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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Life: children at work

Last year I flew to Ghana to present a documentary on children at work for BBC education. Namely those children working in the cocoa plantations; picking and processing cocoa beans. I stayed with the children in a village in Northern Ghana and it was humbling to see how hard they worked and how happy they were to do that as it meant they were helping their families. Unfortunately the workers get paid very little for their work and, in this programme, we try to work out the reason why.

The video can be watched here until 5am on Wednesday 6th March.

Here I am discussing what life is like for these children working on a cocoa plantation.

Patrick is tending some young cocoa trees which he will later sell at market.

Some of the beautiful children in Akim Ofoase. 

Local school children queueing up before class.

I'm sat with Patrick's sister, Precious, watching her mother cook dinner.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Review - Microplane

Oh my gosh, how much do I love my new microplane!!!!!! I've been umming and arring for ages over whether to buy one. I've always struggled with getting the peel off lemons/limes/oranges. From a whole orange i've regularly only obtained a woeful half tsp of peel. I've seen microplanes being used on cookery shows for quite a while and they seem to be ridiculously effective. The only thing standing in my way is the purchase price, approximately £20. Even Tk maxx couldn't help me out. I usually buy my pots and pans and lots of kitchen ware from Tk maxx because you can get really good brands at seriously reduced prices. But when I visited my local Tk maxx there wasn't a microplane to be found. I spent quite a while researching microplanes on Amazon looking for one which was a good price and had high reviewer ratings and decided upon this one:

It's probably the best £21 (it's the small things that make me happy!) I have ever spent.
Check out the results for yourself:

As you can see the microplane yields huge amounts of peel without any of the bitter tasting pith. One note of caution is that it's very sharp, so watch your fingers! It's also great for grating parmesan.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Life: Thai cookery school

I was thinking about what to write about today and then thought about where else i'd rather be in the world right now than sitting in cold, wet London. It came to me at once - Thailand. I went backpacking there a couple of years ago (it feels like a life time ago now!). While I was in Chaing Mai, I attended a thai cookery class called Asia Scenic Cookery School. It was so enjoyable cooking outside and creating authentic fresh thai flavours. It was also a real pleasure visiting their garden on site where so many of their herbs and spices grow. We each cooked three dishes and then sat down to a huge banquet. This spring roll recipe and the future recipes I will share with you all come from the Asia Scenic Cookbook they gave us at the end of the class.

Spring Rolls (Por Pia Tod)

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
3 tsp oyster sauce
1 cup of water
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 piece of minced tofu
2 stalk of chives, cut into 1 inch lengths
100g bean sprouts
50g minced cooked chicken
200g glass noodles
extra vegetable oil for frying
10 sheets of spring roll pastry
to serve: sweet chili or plum sauce

1. Using a wok or a large saucepan, fry the garlic in the oil for a couple of minutes over a medium heat. Add the minced chicken and tofu and cook for about 1 minute.
2. Increase the heat and add the sugar, fish sauce, oyster sauce, noodles and cup of water and cook for a minute.
3. Add the bean sprouts and chives and cook for a few seconds
4. Layout one sheet of spring roll pastry and add 1 tbsp of filling. Wrap the spring roll according to the image below. Use egg to seal the end and to stop the spring roll from unwrapping,

(image from
5. Deep fry the spring rolls in a frying pan of vegetable oil for a couple of minutes or until the spring rolls turn a light golden colour. Serve with sweet chili sauce or plum sauce.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Life: My Greedy Weekend

This weekend was busy busy where food was concerned.

It was our three year anniversary so we treated ourselves to the Michelin starred L'autre Pied in Marylebone. We had a 7 course tasting menu which was very reasonable £49 each. Unfortunately I felt a bit unwell so couldn't manage the matching wines (I asked for a peppermint tea which perplexed the waiter somewhat), but luckily L'autre Pied's food is so fresh and balanced that I was still able to appreciate the excellent cooking. The Tokyo parsnips were a revelation and i've never tasted a better sorbet. If I had to mention any negatives, I would say that, as with many fine restaurants, salt was used a little too liberally and the petit fours didn't match the other courses in terms of enjoyment. All in all, however, it was an incredible experience and we can't wait to return.

