Date Archives February 2014

A Spice Feast (Lamb steaks, nigella seed salad, roasted chilli sweet potatoes)



I’ve done it. I’ve finally narrowed down my favourite type of cuisine (well nearly). After a recent dinner time conversation with a friend it remained mutually concluded that choosing your death row dish is too ambitious a commitment. Top contenders include a creamy and decadent risotto or a homely fish pie but its still a hard call. However, cuisine and flavour I can conclude on. While I adore classic french food, on the opposite side is my love of Moroccan and middle Eastern style foods and ingredients. Think Ottelenghi. The use of spice adds so much flavour to satisfy any demanding taste buds. The dishes are filling and hearty but in a way that retains a light, fresh and (importantly for me) healthy style. Exciting spices and fresh ingredients keep my recipes quirky and the mix of hot and cold make it perfect for all seasons.

I still haven’t made it to Morocco however….yet…

Serves 2

Chilli and Coriander Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 1 giant or 2 normal sweet potatoes
  • ½ hot red chilli (seeds retained if you dare)
  • Bunch of coriander
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds

Lamb Steaks

  • 2 top quality lamb leg steaks
  • 1 tbsp spice mix (see here)
  • Generous pinch smoked paprika
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • Lime yoghurt (see here)

Green Nigella seed salad

  • ½ cucumber
  • 1 bag rocket
  • Handful of mangetout
  • 1 avocado
  • ½ lemon, juice
  • 1 tbsp Nigella seeds
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. For the potatoes, par boil until just tender but don’t water log (about 3-4 minutes). Drain and leave to steam a little. Season and drizzle with a little light oil and sprinkle with the mustard seeds. Roast for about 30-35 minutes until crispy.
  2. Marinade the lamb in the spices and oil for as long as possible but remove from the fridge and leave a room temperature at least 30 minutes before cooking.
  3. For the salad, peel the cucumber in thin strips. Sprinkle with a little salt and leave to drain in a colander for about 5-10 minutes. Then rinse lightly under cold water and leave to dry.
  4. Blanch the mange tout in boiling water and refresh in cold water and drain.
  5. Slice the avocado and sprinkle with a little lemon juice.
  6. To make the salad, combine the rocket, avocado, cucumber and mange tout. Sprinkle with the nigella seeds and only when ready to serve, squeeze over the lemon juice.
  7. To cook the steaks, heat a frying pan until hot. Add about 1 tsp olive oil (not extra virgin – the burning temperature is much lower and it will burn!). If a thick layer of fat on your steaks, cook this out with the steak on its side for a few minutes first before cooking the steaks to your liking. I usually do about 2-2 ½ minutes per side for a 2cm thick steak. Leave to rest for about 5 minutes in foil to keep in the juices.
  8. Chop the chilli finely with the fresh coriander. When ready to serve, combine roasted potatoes, chilli, coriander. Serve with the dressed salad.
  9. Slice the steaks in thick finger like strips and pour over the resting juices. Serve alongside the salad and potatoes with some cooling lime yoghurt. Garnish with extra coriander if you like.


Black pudding, Minted Pea Puree, Apple

I completely understand that black pudding is not for everyone’s palate or psychological well being. However I loose my reluctant understanding for the folk that have never sampled this fine delicacy but screw up their faces with such sincere disapproval as if instead I had announced my chosen career path as a stripper! (Case #1, my sister. And we’ll soon know if she’s actually been reading my blog if I hear her wining tones at this comment). If you’ve never tried black pudding then who knows- you could have wasted years rejecting something delicious so this recipe is a fine way to start.

I usually default away from making cliche recipes in my desperate need to experiment at any occasion that calls for food but sometimes I must admit you can’t beat the satisfaction and comfort of a classic. And, lets face it, they exist for a reason and black pudding and pea really is a classic example of two deliciously matched soul partners of the food world. Peas are sweet and fresh which is the perfect harmony for the fatty and rich black pudding. What could be more unfussy and simple than a pile of minted pea puree with a crispy fried slice of black pudding resting lazily on top….

