Date Archives September 2015

Whole Baked Spiced Cauliflower


his new take on cooking cauliflower is very ‘in’ at the moment in the foodie world. If I’m honest, I’m not sure what was wrong with a good old cauliflower cheese and bangers. Probably the growing nation of ‘lactose intolerent’ foodies who can however still manage to gorge on cheese? Regardless, after seeing recipe in the trusty Waitrose Magazine this was one I felt I actually wanted to cook! Glamourized in my favourite Moroccan spices I served this up dramatically as a side dish to a middle eastern themed dinner a few weekends ago. A lovely and alternative way to cook and present a cauliflower! Perfect for added theatre at any dinner party where it can be bought to the table to the ‘oooo’s’ and ‘ahhhh’s’ of your hungry guests. Perfect as a side dish here but also as an ideal vegetarian mid week supper to share with a cauliflower loving friend or lactose intolerant acquaintance.

Serve 4-5 (as a side dish)

  • 1 large cauliflower, outer leaves removed.
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds
  • Handful toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tsp rose petals
  • 1 handful chopped flat leaf parsely

Spiced butter

  • 40g softened unsalted butter
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cardamon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped coriander
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Simmer the cauliflower for 5-7 minutes until just tender when the stem is pierced with a knife. Allow for it to remain a little firm as it will continue cooking in the oven (you can also steam the cauliflower if preferred) Drain and cool a little. Leave to dry as much as possible.
  3. Meanwhile combine all the ingredients for the spiced butter in a food processor keeping out a small pinch of coriander. Stir this in last once you have a dark brown spiced paste.
  4. Find a large ovenproof dish you can snugly fit the cauliflower in and oil or grease the base.
  5. Spread the butter all over the surface of the cauliflower, working it into the cracks and place in the dish.
  6. Roast in the oven for about 15-30 minutes. All you are looking for is a lovely charred surface and a tender cauliflower. You can also do this under the grill to brown the top at the end or on the barbeque.
  7. Once cooked remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes as it will be too hot to serve. Scatter with the pomegranate, pine nuts, rose and herbs and serve.


Jess - Whole baked caluilfower#3Jess - Whole baked cauliflower#2


Beetroot Arancini, Chestnut Humus, Hazelnuts

Jess - Aranchini 1
Jess - Aranchini 4


s hard as it is to admit, the long balmy evenings are getting darker and shorter and noticeably less balmy. Autumn is whistling in the air and the wind if whipping the leaves around my now boot clad and sock warmed feet. I adore summer more than you can imagine and I’m always reluctant and depressed to let it go but the potential of Autumn and its bountiful harvest are just too exciting for a foodie like myself and one of the many reasons I adore the English seasons. Pears, plums, apples, pumpkins, game, beetroot and cobnuts. I get far to excited, overwhelmed and overjoyed at the inspiration for Autumnal dinners. A little recipe testing this weekend creating some new dishes in preparation for an Autumnal dinner party I have approaching was the cause for this one.

I’m not normally a huge believer in the arancini concept as generally most things taste good deep fried. I do adore them though – oozing with cheese or glamourised with truffle oil and mushrooms. However, I always wonder if they are more delicious and successful than the risotto itself? For me they are usually an after thought for any leftover risotto you might (surprisingly and hard to image) have as leftovers. But I’ve always admired anyone who makes risotto with the intention of just making arancini. That said I make double the batch and devoured the liquid form for dinner and the deep-fried leftovers the night after.

These subtly spiced, earthy, warm, crispy oozing arancini are the perfect start to the season. Creamy, deeply flavoured whipped chestnut humus and nutty toasted hazelnuts are the perfect addition. All cleanly cut through with some fresh, sharp and zesty lemony rocket and a hearty spiced glass of Pinot Noir. Lets welcome Autumn in style.

NOTE: I would highly suggest making the arancini in the morning before a dinner but ideally overnight. Ensure you have made the humus and garnish beforehand so that arancini are the last thing to cook and are hot, crispy and freshly served immediately.