Martin gave me Ottolenghi's cookbook as an anniversary gift at the restaurant. I can't explain how pleased I am with it. I was very poor company on the way home and insisted on reading it the whole way back on the tube. I love Ottolenghi's in Angel - it's proprietors come from Israel and therefore cook book is full of vibrant, healthy, super tasty salads and accompaniments. It's giving me so much inspiration on how to liven up my salads and vegetables. Take their french bean, mangetout, orange and hazelnut accompaniment for example. So simple, yet so exciting to eat. I also love the fact that they serve it at room temperature - I think it's a really brave decision and keeps the taste fresh and flavoursome. I was also very excited by the meringue recipe (mine don't always work perfectly) and I like testing out new recipes. However, I see that their recipe insists upon using a freestanding mixer. :( Until I move into a place with a kitchen larger than a cupboard this can never happen. I'll be sharing nuggets of inspiration from this cookbook in later posts.

Saturday afternoon was spent making macarons with my friend. She had spent some time researching recipes online and found a chocolate macaron recipe written by Felicity Cloake featured in the Guardian. Felicity had tested many macaron recipes and then, using her findings, had written her own fail-safe recipe. It was so lovely baking together and we were really pleased with the results. The macarons had a lovely, toffee chewy texture and would please any chocolate lovers. My biggest advice re making macarons would be to use electronic weighing scales to measure the egg white (75g). Making macrons is like chemistry - every quantity has to be absolutely precise.

Check out the recipe we used:

Later in the evening we went for dinner with our friends Sharenja and Ben. We ate some yummy goats cheese stuffed peppers for starter and then Sharenja had made a chicken and chorizo bean stew. It was very tasty and the chorizo was the best I have ever tasted. Apparently Ben's parents had brought it back with them from Bordeaux so it was the real deal. We finished the meal with vanilla ice cream and Sharenja's signature raspberry coulis.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Food: Best Roast Potatoes

It's important you use a good potato variety here - your roast potato is obviously all about the potato so try not to scrimp. A floury potato is key - try either King Edward or Maris Piper. Some people like to add garlic and rosemary - it's completely up to you.

Serves 4

1 Kg of Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes
100 ml goose fat or olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius

1. Begin by peeling the potatoes and cutting them in half lengthways. Quarter any particularly large potatoes.
2. Add your chosen fat/oil to a large roasting pan and place in the oven so that it gets really hot.
3. Place the potatoes in a saucepan of cold water (add a little salt), bring up to the boil and cook for 3 minutes, uncovered.
4. Drain the potatoes into a colander and allow them to steam away for a couple of minutes (this removed extra moisture).
5. Shake the potatoes hard to fluff them up. This is all added crispness.
6. Add the potatoes to your roasting pan in a single layer and shake to ensure they're well coated with oil/fat. Now is the time to add your rosemary and garlic if your using it.
7. Roast the potatoes for 45 minutes, turning the potatoes over once during the cooking time. Season with salt and pepper.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

What are good film food combinations?

I love entertaining and recently i've been trying to come up with ideas for food which goes well with films.  I need recipes which are easy to make, a joy to eat, and ultimately really tasty. I would love it if you could share your ideas with me. I've started with film genres and started listing some ideas.

Romantic comedies
I'm thinking lots of chocolate such as...

  • white chocolate and raspberry brownies
  • triple layered chocolate cheesecake
  • chocolate pots

Action films

  • spicy chicken wings
  • sticky pork ribs
  • burritos
  • tacos
  • tortilla chips with melted cheese and fresh dips: hummus, guacamole and salsa.
  • quick chili con carne

Food for when you're hungover and a little worse for wear

  • American style pancakes with maple syrup and berries and bacon
  • pad thai

Children's films:
spider web baked vanilla cheesecake

Has anyone get any more ideas for genre food combinations? What would go well with Lord of the Rings?

Friday, 22 February 2013

Food: Spaghetti Meat Balls

Universally adored, this recipe uses both beef and pork mince. The pork mince is essential because it softens the meat ball. 100% beef results in a tough, chewy meat ball. You don't need any binding ingredients like egg - the two types of meat bind beautifully.

Serves 4-6 - Takes 45 minutes

For the meat balls:
500g pork mince
500g beef mince
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and pepper
optional: fennel seeds, chopped finely

For the tomato sauce:
2 large tins of chopped tomatoes (I like the sauce to be really smooth, so I tend to blitz this in a food processor or use passata instead)
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper

500g spaghetti
optional: freshly grated parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
2. Add all of the meat ball ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to ensure that all the ingredients are well incorporated - you want an even distribution of pork and beef mince.
3. Make the meat balls using your hands - each meat ball needs to be about 4cm in diameter.
4. Add the meat balls to an oven proof dish and cook for 20 minutes.
5. Add the tomato sauce ingredients to the meat balls and stir gently.
6. Cover and place back into the oven for a further 15 minutes.
7. 10 minutes before the end of the meat ball cooking time, place your spaghetti into a large pan of salted boiling water.
8. Serve up and top with freshly grated parmesan.

