Mushroom & Barely Risotto

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ome recipes make you excited. You end up dishing up then talking about them the entire way through the meal. With each mouthful another comment about your success or enjoyment until you realise you’re lost in an enthusiastic nodding and smiling conversation with your company across the table. This happens a lot to me, and I can only think my fiancee is happy to just enjoy his dinner and take one for the team by humouring me. Rather like I do when watching United play at the weekend I guess…

This recipe though was one of those happy soothing moments where we dined in delight, comfort and satiety. So pleasingly earthy, umami and meaty, this barley mushroom ‘risotto’ really treated our Monday evening normailty. Its a “YUM” dinner.

Free to use your favourite assortment of mushrooms here but do not skimp on the dried mushrooms. That soaking liquid is like nectar and I always have to stick my nose in when opening a fresh pot for that joyful aroma! Mushroom risotto is one of my favourites but I really think its elevated 3 fold by using barley. The earthiness comes through so pleasingly and the texture and bite make for such a delicious dinner.

Serves 2-3

  • 180g pearl barley
  • 300g (approx) chestnut mushrooms
  • 120g (approx) shiitake mushrooms
  • 15-20g wild dried mushrooms (I use these)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked, finely chopped
  • 1 small glass white wine
  • Hot Stock – I used a chicken stock but vegetable if you want to keep this vege
  • 25g butter
  • Handful chopped parsley & chives
  • Parmesan
  • Handful toasted pine nuts (to serve)
  • Hens/Quails eggs (Optional – to serve)
  1. Soak your dried mushrooms in about 200ml boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain but keep that mushroom stock but discard the last bit of liquid as it’ll be grainy. Set mushrooms and mushroom stock aside.
  2. Heat half the butter and a splash of olive oil in a large sauce pan on a medium heat. Add the finely chopped shallot, celery and sweat for about 5-10 minutes until soft and translucent. Don’t colour. Season well as its cooking.
  3. Add one crushed garlic clove and the rosemary and cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Add the barley and stir everything so you coat the barely in fats.
  5. Turn up the heat and add the white wine and simmer until this reduced.
  6. Add your mushroom stock and stir.
  7. Now add the hot stock in generous spoonfuls bit by bit as it cooks. Keep adding stock to the barley keeping it on a good strong simmer. The barley will take about 35-40 minutes to cook through but you still want it with a bit of bite. You’ll need around 800ml stock in total but use your eye to see when you need to add more but don’t add too much as its gets to the end of cooking as your want it to be reducing down.
  8. As the barley is cooking, set a frying pan on a medium high heat and add the rest of the butter and a splash of olive oil. Chop your mushrooms roughly (not too thin) or rip them if delicate and add to the pan. Season well with salt. Cook for about 10 minutes. You want to reduced them down. A lot of liquid will leak out so keep the pan hot to reduced that off and get them golden. Once ready, add the second crushed garlic clove and cook for a few more minutes before removing from the heat and setting aside.
  9. Once the barley is ready, check your liquid. You still want some give in it, do not let it dry out, it’ll thicken with the mushrooms and cheese. Check your seasoning here and add salt and pepper as needed (lots of pepper works wonders here).
  10. Add the dried soaked mushrooms and fried mushrooms and stir well. Add the chopped parsley and chives and stir.
  11. Finally grate in a really generous handful of parmesan – I like to keep this optional as to how much! Clamp your lid on, remove from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes.
  12. If frying or poaching eggs to go on top, do that now.
  13. When ready to serve, remove the lid and stir the now molten cheese into the dish. If it’s a little thick, add a splash of water to loosen, you don’t want it cloggy.
  14. Spoon into bowls, top with grated parmesan, scatter of pine nuts, any reserved herbs and finely your eggs if using!

Texture – texture of any risotto should warrant a bowl or a large plate. It needs to ooze. If you can label your risotto onto a plate and it sits high and still like a mound of pasta, add more hot water and stir well.

Chocolate & Amaretto Cremeux with Raspberry Sorbet

…this dessert followed those pig cheeks. My word. Given the horrific weather forecast ahead of us this week, this provided some solace.

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remeux sounds a bit posh but its essentially a “chocolate creme anglaise” i.e. custard. It’s served here in a very rustic form as a rich spoonful alongside some sharp fresh raspberry sorbet. The cold sorbet cuts through the rich chocolate in such a pleasant way.

