Date Archives March 2013

Green Risotto with Crispy Parma ham and Almonds

Risotto is such a versatile and satisfying meal even when, like last night, I was simply using up loose ends from the cupboard because I’d run out of food for the week. It can be made fancy and gourmet by the easy addition of some little tasty toppings which are totally open to interpretation….a poached egg on top is always a favourite of mine! As a risotto lover (and sane person) I always have risotto rice, parmesan cheese and butter in the house and with white wine never more than a stones throw away these few ingredients can always be used to make an endless amount of different variation on a risotto with whatever ingredients are to hand.

I tend to make risottos by instinctive quantities. It really doesn’t matter how much rice or stock you have weighted out as long as you taste as you go along and make sure that the consistency resembles that of loose porridge when ready. I usually use a large handful of rice per person and a pinch more for luck as cold risotto is perfect for arancini (see here).

Serves 2 generously

  • 2 large handfuls of risotto rice
  • 40g butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
  • 2 sprigs thyme, leave picked
  • Small glass dry white wine
  • Hot chicken/vegetable stock
  • Handful of finely grated parmesan
  • 2 handfuls of frozen peas
  • Small bunch mint, chopped
  • Handful of rocket leaves
  • ½ lemon
  • 2 slices of parma ham
  • Small handful of flaked almonds
  • Creme friache
  1. Begin by boiling the peas for a good 5 minutes. (Keep a handful aside for garnish if you like) and blend the rest in a food processor with a splash of the stock until really smooth. Set aside.
  2. Continue by melting half the butter in a pan with a teaspoon of oil. Soften the onion gently until translucent. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another 5 minutes or so.
  3. Turn the heat up a little and add rice and fry until really hot. Add the white wine to let the rice simmer to absorb the wine.
  4. Now add ladelfuls of the hot stock as each addition of liquid becomes absorbed by the rice, simmering gently over a low heat. The rice takes about 18 minutes to cook so keep adding as much stock as needed until the rice is just cooked and soft. Keep stirring all the time to make sure the starches are released and you get a really creamy texture.
  5. As soon as the rice almost appears to plump up and double in volume and it is just cooked and soft to taste, add the lemon juice and season.
  6. Now stir in the pea puree and mix evenly. If it thickens too much, add a splash of stock to keep it loose.
  7. Add the other half of the butter, cut into cubes, and the grated parmesan. Cover quickly with a lid and take off the heat to rest.
  8. While it rests for 5 minutes, fry the parma ham and flaked almonds in a little oil until crispy and golden and then drain on kitchen paper.
  9. Now stir the melted cheese and butter evenly through the rested risotto and add the rocket and mint and stir to wilt down in the residual heat. If it thickens, add a splash of stock again to get a loose oozing consistency.
  10. To serve, pour a generous portion into a warmed bowl. Top with a few whole peas, the crispy parma ham and toasted flaked almonds and a few teaspoons of creme fraiche if you like!

For tips on the perfect risotto or more definitive measurements, see here.


Pulled Barbeque Pork with Spicy Slaw and Flatbread

I never thought clearing out my university fridge and freezer before the end of term could be so delicious. With the ever amazing help of Jamie Oliver’s barbeque sauce (see here), this slow cooked pulled pork shoulder was a greasily delicious end to a tiring term and brought a stomachful of summer hope to a cold March that has well and truly outstayed its welcome. A crunchy homemade coleslaw is a great and simple side without the sickly addition of buckets of mayo you often find your ‘healthy’ cabbage swimming in in the supermarket. Wrapped protectively in a snug wholemeal flatbread…….if only my dissertation had been on food….