This recipe also makes a wicked spaghetti meatball soup. Just make smaller, mouth sized meat balls (about 2cm), reduce the amount of spaghetti and break it into 5cm pieces, and increase the amount of tomato sauce. This is easily transported in a thermos flask and makes a great lunch on the go.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Food: Braised Red Cabbage

Braised red cabbage is a tasty accompaniment to roasts including christmas dinner. It looks great on the plate and its spiced taste contrasts well with the roasted meat. Luckily, it's also really easy to cook, just let the hob do the work for you.

Serves 6

1 small red cabbage
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
200ml water
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp sugar

1. Begin by slicing the cabbage finely and removing the core.
2. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan, cover and cook on a low heat for an hour and a half until the cabbage is tender.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Food: Lamb Coconut Curry

This curry is mild and creamy and makes a tasty alternative to chicken based curries. It's a bit like a chicken korma. The coconut milk gives it a lovely rich quality and it's very easy to make. Just let the oven do all the work!

Serves 4

750g lamb shoulder, cubed
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp plain flour
80g flaked almonds
100ml coconut milk
300ml chicken stock
5 cardamom pods, remove the seeds and discard the pod
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp curry powder
3 tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 210 degrees celsius.

1. Rub the lamb into the flour, and curry powder and season with salt and pepper.
2. Add 2 tbsp of oil and the lamb to a casserole dish and place in the oven. Stir after 10 minutes and then remove after another 10 minutes. The lamb should have become slightly brown.
3. Meanwhile sautee the onions and garlic in a frying pan with 1 tbsp of oil for 5 minutes over a medium heat.
4. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
5. Add all of the listed ingredients back into the casserole dish, cover with a lid, and cook in the oven for at least 2 hours, or until the lamb is meltingly tender.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Food: fried eggs

These are simple. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan. Break the eggs into the pan and fry for 3 minutes. I like a set white and runny yolk, which I achieve by placing a lid on the pan 2 minutes into cooking. Keep an eye on the yolk, you don't want it to be set. Test it by tapping your finger gently on it. Don't burn yourself!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Food: beef goulash

This Hungarian classic is full of punchy, spicy flavours.

Serves 4 - takes 3 hours

2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 kg stewing beef, cubed into 1 inch pieces
2 red pepper, chopped into 1 inch pieces
200 g button mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 L beef stock (a stock cube is fine to use)
1 tbsp soy sauce
salt and pepper
olive oil

1. Begin by browning off the beef. A quick way to do this is to place the beef and 2 tbsp of oil in an oven proof dish and cook in the oven (at 220 degrees celsius) for 10 minutes by which time the beef will have started to brown.
2. Fry the onion and garlic in 1 tbsp oil until softened.
3. Reduce the oven temperature to 180 degrees celsius.
4. Add onion, garlic, red pepper, tomato puree, mushrooms, beef stock, soy sauce and salt and pepper to the beef. Cover with a lid or foil and cook for approximately three hours or until the beef is meltingly tender.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Food: Welsh Rarebit

I ate this recently at Fortnum and Mason and it made me all nostalgic about my childhood when my grandma would make it regularly for my tea. Some recipes include stout, but I prefer mine not to. Welsh rarebit is a lovely tangy alternative to cheese on toast and is equally comforting. It's basically a roux sauce with some added tasty extras.

Serves 2

4 slices of thick wholegrain bread
250ml whole milk
1 tsp english mustard powder
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
2 tbsp grated cheddar cheese
1 tbs plain flour
25g butter
1 egg yolk
1 large pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Add the butter, flour and milk to a sauce pan.
2. Stir over a medium heat continuously until the mixture thickens (around 5 minutes)
3. Add the egg yolk, cheddar cheese, salt and pepper, cayenne pepper, mustard powder and worcestershire sauce. Continue to cook and stir until the cheese melts.
4. Set the sauce aside and toast both sides of the bread.
5. Add the sauce generously to one side of the toast, ensuring that you cover all the toast to prevent the toast from burning, and place under a medium grill until the sauce is bubbling and golden.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Food: Chicken and Broccoli Bake

Yum yum yum. This really is one of my favourite comforting recipes. Even friends who swear they don't like broccoli will happily munch away on this dish.