Topping with something crunchy is a must for texture – I added some sugared almonds but a crushed ginger nut biscuit, baked crumble topping or even a sesame seed snap would work wonders. You can serve fresh raspberries if you don’t want to make your own sorbet or some roasted fruit but try and stick to something cleansing as the cremeux if fairly rich.

Serves about 6

This you’ll need to prepare at least the morning of eating, if not the day before as many of these elements need to cool/set.

Sorbet

  • 500g raspberries (I use a bag of frozen ones, defrosted)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 270 ml water
  • 1/2 lemon

Cremeux

  • 200g dark (70%) chocolate
  • 150ml double cream
  • 150ml whole milk
  • 2 tbsp amaretto (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  1. Start with the sorbet. Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Bring the heat up and simmer for a few minutes so you get a nice sugar syrup. Remove and leave to cool.
  2. Blend the raspberries in a blended until purred. If using defrosted ones, make sure they are fully defrosted.
  3. Push through a sieve using a spoon to press the pulp through and remove the seeds. Discard the seeds and add the pulp to the cooled sugar syrup and whisk to combine – its should be glossy and vibrant pink. Add the lemon juice.
  4. Churn in an ice cream maker for about 20 minutes before spooning off into a tupperware and freezing fully.

Cremeux

  1. Whisk the sugar and eggs in a large bowl until combined.
  2. Chop the chocolate finely and place in another large bowl that will ultimately hold the finished mixture (so needs to fit in the fridge)
  3. Heat the milk and cream in a pan just until it comes to the simmer. Add the amaretto.
  4. Take the hot mixture and pour slowly into the eggs whisking the whole time so it doesn’t scramble.
  5. Return the whole mixture back to the saucepan and very gently heat stirring continuously with a wooden spoon – again to ensure it doesn’t scramble.
  6. The mixture will begin to thicken and when it can coat the back of the spoon, remove from the heat.
  7. Pour the hot ‘custard’ over the chocolate and leave alone for a few minutes.
  8. All the chocolate should have melted well but give it all a good stir to melt the last chunks and fully combine until you have a glossy chocolate custard!
  9. Leave to cool before covering with cling film (to prevent a skin) and pop in the fridge to set for at least 6 hours.

When ready to serve, you may need to remove the sorbet from the freezer ahead of time to let it defrost a bit as it might be rock hard. Then, take a spoonful of your lovely cremeux and gently spoon onto a plate. Sit a lovely scoop of sorbet alongside and top with some crumble, roasted nuts or anything crunchy to give a nice contrast.

 

Braised Pork Cheeks with Parsnip Puree

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ork cheeks are such a delight to braise slowly in wine. After 3 hours quietly stewing they are pleasingly tender with a melt in the mouth texture. Beautiful served atop something creamy and comforting like some garlicy mash potato but I love the sweetness of the parsnips here and their velvety texture.

You can get pork cheeks at any good butcher and they are cheap as chips but are such a show stopper! If you can only get hold of ox cheeks, you can use the same recipe just upping the cooking time to 5-6 hours and adding more stock/wine – they are about 10 times the size after all. Two ox cheeks will easily feed 4 unlike pork cheeks where I usually allow 2-3 per person.

Serves 4

  • 12 pork cheeks
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 carrot
  • 6 banana shallots, finely chop 2, cut the others into halves.
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked
  • 400ml red wine (roughly – I didn’t measure)
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped to serve

Parsnip Puree

  • 500g parsnips
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 200ml milk
  1. Heat the oven to 160 degrees and get a large casserole dish on the hob over a medium heat and add a splash of olive oil and heat.
  2. Coat the pork cheeks in the flour and some salt and pepper and dust off the excess. Add them to the pan and brown quickly on all sides for just a few minutes and then set aside on a plate.
  3. In the same pan, add the finely chopped carrot, celery and shallot and sweat for about 5-8 minutes on a light heat until starting to soften and caramelise.
  4. Add the halved shallots, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary and some good seasoning and stir for a few minutes.
  5. Return the cheeks to the pan and mix.
  6. Add enough red wine to just come up the sides of the dish. Crumble in a stock cube and top up with enough boiling water to submerge the cheeks but not so they are drowning.
  7. Pop in the oven for about 3 hours. Check the liquid level now and again, it should be reducing so after the 3 hours, you have a nice reduced thick sauce but the meat is by no meats drying out. Top up with more liquid if needed OR remove the lid if its too thin so it can reduce a bit.
  8. After about 3 hours, the cheeks should be beautifully tender, the sauce reduced and the top of the cheeks browning. You can pop the dish back on the hob to reduce some more if needed.