  • 500g pork shoulder
  • 1 quantity of marinade (recipe here)
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 3 small raw beetroot
  • 500g yoghurt
  • 1 lime
  • 5 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped tsp of the following mix of ground spices (toast 1tsp of each fennel, cumin, coriander and fenugreek seed with 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cardamon pods and 1 star anise in a dry frying pan until hot, fragrant and beginning to pop, remove and grind in a pestle and mortar until fine).
  • Bunch mint, chopped
  • Bunch coriander, chopped
  • Punnet of cress
  • 250g wholemeal flour
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  1. Begin with the pork. Cover the pork in the marinade in a large heavy based casserole dish and leave in the fridge overnight to infuse the flavours. The next day, preheat the oven to 170.
  2. Place a lid on the dish and slowly cook for 3 hours, basting in the sauce about 3 times.
  3. Meanwhile, make the coleslaw. This is easiest shredded in a food processor with the appropriate blade attachment or you can grate by hand.Grate the carrot, parsnip and beetroot into a large dish
  4. Add the chopped herbs.
  5. Combine the zest of the lime and the juice to the yoghurt with some seasoning and a tbsp of mayonnaise and the spice mix to make the dressing.
  6. Only before serving, dress the coleslaw in the dressing and scatter over the cress.
  7. For the flatbreads, mix the flour, cumin seeds, oil and 150ml warm water in a bowl and mix to form a ball of dough. Divide into about 6 pieces and roll thinly into discs. Before serving, fry each for a few minutes each side in a really hot  dry frying pan until beginning to char and puff up. Keep warm wrapped in a teatowel while you fry them all and finish the pork.
  8. After 3 hours, the pork should be nicely cooked and tender. Remove from the oven, spoon off the liquid fat that has melted from the pork and discard, leaving the remaining marinade.
  9. Leave to rest for about 20 minutes. Then, cut off any of the skin and fat and discard. Next shred using a couple of forks and mix int he remaining marinade left in the dish.
  10. Serve with the coleslaw and flatbreads and come extra yoghurt if you like!

For some light amusement, here is a picture of the first cut of pork from our first attempt at keeping pigs last year. Yes they were accidently overfed….yes that is 50% fat to 50% meat….and yes the butcher could not make sausages with those pigs because they were so obese. We have since refined our animal handling and will be dining on a model piece of pork this Easter, thankfully for our arteries (and theirs…RIP).



Butternut Muffins



These little muffins are courtesy of Jamie Oliver from his ‘Jamie at Home’ cookbook. The book is one of my favourites and will always be sentimental to me as it was the first cookbook I ever received on my journey to foodie obsessive. I am always making the delicious recipes from the squash chapter and hadn’t made these in a while. I’d forgotten how deliciously moist they are, just like a quirky take on a carrot cake. With a dad who hates the addition of butternut squash in ANYTHING, a little white lie that these were in fact carrot cake muffins didn’t even muster a thimble of doubt…..

Makes 12

  • 400g butternut squash, roughly chopped
  • 350g light brown soft sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 heaped tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 handful walnuts
  • 175ml olive oil
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • ½ lemon, juice
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
  • Lavender to garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Add the butternut squash to a food processor and roughly chop.
  3. Add the eggs and sugar and a pinch of salt and blitz
  4. Sieve in the flour, cinnamon and baking powder followed by the oil and process to combine
  5. Add the walnuts and pulse to mix to make sure the nuts are kept chunky
  6. Generously fill the muffin cases with the mixture and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until cooked. Leave to cool
  7. Meanwhile, mix the cream cheese, icing sugar, lemon juice, a pinch of cinnamon and the seeds from the vanilla pod. Fill a piping bag with the mixture and chill until needed.
  8. When the cakes are cool ice with the cream cheese topping and scatter with a few lavender flowers.


Apricot and Vanilla Pannacotta with Rosemary Shortbread


There’s something about using herbs like thyme and rosemary in sweet desserts which I always think feels really sophisticated. Getting the right balance is essential as an overpowering flavour such as rosemary, while forgivable with lamb, will not be so delicious if overused in a dessert. It goes so well with the sweet, juicy plump apricots here and I created this recipe after being inspired by an apricot bar by a company called Baked. However, this recipe is more suitable for a after dinner dessert!