Serves 6

Beetroot Arancini – try and make the evening before if you can

  • 120g pearl barely
  • 1 pint hot chicken stock
  • 125ml red wine
  • 1 small red onion, chopped finely
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly ground
  • 200g cooked beetroot, pureed in a food processor
  • Large handful finely grated parmesan
  • 1 knob butter
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 egg
  • Plain flour
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Sunflower oil for deep frying
  1. Heat half a knob of butter with a small splash of oil in a saucepan. Very gently sweat the red onion in the butter for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cumin cook for a few more minutes. Season
  2. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the pearl barely. Toast in the pan with the onion stirring all the time. Next add the wine and simmer off until reduced.
  3. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and add the hot stock, ladle by ladle, adding more only after each addition has been absorbed. Continue for about 25minutes or so until the pearl barley is tender. Keep adding stock until the barley is cooked but don’t drown the mixture especially towards the end of the cooking time or it will be too runny.
  4. When the barley is cooked, stir through the beetroot puree and taste and season again. Bring back up to the heat to warm through.
  5. Add the grated cheese, another knob of butter and a generous squeeze of lemon juice and remove form the heat. Place the lid on top and leave it sit and rest.
  6. Stir to combine the cheese. Leave to cook until cold in the fridge, ideally overnight.
  7. When cold and almost solid, its time to make the arancini.
  8. Get 3 bowls ready with the beaten egg, a handful or two of flour and the breadcrumbs
  9. Divide the risotto into 6 or so large spoonfuls and form into balls just a bit larger than a golf ball.
  10. Roll in the flour, the beaten egg and finally give a good coating in the breadcrumbs. Set aside on a plate.
  11. Heat a large pan of oil at lease deep enough to come up half the side of the arancini (8cm or so). Heat to a medium high heat on the hob. Test the temperature with a piece of dry bread. If it sizzles and turns golden its ready!
  12. Get a few sheets of kitchen roll and use them to line a shallow bowl or plate.
  13. Add the arancini, 3 or so at a time depending on the size of your pan. Fry, turning half way one the underside is a light golden brown.
  14. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on the kitchen paper.
  15. Serve immediately as below.

Chestnut Humus

  • 200g vacuum packed chestnuts
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Knob butter
  • Olive oil
  1. Place the chestnuts in a saucepan with just enough water to cover, the butter and some salt.
  2. Bring to the simmer and cook for about 3-4 minutes to soften the chestnuts.
  3. Drain, reserving the liquid.
  4. Place in the bowl of a food processor with some seasoning and blend. Add a splash or two of the reserved water to loosen and blend until beginning to smooth. Keep adding the water until the mixture is smooth but still thick. Add the lemon juice and then thin to the desired consistency with the oil.
  5. Check the seasoning.


  • Couple of large handfuls of brown breadcrumbs
  • Handful of hazelnuts, roasted, halved
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  1. Heat a splash of oil in a hot frying pan. Add the breadcrumbs and fry until beginning to turn golden. Season and add the roasted hazelnuts and fry for a few more moments.
  2. Turn the heat down a little and add the parsley to wilt and crisp.
  3. Remove from the what and allow to cool slightly.

To assemble…

  • Spoon a large tablespoon of so of chestnut puree onto the plate
  • Top with some rocket leaves dressed in lemon juice
  • Top with the hot arancini
  • Scatter over the crunchy crumbs
  • Devour

WINE: I hugely recommend something with a little spice to it to complement the cumin here. The earthy beetroot is a lovely match for a lovely Pinot Noir. Try this Paper Road Pinot Noir from Borthwick Estate available at Armit Wines.


Jess - Aranchini 5Jess - Pinot Noir

Tofu, Mushroom and Seaweed Kale

Jess - Ingredients


 vegan dish was a palatable challenge for me I’ll admit. In a world where butter dominates the foundations of my recipes like culinary cement; I was skeptical. No butter? You heard correctly…no butter? However, with a goodie bag of Japanese inspired ingredients from Clearspring, whose vast array of cultural delicacies regularly glare at me temptingly from their own region of the supermarket, I thought I’d experiment and I can safely say that butter wasn’t missed here!? With the divergence in diets and intolerances infiltrating our British habits in what is perhaps a foodie fad or otherwise, I thought I’d better jump on the diary and meat free band wagon and see if soya and tofu could satisfy my taste buds. With fish and vegetables dominating my diet already I was keen to see what the removal of dairy would have to offer.  I enjoyed this meal twice this week which is surely enough said. One evening using nutty pearl barely and the other using some of Clearspring’s gluten free brown noodles. Both delicious and fresh.

Gluten, diary, meat and nut free I think this one deserves the intolerance crown.