Parnisps

  1. Peel and chop the parsnips into chunks and add them to a saucepan with the milk and then top up with water to cover. Add the bay leaf and some cracked black pepper.
  2. Bring to a simmer and simmer gently for about 15 minutes until they are just tender – don’t over cook of they will be water logged, undercooked and you’ll get a lumpy puree!
  3. Drain the parsnips making sure you reserve the hot milk. Remove the bay leaf.
  4. Blend the parsnips in a blender with some salt and pepper and some of the reserved cooking milk but don’t add all at once. Add more of the milk as you blend to get the desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To serve, spoon a lovely pool of parsnips puree onto a warm plate. Top with a few pork cheeks and some of that lovely thick sauce and a scattering of chopped parsley! Serve with some braised leeks and peas or greens of choice!

Hummus B’lahmeh (Crispy lamb topped hummus)

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e all know and love our hummus especially in England as it lines the shelves in various delicious and odd disguises (Marmite hummus now exists…discuss). This though. This Middle Eastern theatrical version takes it to the next level! Its hard to resist the look of it with a file of warm freshly baked flatbreads and a glass of something cold…

A simple (super speedy) way to ‘pimp’ your hummus if you have some guests round as a nibble with drinks or as a great sharing starter (are we allowed to share food during a pandemic!?).

You can of course use a packet of hummus from the shop if you don’t want to make your own but it really takes seconds (blender permitting) and doesn’t contain half as much oil.

Makes 1 large dish to share

Serve with some lovely toasted pitta or some homemade flatbreads (see here for my recipe) for scooping up all those lovely lamb juices!

  • 1 can chickpeas – I use Napolina as they are the best canned version, creamy and large. I find supermarket versions like little chickpea bullets and won’t give you a creamy hummus
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small red chilli
  • 1.5 tbsp spice mix (see below) OR add in some spices of your choosing. Or, leave off if you want a more authentic hummus
  • Extra virgin/rapeseed oil
  • Minced lamb (about 300g)
  • 1 heaped tsp each ground cumin, coriander, spice mix, smoked paparika
  • Pinch chilli flakes
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • 1 shallot, chopped finely
  • Handful dill/parsely, chopped
  • Handful pine nuts
  1. Put the chickpeas, juice of 1 lemon, tahini, garlic, chilli and spice mix in a blender and add some salt and pepper. Add a good few tbsp’s of good oil and blend well. Add a splash of boiling water to thin this down to your desired consistency (you can also add more oil but I don’t like to make my hummus too oily when water works just fine and helps emulsify).
  2. Blend until smooth, taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Set aside.
  3. Heat a frying pan on high and lightly toast your pine nuts until golden. Remove and set aside.
  4. Add splash of olive/vegetable oil to the pan and lightly soften your chopped shallot for a few minutes.
  5. Turn up the heat and add the minced lamb, using a fork to break it down into pieces. Fry quickly until turning nice and brown and then add your ground spices, chilli flakes, cinnamon and some generous salt and pepper.
  6. Mix well and fry until the lamb is just cooked (taste and adjust seasoning with more spices/S&P) and then remove from the heat so it doesn’t dry out.
  7. Spoon your hummus onto a nice shallow bowl or plate making a slight well in the middle.
  8. Top with your lamb and scatter with your fresh herbs and pines nuts.
  9. Serve drizzled with some good oil, the juice of the 1/2 lemon and with some lovely warm pillowy flat breads or pitta for scooping!

Spice Mix – I make a batch of this and keep in a jar. Made by toasting 1 tbsp each of the following and then grinding in a pestle and mortar: fennel seed, cumin seed, coriander seed, fenugreek and mustard seed with 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cardamon pods and 1 star anise.

Lamb & Guinness sticky (Irish) Stew

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his recipe from one of Jamie Oliver’s first cookbooks (Jamie’s Kitchen 2002!) has been sitting on my shelf for years with the page turned down as a reminder to cook it and I never have. Shameful. It’s taken me about 10 years but ‘Dark, Sticky Stew’ is a must for January 2021 for reasons I don’t think I need to explain.