  • A bowl of peas (a good handful per person)
  • Small bunch of mint, leaves picked
  • Knob of butter
  • Black pudding slices (1-2 slices per person)
  • 1 apple (serves 2 people)
  • Lemon juice
  1. Boil the peas for a few minutes and then drain.
  2. Place in a food processor with some generous seasoning the knob of butter and the mint leaves and blend to a puree adding a little warm stock or boiling water to loosen to the desired consistency. Alternatively, without a processor you could eat this as a coarse pea mash which would be equally as delicious.
  3. Cut your apple into matchsticks with a sharp knife and set aside in a bowl with a little squeeze of lemon juice to prevent it turning brown and a little seasoning.
  4. Heat a frying pan until hot and add a tiny drop of oil if you wish. Fry the black pudding for a few minutes on each side until crispy and cooked through.
  5. Serve on top of your warm pea puree and top with a handful of the crunchy apple matchsticks.
  6. Drizzle with a little oil and a scattering of mint leaves and serve.


If you’ve been converted to black pudding then here are a few more of my favourite delicious ingredients that go well with it:

  • Butternut squash
  • Blue cheese
  • Pear, apple
  • Roast pork, belly is good
  • Cauliflower
  • Fennel
  • Mushrooms
  • Thyme, rosemary
  • Prunes
  • Eggs (especially little fried quails eggs)
  • Chicken, rabbit, monkfish (stuffed with black pudding)
  • Oh and of course, a fry up…..


Black pudding stuffed chicken in a mushroom and red wine sauce, wet polenta and garlic kale (Serves 4)

  • 4 free range chicken thighs, skin on, bone removed
  • 4 chicken drumsticks.
  • 2-3 large thick slices of black pudding
  • A few rosemary sticks, leaves picked and chopped
  • Thyme, leave picked
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 large glass red wine
  • Stock – beef for a rich sauce, chicken for a lighter one
  • 1 handful of dried wild mushrooms
  • 150g quick cook polenta
  • 400ml milk
  • Knob of butter
  • 20g grated parmesan
  • Kale
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. To start, heat the milk and the same amount of water in a sauce pan and add a few peppercorns and a bay leaf. Just before it comes to the simmer remove from the heat and leave to infuse to use in the polenta later.
  2. Crumble the black pudding into a bowl and add the thyme. Mash until paste-like. Open up the chicken thighs and stuff a spoonful of the black pudding inside and roll up. You can secure these with the rosemary sticks if you wish. Season the skin well. Stuff this black pudding mix under the skin of the drumsticks too and season.
  3. Fry the red onion in a little oil until soft and then add the rosemary leaves. Add the red wine and simmer briefly before adding the mushrooms which will soften in the liquid and remove from the heat
  4. Place in a casserole dish and add the chicken pieces so they fit tightly. Add enough stock to come most of the way up the sides of the chicken so that the chicken can poach and roast gently as it cooks being careful not to pour it over the skin or you won’t get a crispy skin (we can’t have that!)
  5. Place in the oven and cook for about 30-40 minutes until the chicken is golden, cooked through and the sauce is bubbling away nicely.
  6. Meanwhile, tip the kale into boiling water for a matter of 30 seconds to wilt but drain it quickly while still bright green, soft and full or nutrients. Leave to drain the excess moisture. Heat a little oil in your frying pan from before and gently fry your garlic over a very low heat being careful not to burn it. Add the kale and a knob of butter and stir to combine. Set aside to keep warm.
  7. I suggest leaving the polenta until last minute as it won’t wait so see to the kale first and then the chicken. Once the chicken is cooked remove from the sauce and leave to rest in a warm place. The sauces thickness with vary depending on how much stock you added but to thicken (which is what I needed to do) mix a tbsp of butter and flour in a mug until you have a paste. Whisk this paste into the red wine sauce until smooth and the sauce will begin to thicken without being lumpy. Set aside to keep warm.
  8. Before you cook the polenta, make sure you’re ready to go -plates warming, guests hungry, wine open and aerating!
  9. Drain the milk from earlier and bring to the simmer. Whisk the polenta in a steady stream into the milk and stir continuously as it will thicken immediately. Let it bubble for a minute until smooth and creamy. Stir in the butter and cheese and some generous seasoning (it will need salt) and taste.
  10. Spoon into bowls immediately and top with a chicken thigh and drumstick each and a generous spoonful of the mushroom sauce.
  11. Sit aside some warm garlicky kale and serve on a wild and windy evening with a bold punchy glass of red.

WINE RECOMMENDATION: This weekend I tried Waitrose’s Vina Valdivieso Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon from the Maipo Valley. It was bold and had lovely dark berry and fruit flavours and some menthol notes to it. Delicious with the rich black pudding.