Serves about 5

Apricot Jam

  • 200g dried apricots
  • 350ml water
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 60g honey
  • ½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped
  1. Combine the ingredients in a pan including the vanilla pod once the seeds have been removed.
  2. Simmer gently for about 40-45 minutes until the apricots are plump and soft. Remove the vanilla pod and discard
  3. Puree in a processor until you form a thick sticky jam. Store in a jar int he fridge and use for the pannacotta recipe or one croissants and toast!



  • 250ml double cream
  • 250ml whole milk
  • ½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped
  • 50g caster sugar
  • Splash vanilla extract (optional)
  • 2 ½ gelatine leaves
  • Aprioct jam
  1. Combine the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla in a pan and gently heat to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until soft.
  3. Get ready 5 ramekins, wine glasses, shot glasses or tumblers or whatever you want to serve your pannacotta in. Fill the base with a thin layer of apricot puree and smooth out evenly. There will be more jam than needed but add as much as you like.
  4. Just before the cream mix begins to bubble, remove from the heat, and remove the vanilla pod. Squeeze out any excess water from the gelatine leaves and whisk into the hot cream.
  5. Begin gentle, pour over a generous layer of the cream mixture onto your apricot puree. Leave to cool before leaving to set in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Serve with the rosemary biscuits and topped with some cinnamon sugared almond flakes if you like!


Rosemary Shortbread

  • 125g butter
  • 175g flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • ½- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Rub the flour butter and sugar together or combine in a food processor until you just begin to get a dough
  3. Add the rosemary and continue to mix to form a dough.
  4. Cut into biscuits shapes and bake on a lined baking tray for about 10 minutes (depending on size) until just turning the palest of gold and they are still soft. Watch them carefully as they cook quickly.
  5. Leave to cool before removing from the tray.


Orange Polenta Biscuits

These will pleasingly fill any anorexic looking biscuit tin. Thanks once again to Jamie Oliver’s help……

  • 85g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 130g polenta
  • 50g plain flour
  • Zest of 1-2 oranges
  • 1 egg
  1. Rub the cubed butter into the flour, polenta and sugar
  2. Stir in the egg and orange zest
  3. Chill in the fridge for about 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 190°C and line a baking tray with parchment. Take walnut sized pieces of dough, roll into balls and flatten slightly on the tray.
  5. Bake for about 6-8 minutes until crisp and tinged round the edges. Leave to cool before removing from the tray!


Sea Bass and a Prawn Bisque sauce

I designed and refined this recipe with the aim of creating my perfect  dinner treat with all of my favourite flavours and ingredients. It is most certainly up there at the top of my list. It really isn’t hard, honestly. Everyone can make mash right? And you can fry a piece of fish? Good news- the sauce pretty much makes itself as by frying the leftover prawn shells releases a wonderful larva of juicy orange oils which adds so much flavour that would otherwise have been criminally thrown in the bin. The challenge comes with getting the fish and prawns hot and cooked perfectly at the same time as the sauce is warm and of particular consistency with the warm mash and wilted spinach. Oh and of course having time to take a photograph in a temperamental kitchen with hungry waiting guests….the later is optional of course. This is lovely served with a chilled glass of Muscadet….