This reminds me of an Irish stew with the addition of the soul soothing pearl barley which has an amazing ability to soak up all the meaty stock. However this one has a slight twist with the addition of chipolata sausages! Its still an odd addition I’m not overly sure about (so omit if you like) as the lamb is the hero itself. Given it reminded me of an Irish Stew I thought it the perfect time to add some dumplings and introduce my South African fiancee to this delicious treat. Light, fluffy and moreish, dumpling done this way are the best and remind me of such wonderful home comforts form my childhood. Most millennials probably don’t even know what Suet is !

It seemed fitting that we celebrated Burns Night last week with some haggis to follow it with some Irish Stew. Maybe some eccles cakes are next on the agenda…

Serves 4-6 (Adapted from here)

  • 800g stewing lamb, diced into big chunks (I used neck fillets, you want something that will slow cook nicely)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 punnet mushrooms (of choice) roughly chopped
  • 3 large carrots, chopped into horizontal chunks
  • 2-3 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 8 tbsp pearl barely (of a big handful)
  • 1 tbsp marmite/Bovril
  • 300ml Guinness/Ale
  • Hot beef/chicken stock (300-500ml)
  • 12 chipolata sausages (optional)
  • Parsley, chopped to serve
  • 1 lemon, zest to serve

Dumplings (makes 4 average sized, double it for more)

  • 100g self tasing flour
  • 50g vegetable suet
  • Handful chopped parsley
  • Cold water
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Sprinkle the lamb in a tablespoon of flour and some salt and pepper and mix. Heat a heavy based casserole dish with a splash of oil. When hot, add the lamb and seal on all sides until beginning to brown and create a lovely caramelised outside. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. To the pan juices and oils, add the carrot, onion, garlic and mushrooms and cook gently until soft for about 8-10 minutes. Season well and add the chopped rosemary.
  4. Stir all to combine and add the lamb back.
  5. Add the Guinness/Ale, marmite, pearl barely and mix all to combine. (take a sip of Guinness for your hard work…)
  6. Add the sausages if using making sure they are on top.
  7. Top up with as much stock as you need just to cover the mixture but don’t drown it. This will reduced down in the oven but you want to add enough moisture so its doesn’t dry out and leaves enough moisture to cook those dumplings.
  8. Cook in the oven for 1 hour with a lid on.
  9. Before the hour is up, make the dumplings by mixing the flour, suet, parsley and salt and pepper in a bowl. Add a few tablespoons of cold water and mix with a fork until it comes together. Don’t be tempted to add too much water but add enough until it just forms a dough.
  10. Once you have a nice dough ball (don’t knead/ overwork it) cut into 4 pieces and roll into balls.
  11. Remove the casserole after 1 hour and turn the heat up to 200 degrees.
  12. Place the dumplings into the casserole so they are half submerged and half exposed.
  13. Pop back in the hot oven for 20 minutes to brown on top and get those sausages all golden.
  14. Serve with a scattering of parsley and some lemon zest with a big ladleful into warmed dishes!

If you aren’t adding dumplings, a nice hunk of fresh sourdough is lovely for dipping and soaking up those juices! However, its perfectly filling and satisfying just on its own.

 

Chicken Cacciatore with Orzo

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 classic Italian hunter stew, perfect for a post snowy weekend in January. The temperature just won’t seem to rise above 10 and remain and whilst we were all really over 2020, we’re definitely really over January 2021.

That said, I’ve kept cooking and revisiting ingredients. I’ve added some orzo here which is a nice way to use it as I generally find its a bit of an odd ball of the pasta world. A bit like a risotto rice soul trapped in a pasta body!! But here, like rice, it gives a nice indulgence, substinance and texture! You can easily substitute in some butter beans, potatoes or rice, just adjust the liquid quantities accordingly.

Note: I like to remove the bone from my chicken thighs as they cook quicker and are easier for you and your guest to eat but its not a must! You can do this by using a pair of kitchen scissors if you chose to easily – you don’t need to buy them deboned. I’d prioritise buying thighs with skin on, than already deboned. I often find the deboned ones are skinless – gahh!