Waitrose £9.99

Pea and Mint Arancini with Avocado Puree



I can’t actually decide if leftover risotto turned morphed in arancini is actually better than risotto…? See what you think

Serves 2

  • Leftover pea and mint risotto, chilled (or any other risotto)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Plain flour
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Grated parmesan
  • Good melting cheese e.g. mozzarella, tallegio etc
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • 1 large ripe avocado
  • Handful of chopped mint leaves
  • 1 lemon
  1. Get 2 clean shallow bowls ready. Place the egg in one, the flour in another and the breadcrumbs, parmesan and some seasoning in the other.
  2. Roll your chilled risotto into balls (mine were about golf ball size) placing a small piece of your melting cheese in the middle if you like.
  3. Roll each in first the flour, then the egg and finally coat in the cheesy breadcrumbs. If you want a thicker coating repeat in the egg and breadcrumbs. If not, place aside on a plate and repeat with the rest before chilling (the arancini that is…feel free to chill too).
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C for later. I fried my arancini in shallow oil but they are delicate (unless you made a very stodgy dry risotto to start with- to avoid this see tips here). If you have a deep fryer fry each arancini until golden. If not, fry in shallow oil until crisp. Place in a the oven to warm through to the middle while you make the puree.
  5. Scoop out the ripe flesh from your avocado and place in a food processor with some seasoning and a splash of lemon juice. Blend until thick, glossy and smooth – feel free to add flavours here you like. I added some mint leaves but lime, coriander, chilli all work well depending on what flavour your arancini are.
  6. Once ready, serve your crispy and melt in the middle arancini on top of your silky puree with a scattering of fresh mint.

Fish, Asian Noodles, Crispy Ginger

I adore this Asian-flavoured dressing! Its originally from ‘Jamie At Home’ (with a little adaptation) to dress his winter roast squash and duck salad which I must admit is one of my foodie downfalls. I just cannot CANNOT resist seconds, thirds and usually fourths. Much of its moreish teasing comes from this powerful killer dressing. Here I used it to coat some warm and obligingly absorbant noodles, mixed with some crunchy peanuts for texture and topped with a hearty piece of moist fish and crispy ginger strips. Shamefully I devoured mine with a fork. However- after a recent outing for a sushi lunch, I must admit my chop stick skills are progressing. Slowly.

Serves 2


  • 1-2 large limes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, grated/finely crushed
  • Bunch coriander
  • 2 spring onions
  • Large knob of ginger

Fish and noodles

  • 2 seabass fillets (or anything white fish e.g. seabream, cod, haddock)
  • 2 dried noodles nests/ rice noodles
  • 6 raw king prawns
  • Handful of mange tout
  • Handful roasted salted peanuts
  • Knob ginger
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  1. Start with the ginger so it has time to dry out as much as possible before frying. Finely slice the ginger into thin strips or matchsticks. Dry out between two sheets of kitchen roll and set aside.
  2. Make the dressing. Squeeze the lime juice and zest of 1 lime into a jam jar. Add just under the same amount of extra virgin olive oil. Add the sesame oil, soy, sugar, chilli and garlic. Grate in the ginger and finely chop the green tops of the spring onions and add these. Add a small handful of chopped coriander leaves and then place the lid on the jar and shake to mix. Adjust the taste to your liking, adding more soy for seasoning and more lime for that kick.
  3. Chop the remaining spring onions and coriander and set aside in a bowl with the peanuts to garnish later.
  4. For the crispy ginger, heat a shallow layer of sunflower oil in a pan. Shallow fry the ginger for about 30 seconds or so until golden brown. Spoon out onto kitchen to drain and season with salt. Leave aside to crisp.
  5. Bring a saucepan of light stock to the simmer and get a frying pan over a highish heat. Simmer and cook the noodles for about 5 minutes throwing in your mange tout towards the end.
  6. Meanwhile, cook your seasoned sea bass fillets, skin side down, for about 3 minutes until a crispy skin forms. Turn for the remaining minute to cook through and add the prawns and cook, for a matter of a minute, until pink.
  7. Once the noodle are cooked drain them quickly while retaining a little of the starchy cooking water and return to the pan. Add the dressing and mix until it is coated and absorbed.
  8. Add a handful of the coriander, peanut and spring onion mix, saving a handful for the top.
  9. Spoon the noodles into large bowls, top with the fish and prawns. Scatter with the remaining peanuts, coriander and spring onion garnish and top with the crispy ginger.