Category Archives: Food

Seeded Soda bread

I do like fresh bread, but sometimes you just don’t have the time or the energy, and that’s when soda bread comes into it’s own.

Pumpkin, linseed, sunflower or hemp seeds make for an interesting texture. Linseeds should be crushed to make the most of their plentiful omega-3 fats, but I use them just for their nutty taste and silky texture.

Makes 1 x 500g loaf
wholemeal flour 225g
plain flour 225g
bicarbonate of soda 1 tsp
sea salt ½ tsp
caster sugar 1 tsp
golden linseeds 2 tbsp
sunflower seeds 2 tbsp
hemp seeds 2 tbsp
buttermilk 350ml

Set the oven at 220C/gas mark 8. Place a heavy casserole, about 22cm in diameter, together with its lid, in the oven to heat up.

Sieve the flours, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the caster sugar. Add the linseeds, sunflower and hemp seeds and fold evenly through the flour. Pour in the buttermilk and mix thoroughly to a slightly sticky dough.

Dust a pastry board or the work surface generously with flour. Working fairly quickly, pat the dough into a round large enough to fit snugly into the casserole. Remove the hot pan from the oven, dust it generously with flour, which will prevent the loaf from sticking, then lower the dough into the casserole. Cover with a lid, then return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes before freeing the loaf and placing on a rack to cool.

Great catch: soda bread with brown shrimp and dill butter.

Gin Pickled Cucumber

There are two approaches to January but if the alcohol comes in the form of a pickle, does that make it better or worse?

People love the idea of gin, mint and cucumber on ice with a dash of tonic, and this recipe mixes that idea up, making the cucumber the headliner for a change, not the gin.

Makes 4-5 x 300ml jars


2 large cucumbers
1 bird’s-eye chilli
1 lime, zest and juice
500ml white wine vinegar
1 tbsp granulated sugar
12-15 juniper berries (3 in each jar)
8 baby round shallots
2-3 sprigs fresh mint
100-125ml gin (25ml per jar)


Finely chop the chilli and put in a medium stainless-steel saucepan with the lime zest and juice, vinegar, sugar, juniper berries and1½ teaspoons of sea salt. Bring to a gentle simmer, dissolving the sugar and infusing the flavours for around five minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

Finely slice the cucumbers – a mandolin does this perfectly but you can slice them with a knife if you don’t have one or prefer thicker slices. Peel and finely slice the shallots. Strip the mint leaves from the stalks.

Start by stacking layers of cucumber, shallot and mint into warm, dry sterilised jars until the jars are half full. Add 25ml gin and three juniper berries (from the vinegar brine) to each jar and continue to stack, until the vegetables are about 1cm below the rim.

Fill the jars with the vinegar brine, distributing the remaining spices (in the brine) evenly between them and gently pushing down on the contents to let out the air bubbles. Tap the jars gently on a hard surface to remove any more bubbles, add more brine if necessary to completely cover the vegetables, then seal.

Eat the next day if you like a crunch to your pickle, or keep sealed for up to four weeks in a cool, dark place to allow the flavours to marry.

Keeps unopened for up to six months. Once opened, refrigerate and eat within four weeks.


I have a friend coming to supper with her family, which includes a son who has been diagnosed with coeliac disease. They also keep kosher, which for a vegetarian household is nothing to worry about.

We’re not going to mix meat and milk accidentally and if they’re willing to eat at our house, the lack of involvement of a Jewish hand in the cooking process is not going to worry them too much, or can easily be assuaged by them helping transport the food to the table.

But being coeliac and unable to eat gluten from wheat products does cause some issues.

Obviously bread and bread products are out of the running, along with pasta and pastry and that makes a meal centre piece a bit harder to achieve. You could go with something like a risotto (rice is fine) or even a rice filled aubergine loaf and it’s something we’ve given them before.

I’ve decided to go with a table of curries and related dishes, with rice as an accompaniment and some convenient poppadums that turn out to be gluten free. I’m not going to bother with naan bread etc because gluten free substitutes are rarely as good as you’d like.