Serves 4

  • 8 chicken thighs, skin on (deboned easily using a pair of kitchen scissors – optional)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 sprig rosemary, chopped finely
  • 1 Sprig thyme, leaves picked
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Handful olives – everyone has their favourite so up to you
  • 1 tbsp chopped capers
  • 1 tbsp balsamin vinegar
  • Large glass red wine (about 250ml)
  • 1 chicken stock cube, made up of 300ml boiling water
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes/cherry tomatoes
  • 300g orzo, washed first
  • Flat leaf parsley, finally chopped to garnish
  • 1 lemon, zest only, to garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.
  2. Heat a casserole pan over a high heat and add a splash of oil. Season the chicken and fry skin side down for about 5 minutes until beginning to turn crispy and golden. Flip it over to seal on the flesh side then set aside on a flat until needed.
  3. Add the chopped onion and garlic to the pan and sauté for a few minutes until soft and season. Add the chopped rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, olives and capers and stir.
  4. Turn up the heat and add the balsamic and let it bubble away. Add the red wine and cook out for a few minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and the stock and give everything a good mix.
  6. Add the washed orzo and stir well.
  7. Return the chicken thighs to the pan in one layer submerging the flesh but keeping the skin free from liquid if you want to get that crispy top.
  8. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  9. Once ready remove from the oven, scatter over the chopped parsley and lemon zest and serve with some lightly buttered green beans!

 

Cauliflower Trio & Seabream

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auliflower puree*; curried roasted cauliflower; pickled cauliflower; pan fried sea bream; crispy curry leaves. Topped with a prawn bisque sauce.

*mine was more like mash…I need a new blender!

Cauliflower is clearly one of my top vegetables as you can see and it feels a bit trendy right now. Its so versatile and paired with the right flavours can provide a really meaty, satiating alternative to meat if you’re on that wagon.

With so much time on my hands my mind has been wondering to food at every opportunity – I’ve literally been dreaming about ingredients. From creating bespoke menus for friends and family when we can finally have them round to creating dishes for the mid-week, Friday nights and weekends!

Serves 2

  • 2 sea bream fillets
  • 1 whole cauliflower (large)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 50g butter
  • Splash milk
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Around 6 curry leaves
  • Prawn bisque sauce (see here) – heated for serving.
  1. Cut the cauliflower into florets. Keep aside one to cut into thin slices for pickling.
  2. For this, put the white wine vinegar and 1 tbsp of water, and the sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat. Slice the reserved floret into thin slices and add to the pickling liquid and set aside.
  3. Keep aside an extra 6 florets and put the rest in a roasting tin and crush over the garlic. Season and add some olive/sunflower oil and roast at 200 for about 20 minutes until soft and lightly coloured.
  4. Put the remaining florets in another roasting pan and season, add the curry powder and some olive/sunflower oil and roast at 200 for 20 minutes at the same time. Remove the tray from the oven and keep warm.
  5. Put the roasted, plain cauliflower in a blender with the butter, seasoning and a splash of milk. Blend until smooth adding a splash of milk to get to the desired consistency. Taste and add seasoning if needed. Set aside keeping warm.
  6. Heat a frying pan on a very high heat and add a splash of oil. Fry the fish, skin side down for about 2 minutes until crisp. Flip and finish on the flesh side for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  7. Remove from the heat and add the curry leaves (careful as they may pop!). Fry quickly for a few minutes then remove from the oil and dry on kitchen towel.
  8. When ready to serve, spoon a nice smooth spoonful of puree onto a plate. Place around 3 of the curried florets on top followed by the fish. Place a few pickled cauliflower slices against the sides followed by the fried curry leaves.
  9. Serve with the sauce!

Sticky Hoisin Pork & Homemade Coriander Noodles

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ou might have guessed but I recently bought a pasta machine as a lockdown past time! I’m not even a big pasta fan! I’d go so far as saying I’m not really a fan at all, eating it only about 2-3 times a year! Alas, I like to expand my skillzzz. Plus, turns out you can really easily make noodles, which are growing on me!

I’ve always rather turned my nose up at dried packed noodles. Probably because I associate them all with pot noodles and instant university food. I still remember my first pot noodle when I was about 7 and I wasn’t even impressed then. Aliet not much impressed me in the kitchen when I was younger apart from alphabites and fish fingers!

You can absolutely skip the homemade noodles. Like fresh vs dried pasta, I’ll admit there isn’t a huge amount of difference. The main advantages here being that I know exactly what went into mine and it was only 3 ingredients and no preservatives! Secondly you can flavour with things like coriander to make them a beautiful vibrant green. Use the dried or fresh noodles of your choice here, I know everyone has a preference.