Serves 2

  • 1 box mushrooms (250g). Mixed such as shitake, oyster or chestnut
  • 1 small handful dried mixed wild mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 15minutes then chopped roughly
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 80g pearl barely/80-100g brown rice noodles
  • 200g kale
  • 100g peas
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp Clearspring seaweed flakes OR Welshman’s caviar
  • 1 tbsp Soy sauce
  • Handful of coriander leaves, chopped
  • 100g cubed tofu (optional)
  • 1 tbsp black sesame seeds (optional)
  1. Start by either soaking your noodles in hot water for 30 minutes covered or simmering your pearl barely for 25-30 minutes in hot water under tender. Drain well and drizzle with the sesame oil and keep warm.
  2. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Gently soften the sliced spring onions for about 5-8 minutes until just beginning to brown and season. Once softened, place in a bowl and set aside keeping warm if you can. These will be combined with the cooked kale later.
  3. Heat the same frying pan again until hot. Add the sunflower oil. Chop the mushrooms roughly into hearty chunks and gently fry for about 10-15 minutes with plenty of salt and pepper to cook and crisp up the mushrooms. They will release a little moisture so keep frying to evaporate this off and brown and crisp them up slightly.
  4. Meanwhile, cook your kale in a pan of boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Add the peas and bring back to the boil. Once boiling remove from the heat and drain well allowing all the moisture to drain.
  5. Tip back in the pan, add 1 tbsp soy sauce and the seaweed flakes. Add the reserved spring onions and mix. Place the lid back on a keep warm while you finish the mushrooms.
  6. When the mushrooms are ready, crisp and delicious add the garlic and allow to cook for a few more minutes. Then turn up the heat and add the chopped rehydrated dried mushrooms, the noodles or pearl barely and fry for 1-2 minutes to reheat and combine the flavours.
  7. Optional here, add some cubed tofu and heat through and scatter with the coriander.
  8. Serve the mushrooms on top of the kale and garnish with black sesame seeds if you like

Masseria Li Veli


was recently blessed enough to join a work wine tasting event with Armit Wines to showcase one of our company’s honoured producers. An Armit Wines original gem and one that produces one of my legitimate favourite selections of Puglian nectar. In Italy, Puglia to be exact, lies the certified organic, humble and gracious Masseria Li Veli where a focus on local native varieties is embraced. Having recently opened an Italian tapas-style wine bar and bistro in Covent Garden (see here) in this foreign land, this was naturally an idyllic location to showcase their wines in a natural and contemporary setting. Our private downstairs room was idyllic.

On arrival we were suitably prepped with our first evening’s tipple and nibbles as winemaker Alfredo began the evening by charming us with his commentary of knowledge. We listened to the soothing and engaging sounds of Alfredo chant away, educating us on each wine, grape and history. With a selection of some of my favourite Armit wines (all available here of course) it was an evening spent in great wine enthusiasts company and the simple but pleasing dishes on offer.

Jess - Liveli table

We kicked things off with the Fiano. A fresh, aromatic, fruity wine. Notes of blossom welcomingly reminded us it was still summer outside and the hints of almonds complemented what have to be the best salted roasted almonds I’ve ever tasted. They even put the olives to shame. For a brief moment we could have been in Puglia…sadly not.

Jess - almonds

After finding our seats, we were hydrated with the fuller and richer Askos Verdeca. Complex and acidic with lovely minerality it barely hit the sides as we dined on a beautiful selection of sliced meats and cheeses. Light fluffy breads littered the table and were devoured with enthusiasm dipped into the greenest spiciest extra virgin olive oil that clung with determination to our plates with greasy Italian determination.

Jess - Liveli2

Before we’d had time to waste another minute on repeating ‘just how good that olive oil was’ our white glasses were cast aside like injured players, in place of the bigger stronger and more sturdy robust foundations of our red glasses ready for some of my favourites. The Masseria with its black fruits and rich tobacco notes was heavenly and a refreshing change. However good it was sadly cast into shadow by my favourite Li Veli offering and a staple in my wine orders…the Askos Susumanelilio. A native grape and part of the Li Veli Askos range where the focus is on almost disappearing native grapes which are captured and praised. A grape that often creases the faces of clients and customers as they either try to pronounce or try to recall this beautiful grape. This I enjoyed with my main dish of choice – softly cooked sea bass with capers, tomatoes and samphire. Simple but a perfect match to the fruity, soft and elegant flavours of the Susumanelilo that has elements of a Pinot Noir in flavour but distinctly carries its own. While others around me dined on equally enviable fresh Orecchiette or roasted chicken we took a moment to enjoy the beautiful wines and continue to hear the history from Alfredo.

Jess - Liveli3

Far sooner than we wanted we were well onto the finale and dessert which opened the stage to the star of the sweet wines, the Aleatico Passito which accompanied the decadent and creamy pillows of pistachio ice cream. Dates, figs, liquorice and coffee excited our taste buds as we drowned in Alfredo’s generous servings of this delicious nectar before wandering home in a Li Veli haze and a sincere ambition to return for more.

All wines can be found here at Armit Wines. Look out for future events focusing on many of our other noted and quality producers.