But I’m not going to be too didactic about it. There is a surprising overlap between Indian dishes and Arab or even S American dishes when it comes to spice. I’ll have to be a bit careful about the latter because a couple of people around the table have incredibly bland palates. The trick will probably be to include a reasonable numbers of side dishes or relishes.

  • Aloo Papri Chaat – using something gluten free and snack like for the texture on top*
  • Vegetable Jalfrezi with paneer cheese**
  • Spinach with Coconut – part of the continuing and seemingly endless campaign to use up the desiccated coconut**
  • Dhal – probably with red split lentils**
  • Chilli Roast Butternut Squash with lentils**
  • Cucumber salad*
  • Mango Chutney*
  • Yoghurt Raita*
  • Curry Puffs – based on a Brazilian Cheese puff recipe made with tapioca (potato) flour
  • Basmati rice

& I’m going to think about either minted pineapple for desert or a carrot halva**.

Making so many separate dishes means a fair bit of work, but a lot can be done in advance, or substantially in advance*

A couple will just need warming through last minute**

And the rice plus curry puffs will need to be made fresh, though the rice is forgiving enough.

It’s a plan.



I’ve a couple of bags of frozen cherries at the bottom of my freezer, and I need the space. One can be used to make a compote, good with yoghurt or on top of my breakfast porridge.

The other is going to be used for a clafoutis.


  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter (at room temperature) , for greasing
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 300 g cherries
  • icing sugar , for dusting
  • 60 g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 60 g sugar
  • 300 ml milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Cherry clafoutis


  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas 4.
  2. Mix all the batter ingredients with a pinch of sea salt in a blender or food processor until totally smooth, then set aside for 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, grease a 25cm round baking dish with the softened butter, then sprinkle over the sugar.
  4. Dot the cherries (stoned, if you prefer) around the base of the dish, then place in the oven for 5 minutes so the fruit can begin to soften.
  5. Remove the dish from the oven and pour over the batter until the cherries are just covered. Return to the oven to bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until puffy and golden.
  6. Dust the clafoutis with icing sugar and serve lukewarm.

Roast aubergine with curried yoghurt, caramelised onions and pomegranate

Half the challenge at this time of year is to plan what you’re going to eat on Christmas Day and to stick to it, and the last thing you need from anyone is more ideas about what to cook.

So here is something from Ottolenghi  to provide light and easy relief from the main event, put together largely from what’s  already in the cupboard or fridge, quick to make and confident enough to hold their own against the rest.

Happy Christmas!

Yotam Ottolenghi’s roast aubergine with curried yoghurt, caramelised onions and pomegranate.

A breath of fresh air for tired, jaded tastebuds. Serves four, generously.

3 large (or 4 regular) aubergines
100ml groundnut oil
200g Greek-style yoghurt
2 tsp medium curry powder
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1 lime – finely grate the zest to get 1 tsp and juice to get 2 tsp
Salt and black pepper
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
30g flaked almonds
½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
½ tsp coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
40g pomegranate seeds

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Use a vegetable peeler to shave strips of skin off the aubergines from top to bottom, so they end up with alternating stripes of dark purple skin and clear white flesh. Cut the aubergines widthways into 2cm-thick rounds and put in a large bowl. Add 70ml oil, half a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper, then spread out on a large oven tray lined with baking paper. Roast for 40-45 minutes, until dark golden brown, then remove and leave to cool.

In a small bowl, mix the yoghurt with a teaspoon of curry powder, the turmeric, lime juice, a generous pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper, then put it in the fridge until later.

Heat the remaining two tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high flame. Once hot, fry the onion for eight minutes, stirring frequently, until soft and dark golden brown. Add the remaining teaspoon of curry powder, the almonds and a pinch of salt, and fry for two minutes, until the almonds are lightly browned.

To serve, lay the aubergine slices on a platter, overlapping them slightly. Spoon the yoghurt sauce over the top, then scatter on the fried onion mix. Sprinkle over the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, pomegranate seeds and lime zest, and serve.

Butternut Squash with Coconut

It started out with the best of intentions. There is only one rule in our house when it comes to food cupboards: if you finish it, you must add it to the shopping list for the week. The coconut cream should have been sitting in the cupboard waiting.

