan. Cut the aubergines lengthways into thin slices about 5mm thick. Brush each slice with olive oil and grill for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain and immediately stir through the passata. Add the parmesan and oregano, mix well and then taste and adjust the seasoning.

Use the aubergine to line the bottom and sides of a 20cm diameter springform cake tin. Cover the bottom with a layer of pasta and then with sliced eggs, salami strips, aubergine slices, mozzarella and caciocavallo slices. Repeat these layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with a layer of pasta. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and drizzle with the oil.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the dish is heated right through.

Run a spatula round between the pie and the inside of the tin. Place a round serving dish upside down over the tin and invert. Leave to stand for a few minutes, then unclip and remove the tin and serve immediately.

Quinoa Kugel

What else is a North London housewife just back from Peru going to cook?


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped with garlic if liked
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 pound cauliflower (1/2 medium head), broken into florets
  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 scant teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
  • Freshly ground pepper


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until just about tender, 3 to 5 minutes, and add the quinoa. Cook, stirring, for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the quinoa begins to smell toasty and the onion is tender. Add the water and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until the quinoa is tender and the grains display a threadlike spiral. If any water remains in the pot, drain the quinoa through a strainer, then return to the pot. Place a dish towel over the pot, then return the lid and let sit undisturbed for 10 to 15 minutes
  2. Meanwhile, steam the cauliflower over 1 inch of boiling water for 10 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the heat
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and oil a 2-quart baking dish or gratin
  4. Finely chop the steamed cauliflower, either with a chef’s knife or using a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Place in a large mixing bowl. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, purée the cottage cheese until smooth. Add the eggs and process until the mixture is smooth. Add salt (I suggest about 1/2 teaspoon), pepper and the cumin seeds and mix together. Scrape into the bowl with the cauliflower. Add the quinoa and stir everything together. Scrape into the oiled baking dish. Drizzle the remaining oil over the top and place in the oven
  5. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into squares or wedges

White Pizza

This is an Ottolenghi recipe, though there are plenty out there. It makes two pizzas, to serve two as a main course with a salad, or four as a snack, though after the recent trip to Peru I tired it with purple potatoes, less “white” but aside from that perfectly lovely. He used anchovies in place of the artichokes, but I’d consider swapping in some dried tomatoes also – the white really just means no tomato sauce.

For the dough
200g strong white bread flour, plus a little extra for dusting
1 tsp fast-action dried yeast
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
Salt and black pepper
120ml lukewarm water

For the topping
180g new potatoes, finely sliced (unpeeled) on a mandolin
3 tbsp olive oil
200g mascarpone
40g pecorino, finely shaved
4 artichoke heads, finely chopped
8 sage leaves, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons (you need 2 tsp worth)
50g spring onions, trimmed and sliced thinly at an angle

Put the flour and yeast in a large bowl with a tablespoon of oil and half a teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine, then pour in the water and use a spatula to bring the mixture together until combined.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled worktop and, with lightly oiled hands, knead for five minutes, until soft and elastic. (You may need to add a little more oil if the dough starts to stick to the surface.) Divide the dough in half and transfer both pieces to a large oven tray lined with greaseproof paper, spaced well apart. Cover with a clean and slightly damp tea towel, then leave to rise in a warm place for 40 minutes. The dough should almost double in size.

Heat the oven to its highest setting, 250C or thereabouts: you want it red hot.

While the dough is rising, get on with the topping. In a small bowl, toss the potato slices with a tablespoon of oil, an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Transfer the potatoes to a large oven tray lined with greaseproof paper – the tray needs to be big enough for the slices to lie flat and spaced apart – then roast for seven minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the mascarpone, pecorino, artichokes, sage and lemon zest with a good grind of pepper.

Grease two large oven trays with olive oil, and lightly flour a work surface. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough into two 30cm x 20cm rectangles, then carefully transfer to each of the trays.

Spread the mascarpone mix evenly over both pizza bases, leaving a 2cm border around the edges. Sprinkle the spring onions on top, then add a layer of potatoes. Drizzle a tablespoon of oil over each pizza and bake for nine minutes (switch the pizzas around halfway through, so they both get a turn at the top of the oven), until the edges are crisp and golden. Scatter with a generous grind of pepper and serve warm with a green salad.

Mushroom ceviche

We tried this made with oyster mushrooms in Peru – a real hit and ideal for a starter or extended to make one of a group of salads

Serve either in a bowl or glass or as a topping for toasted bread. Don’t use much hot pepper — just enough to give the ceviche a little heat.

Make Ahead: The mushrooms need to be refrigerated in the marinade overnight.

Mushroom Ceviche – a delicious meatless appetizer!

The flavors in these marinated mushrooms are what you would expect to taste when enjoying ceviche, only without the seafood.

Mushroom Ceviche – a delicious meatless appetizer!
  • 2 roasted garlic cloves
  • 1lb oz  mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey (or agave for vegan)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

In a cast iron skillet, roast 2 garlic cloves until brown on each side.  Mash the garlic and place in a large bowl with the mushrooms, red onion and bell peppers.


In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, whisk well then pour over mushrooms. Cover and refrigerate at least a few hours, or overnight.

All about me!