Serves 4

  • 4 sea bass fillets
  • 18-20 whole, raw king prawns (shell and heads on)
  • 1 small carrot, diced finely
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • ½ bulb fennel, diced finely
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Splash whiskey
  • 600ml hot fish stock
  • 500g potatoes, peeled, quartered
  • 40g butter
  • 100ml whole milk
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped and fried lightly in oil
  • Handful parsley, finely chopped
  • 200g spinach
  • Olive oil
  • Knob of butter
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Begin with the sauce. Peel the prawns to retain the shells and the heads. De-vein the prawns and set aside. Heat a splash of oil with the knob of butter in a saucepan and gently soften the carrot, onion and fennel with the prawn shells and heads with the bay leaf. Cook for about 20 minutes until the prawns have turned orange and released their juices.
  2. Next add the tomato puree and cook out for a few minutes before deglazing the pan with the whiskey.
  3. Now add the hot fish stock and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, use a potato masher to crush all the flavours together. Remove the bay leaf and then, using a hand blender, blend the sauce together. Pass through a fine sieve into a clean pan, discarding the solids. Taste and simmer to reduce if too thin to your liking. Only at the end season the sauce as reducing it will concentrate any salt added previously. Keep on a low heat while you make the rest of the dish.
  5. Boil the potatoes in salted water for about 15-20minutes until soft but not waterlogged. Meanwhile, melt the butter and warm the milk together in a pan.
  6. When soft, drain the potatoes and leave to steam dry for a few minutes before passing through a potato ricer for really smooth mash, or mashing by hand. Season generously and add the milk and butter and mix until smooth. Add the spring onions and parsley and plenty of seasoning. Set aside to keep warm while you fry the fish.
  7. Make sure your sauce is on the heat now and you have your spinach at the ready. Heat a frying pan until hot and add a splash of oil. Season your fish and then fry skin side down in the hot oil for 3-4 minutes (depending on size) and add your prawns to the hot sauce to cook gently until pink at the same time. Complete the fish cooking by flipping carefully onto the flesh side for 1 minute.
  8. Remove the fish and leave to rest very briefly while you quickly add the spinach to the pan juices, with plenty of seasoning and leave to wilt while you plate up.
  9. Serve a spoonful or potato into a warmed serving bowl. Top with a spoonful of spinach and the fish fillet, crispy skin side up.
  10. Spoon around the prawn bisque sauce including a few prawns per dish. Serve!


Triple Ginger Cake with Lime Icing

It goes without saying….if you don’t like ginger, turn away now. This has three different ginger kicks with a cheeky splash of rum for good measure. This icing is lovely and sharp in contrast to the ginger but replacing the lime for rum wouldn’t go amiss! (Adapted from Delia Smith)

  • 4 pieces of stem ginger, diced
  • 2 tbsp dark rum OR ginger syrup
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp puree/grated ginger root
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 tbsp ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • ½ lime
  • 150g icing sugar
  • Crystallised ginger to garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a cake tin (about 25cmx14cm or so) with parchment
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale a fluffy. Add the 3 beaten eggs, bit by bit, until combined.
  3. Stir in the molasses and the rum (or ginger)
  4. Next sieve the flour and ground ginger and fold into the mixture
  5. Add the almonds and milk and mix.
  6. Finally fold in the pureed/grated ginger root and the diced stem ginger pieces.
  7. Pour into the lined cake tin and even out. Cook in the preheated oven for about 40-50minutes until springy to touch and cooked. Leave to cool.
  8. For the icing, mix the sieved icing sugar and lime juice until a thick double cream consistency. When the cake is completely cold, drizzle generously and randomly over the cake. Garnish with small diced pieces of crystallised ginger.


Slow Roasted Shredded Pork Cassoulet



So last year I entered a competition. I’m not going to lie, I did it because the prize money was £20,000 and all that was required was a classic British recipe. I thought, well hey, I can cook, I’m British, why not…..So that summer I was chosen to take part and went for some filming. Loyd Grosman was my judge. He tasted and commented on my dish while I sat apprehensively perched on the edge of my stool gazing intensely into his face like an interrogator. However, he handed me a shiny red rosette and I went on my way through….However, I’m afraid it stopped there. But BOY is it YUMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This recipe also appears in a cook book to accompany the TV series but for all you folk who don’t want to buy it- tut tut….here it is. Unfortunately they didn’t show my interview on the episode. I think I was too normal for Wednesday night entertainment…….