Of course it was nowhere to be found. Neither was the coriander leaf & the ginger looked a bit past it’s best.  I couldn’t find a chilli either.

But all of this seemed eminently do-able, except for the coconut cream. In the end I used yoghurt as a substitute with added desiccated coconut. It all tasted a bit too acidic so I added 2 tsp sugar to compensate. In reality though it all ended up tasting good, next time I’ll use coconut cream, and so should you.

baked pumpkin and spiced chickpeas.
  • 1 butternut squash quartered and deseeded
  • oil, butter, salt and pepper to bake
  • 2 sticks lemongrass, chopped
  • 1 medium green chilli, 2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 30g coriander leaf, parsley
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1inch ginger
  • 80g coconut cream
  • 1tbsp oil
  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Slice 750g of pumpkin, or other autumn squash, into thick segments, then scrape away any seeds and fibres. Place the slices on a baking tray, trickle lightly with groundnut oil and dot generously with butter. Season with black pepper and salt then bake for a good 45 minutes or so, until the flesh is deep gold.

While the pumpkin bakes, whizz the following (or their substitutes) in a food processor: 2 sticks of lemongrass, cut into short pieces, 1 medium-sized green chilli of moderate heat, 30g of coriander leaves and stems, the grated zest of 1 lime, 2 cloves of garlic, ½ tsp of salt, a small lump of ginger and 80g of coconut cream. Pour in enough groundnut oil to make a soft paste.

Rinse a 400g can of chickpeas under running water. Tip them into a small saucepan with some oil, then add the spice paste (you may not need all of it) and warm gently over a moderate heat. When the chickpeas are hot, fold a handful of torn coriander leaves through it, divide between two plates and serve with the slices of roasted pumpkin.

The length of time a slice of squash or pumpkin takes to cook depends on the variety. Some, such as the firm fleshed Crown Prince, take longer than the softer textured varieties. Roast them for a good half hour to 45 minutes, basting occasionally with a little butter or oil until they are tender and translucent. They will hold in good condition while you warm the chickpeas and spice paste.

You can use rice, quinoa or other varieties of bean instead of the chickpeas. Introduce a little coconut milk into the spice paste so it becomes more of a sauce. Spoon it over the pumpkin as you serve.

Lentil & Radicchio Salad

Lokking for a salad for an evening playing bridge (a tart plus a couple of substantial salads gets us through an evening) and I found an Ottolenghi recipe that worked well served at room temperature.

Manuka honey is rather expensive, so you can substitute it with another good, strong honey. Radicchio’s bitterness balances the rich sweetness of the honey, but if it’s not your thing, leave it out. Serves four.

200g puy lentils
2 bay leaves
100g manuka honey
¼ tsp flaked chilli
½ tsp ground turmeric
Salt and black pepper
About 1 tsp water
3 tbsp red-wine vinegar
90ml olive oil
100g walnuts
½ medium-size radicchio
60g pecorino fiore sardo, or other mature ewe’s or goat’s cheese
20g each roughly chopped basil, dill and parsley

Heat the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Put the lentils in a medium saucepan, cover with plenty of water, add the bay leaves and simmer for 15 minutes, until tender.

While the lentils cook, prepare the walnuts. In a bowl, combine half the honey, the chilli, turmeric and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and add enough water to create a thick paste.

Drain the lentils and return to the pan. Whisk together the vinegar, half the oil, the remaining honey, half a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper until the honey dissolves. Stir into the lentils while they’re still hot, then leave to cool a little. Discard the bay leaves.

Add the walnuts to the honey/chilli paste and stir to coat. Spread on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring once, until crunchy and dry, but still sticky.

Pour the remaining oil into a medium frying pan and place on high heat. Cut the radicchio into eight wedges and place these in the hot oil, sprinkling them with a little salt. Cook for a minute on each side, then transfer into a large bowl.

Add the lentils, walnuts, sliced pecorino and herbs. Stir gently, taste and season accordingly. Serve warmish or at room temperature.

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.