Note: A pork fillet if quite big and this may feed 3-4 but we eat a lot of protein and are growing young adults…ahem.

Serves 2

  • 1 pork loin/fillet (450g approx)
  • Knob ginger, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 red chilli, chopped
  • 2 red peppers, chopped
  • Handful green beans, top and tailed, halved
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • Garnish – Sesame seeds & chopped coriander
  • Dried egg noodles/odon noodles OR below noodle recipe. If using dried noodles, skip to the pork method steps!

Noodles (if making)

  • 125g flour
  • 1 egg
  • Large handful coriander
  1. Begin with the noodles if making. Blend the coriander in a food processor with the flour.
  2. Add the egg and blend until the dough comes together. Add a touch (be very reserved!) of cold water to help bring it together but don’t be tempted to add too much. Touch the dough if not sure, it should be a bit sticky but not wet.
  3. Roll onto a floured work surface and knead together to form a silky dough for about 5 minutes. Then rest in a ball for 30 minutes in the fridge.
  4. When ready to roll, flatten into a rectangle as best you can and feed through your pasta machine on the thickest setting, getting thinner as you go. You may need to cut your final strip into 2 as it’ll be too long to handle. Once nicely thin, pop through the setting of choice to obtain your desired noodle shape!
  5. Scatter lots of flour over the noodles to stop them sticking until ready to cook.

Pork recipe

  1. Marinade the pork fillet (halved if easier) in the ginger, garlic, hoisin, soy, honey, chilli and set aside in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Heat a frying pan on a high heat and add a splash of olive/sunflower/plain oil (never heat extra virgin, I’ll keep saying it). Sear the pork on both sides for about 2 minutes until it forms a nice caramelised golden seal.
  3. Top the pork with all but 2 tbsp of the marinade and cover with foil or a lid. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes.
  4. While that is roasting, stir fry the peppers and beans in a little oil in a hot frying pan to begin soften.
  5. Bring a pan of water to the boil at the same time.
  6. When the pork is ready remove from the oven and leave to rest on a board. Add the juices from the roasting pan and the rest of the marinade you reserved earlier to the peppers and turn up the heat.
  7. Add your noodles to the boiling water and cook for about 1 minute for fresh and 2 for the dried. Drain quickly (keep a little cooking water clinging to the noodles to help stop them stick if you can so don’t drain too heavy handedly!). Drizzle with the sesame oil to stop them sticking.
  8. Add the noodles to the peppers and sauce and mix all really well to combine and coat all the noodles in the sauce.
  9. Remove from the heat and slice your rested pork, adding any juices back to the noodles and pepper pan.
  10. Serve a spoonful of peppers and noodles in a warm bowl and top with the sliced pork, some fresh coriander and some sesame seeds if you like!

Dal Tadka (with roasted cauliflower)

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‘m a bit lost for words on this one *love eyes*. I love dal but this one is a culinary cuddle with a gentle kiss of coconut among the curry layers. I am about packing in as much flavour as possible so if you’re used to using my recipes you won’t be surprised that I normally use about double the spices so please be heavy handed! 

I’ll never be a vegan but as I was cooking I realised we’d chosen something similar for our vegan/vegetarian wedding dinner option and thus realised its vegan by coincidence. Not many recipes are such, usually tirelessly omitting all the fun. But if I had to be vegan, I’d eat this one everyday!

Serving suggestions…this is devine with some warm fluffy flatbreads (250g SR flour, 150ml water mix into a dough, rest and roll thinly before dry frying!). It would also work wonderfully as a side dish to a curry feast or some grilled meat at a BBQ.

Serves about 3 people (Or 2 with leftovers in our case!)