Serves 6

  • 1kg pork shoulder, skin removed and reserved for cracking
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 200g smoked bacon lardons/pancetta
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 175ml red wine
  • Handful dried wild mushrooms, soaked in 200ml boiling water (reserved)
  • A few large rosemary sprigs, leaves chopped finely
  • 7-8 large sage leaves, chopped finely
  • Handful of thyme, chopped finely
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 400g haricot beans (2 tins)
  • Extra chooped herbs to garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. Heat a splash of oil in a heavy based casserole dish and brown the pork all over. Transfer to a plate and set aside
  3. Add the onion and bacon and fry for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft and the bacon is crispy. Add the garlic and bay leaf and cook for a few minutes.
  4. Increase the heat and pour in the red wine to de-glaze the pan and simmer for a few minutes
  5. Drain the soaked mushrooms, reserving the liquid, and chop them roughly. Add to the casserole dish with a generous handful of the chopped herbs and cook for a few minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes and season.
  7. Add the pork and top up the liquid using the reserved mushroom stock until it comes about ¾ the way up the sides.
  8. Bring to the boil then place in the oven with a lid for 2 ½ hours
  9. After this time, remove from the oven and add the drained beans. (If there is only a small amount of liquid in the tins, add this too as it will help thicken). Return to the oven without the lid and cook for about 30 minutes more to brown the meat and thicken the sauce.
  10. Remove from the oven when ready and use forks to shred the pork among the cassoulet. If it needs thickening, reduce on the hob or add more mushroom stock if too thick.
  11. Garnish with lots of freshly chopped sage and rosemary and a heart attack inducing shard of cracking!

All that’s left to do is sit down and enjoy with a leggy red wine and (hopefully) wonder why it wasn’t worthy of £20,000!

WINE: For a delicious and affordable treat, try a classic red Bordeaux. And what would be better than a glass of Château Grand Village, 2011 Bordeaux Supérieur. Being the second vineyard of the infamous Chateau Lafleur it a more economically friendly and delightful alternative if you haven’t got the budget for the real deal. Available at Armit Wines.

Jess - Grand Village





Best recipe in the book….certainly beats whats on page 157………..(bet you want to know what that is now….)

Rioja Lamb Shank with Mint Oil



Rioja lamb shank and mint oil 2

You barely need a fork for this one as it will fall willingly, obligingly and delicately off the bone and into your welcome mouths! The better the meat the nicer it will taste but any meat bought on the bone will guarantee you with added tenderness and benefit from slow cooking. The rich punchy red wine sauce craves and benefits from the fresh cleansing addition of a nice homemade mint oil.

Serves 2 generously

  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 2-3 large carrots, diced
  • 2 stick celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Bunch thyme, chopped
  • Bunch rosemary, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 anchovies in oil
  • 350ml red wine (Rioja is optional)
  • Bunch of mint, leaves picked
  • Olive oil
  • (1 tbsp) white wine vinegar or to taste
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C.
  2. Heat a splash of olive oil in a heavy bottomed casserole dish or pan.Season your lamb shanks with salt and freshly ground pepper and brown on all sides for about 10minutes until caramelised and coloured. Reserve to a plate.
  3. Slowly sweat your chopped onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf with some seasoning for about 15 minutes in the same pan, using the lamb juices. You want to get lots of caramelisation on the vegetables after about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the chopped thyme, rosemary the bay leaf and the sliced garlic and continue to cook for about 5-10minutes more. Turn up the heat and add the chopped anchoives. Cook until melted into the mixture.
  5. Now add the wine and bubble away to de-glaze the bottom of the pan. Simmer for a few minutes before adding the reserved lamb shanks. Add as much boiling water or stock to come ¾ way up the sides of the lamb so it is sufficiently submerged
  6. Cover with a lid and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours, basting the lamb with the sauce occasionally.
  7. Meanwhile make the mint oil. In a food processor or pestle and mortar, crush the mint leaves with a pinch of salt and sugar. Slowly add a splash of white wine vinegar to taste and enough oil to loosen.
  8. After 3 hours, turn the heat to 180°C and remove the lid. You want to brown the top of the lamb and reduce the sauce a little for about 30 minutes but it will be ready whenever from this point. You can also thicken the sauce on the hob with a small knob of butter to add a shine to the sauce.
  9. Serve with creamy mash or polenta and the mint oil drizzled over the top!