Dal

  • 150g red lentils
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 knob ginger
  • 1 bride eye red chilli (as hot as you like)
  • 6 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seed
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tbsp curry powder
  • 400ml coconut milk (I always recommend Dunn’s brand here hands down)
  • 1 lime
  • Olive/vegetable/rapeseed oil
  • Flatbreads – to serve

Cauliflower

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp Garam Masala
  • 1 heaped tsp tumeric
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • Handful chopped coriander

Tadka

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • Few curry leaves
  • Ghee or oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 200. Break the cauliflower into florets and cut the bigger pieces in half or quarters (think big bitesize so you don’t need a knife!). Add to a large roasting tray in a single even layer so they aren’t cramped.
  2. Scatter garam masala, turmeric and a good pinch of salt and pepper and then drizzle with some olive/vegetable oil and toss to combine.
  3. Timing with the dal cooking times below, roast for about 10-15 minutes during step 8 of making the dal below on a high heat to char the florets but not overcook. Remove from the oven when ready. Scatter with the chopped coriander and keep warm.
  4. For the dal, heat a splash of olive oil in a saucepan pan and soften the chopped onion for about 5 minutes.
  5. Grate in the garlic, ginger and chopped chilli and stir. Add curry leaves and season.
  6. Add the spices and mix well for a few minutes to coat the oily onions and release their flavour!
  7. Add the lentils and stir to combine.
  8. Add the coconut milk and about 100ml of boiling water and stir well. Simmer well for about 20 minutes making sure to stir often to avoid it sticking or catching on the bottom. You may need to add another 100ml of water if it gets thick. I used about 800ml of liquid in total but it may depend on the quality of your coconut milk. (I always recommend Dunn’s brand here hands down).
  9. After 20 minutes of so it should be thick and shiny and the lentils just cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  10. When ready, squeeze in the juice of the lime and keep warm.
  11. Finally, to make the tadka, add a small tsp of oil of ghee to a frying pan. When really hot, add the mustard and cumin seeds and let them sizzle and release their lovely flavours! Add the curry leaves, careful as they will spit (due to their moisture content!). Let them crisp for a few seconds and remove from the heat.
  12. Serve a nice creamy scoop of dal in a warm bowl, top with roasted cauliflower and coriander and finally a little spoonful of that tadka!

Chestnut Risotto with flaked almonds

I

adore a creamy, rich risotto on a cold evening. I’ll admit, with no sign of any greens, its not a nutritionally packed or balanced dinner in the slightest but it was a warm hug in a bowl we need right now on chilly weekday evenings when we’re house bound. It really did hit the spot and provided a festive hangover of creamy chestnut and garlic.

Whilst I’m no vegan, I would certainly urge any vegan missing their cream or cheese to try chestnuts as a replacement for that texture. They make a great hummus and are devine in desserts with caramel.

Chestnuts add a really natural creaminess to this one so you can use less cheese if you like but I always add a good handful or two of grated parmesan. Its subtle in flavour so don’t be tempted to overpower the topping too much.

Serves 4

  • 200g risotto/Arborio rice
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • Sprig rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 25g butter + 1 large knob
  • 200g chestnut puree – make your own by blending chestnuts or use this one from Merchant Gourmet
  • 1 small glass Marsala wine (or brandy/white wine)
  • 1 stock cube (made up to 500ml or so of hot stock)
  • 50g approx, grated Parmesan cheese
  • Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Flaked almonds, lightly toasted
  • Garnish – crunchy breadcrumbs/croutons – optional but adds a much needed crunch.
  1. Heat the knob of butter and a tbsp of oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Once melted, add the chopped onion and celery and gently sweat for about 8-10 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the rosemary and stir with some seasoning.
  2. Get your hot stock in a saucepan nearby on a low but constant heat.
  3. Crush in the garlic and cook for a further few minutes
  4. Add the rice and turn up the heat to medium high. You are aiming to toast the rice and cover it in the fat. After about a minute the grains should start to change colour. Add the alcohol of choice which will bubble away quickly.
  5. Add a ladleful of hot stock and stir. Bring the heat to a gentle simmer and simmer gently, adding more stock from the pan as it begins to be absorbed for about 18 minutes – time this and as you near 18 minutes keep tasting the rice. It should be just cooked but with a slight bite and most of your stock used. The mixture should be ‘sloppy’ for want of a better word.
  6. Once you feel the rice is ready, add the chestnut puree and stir well to incorporate, it will thicken so add a splash of stock to thin if needed.
  7. Seaosn with plenty of black pepper.
  8. Remove from the heat. Add the grated cheese and the butter and put a lid on. Leave for 2 minutes. Stir well to mix in the melted cheese and butter and add all but a handful of parsley.
  9. Serve in warm shallow bowls topped with the remaining parsley, roasted almonds and crunchy breadcrumbs/crouton!