Serves 4

1 medium sized broccoli head, broken into florets
350g cooked chicken - left over roast chicken works perfectly here - just chop roughly. Otherwise use fresh chicken breast, slice into small pieces and fry off in oil until it's cooked (around 7 minutes)
284ml single cream
3 eggs
100ml milk
2 onions, chopped
100g cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the over to 190 degrees celsius

1. Begin by boiling the broccoli for 5 minutes. Then chop into half inch pieces. This can be done very roughly.
2. Mix together in a bowl the eggs, milk and cream. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Fry the onions in the oil and a little salt for five minutes. They will be softened but not discoloured.
3. Use a shallow ovenproof dish, around 1.7L capacity.
4. Alternate layers of chicken and broccoli in the dish. Each layer should be about 1 inch deep.
5. Top with the fried onions.
6. Pour over the sauce and finally sprinkle on the grated cheese.
7. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the dish is golden.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Boiled and Hard Boiled Eggs

As promised, here's the second instalment of my 'how to make perfect eggs'. Boiled eggs are tricky things; too often i've added the eggs directly to boiling water which has led to cracks appearing in the shell and some leaking white. To avoid this, add your egg to a saucepan half filled with cold water. Bring the pan up to boil. Once its boiling, allow it to boil for 1 minute and then turn off the heat and cover with a lid. Leave for 4 minutes. This will result in a runny yolk and a set white.

For hard boiled eggs, follow the same method but leave the eggs for 10 minutes as opposed to 4. The great thing about this method is that you avoid getting the nasty grey ring around the yolk which hardboiled eggs are prone to getting.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Pancake Day

Having spoken to lots of people about this, I finally realise that my idea of pancake day is slightly odd. During my childhood, every single pancake day would be spent with my grandma eating loads of pancakes. No dinner, just pancakes. This was such a favourite that we'd have a 'pancake day' about 5 times a year. I remember one appalling year when I didn't get to spend shrove tuesday with her and I had to eat a dinner beforehand. I could only manage one pancake. Seriously sad times. My boyfriend and everyone else i've spoken to disagree and say that eating dinner followed by a pudding of pancakes is far more normal. Well, since I was in charge of dinner last night, I just made pancakes, loads of them. About 20 and it was greeeeeeat.

I'm also incredibly boring, I only ever have lemon and caster sugar on my pancakes. I've tried ice cream, nutella, golden syrup, fruit and cream, but no. It's all about the lemon and sugar. I've always used this Delia Smith recipe. It works every time. Thanks Delia.

Makes approximately 8 (depending on the size of your pan and your preferred thickness of pancake)

110g plain flour, sifted
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
200ml milk
75ml water
50g butter

To serve:
2 fresh lemons, halved
caster sugar

1. Add the flour and salt to a large mixing bowl. Create a well in the flour. Crack the eggs into the well.
2. Using a balloon whisk or a fork (you really don't need to use an electric mixer) start to gradually combine the flour and eggs.
3. Then gradually add the milk and water, very slowly, whisking continuously. Carry on mixing until the mixture is well incorporated.
4. Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly before adding to the rest of the pancake mixture. Stir to combine.
5. To cook, heat a little oil in a medium sized frying pan over a medium heat and add around 3 tbsp of batter, depending on your preferred thickness. I like mine very thin. Fry each pancake for a couple of minutes on each side.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


Focaccia is a brilliant bread for fledgling bread makers to have a go at. The best thing about it is the variety - you can make your bread unique to you. Try adding a few of the following toppings: rosemary, thyme, red onions, garlic, chillies. This Paul Hollywood recipe is very easy to follow and produces perfect results every time.

500g strong white bread flour (it is vital that you use strong bread flour as it has more gluten compared with plain flour - gluten is essential for ensuring that your bread dough has an elastic texture)
2 tsp salt
2 sachets of dried yeast (14g)
2 tbsp olive oil
400 ml cold water
olive oil for drizzling
fine sea salt

1. Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and 300ml of the water into a large bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients.
2. Knead the dough in the bowl for 5 minutes, gradually adding the remaining 100ml of water.
3. Place the dough onto an oiled surface and knead for 5 more minutes.
4. Return the dough to bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise until it has doubled in size (around 1 and 1/2 hours)
5. Tip the dough onto an oiled surface and punch a couple of times to knock the air out.
6. Line two large baking trays with greaseproof paper, place half the dough on each tray and push the dough so it fills the entire tray.
7. Cover and leave to rise until the dough has doubled in size again (about 1 hour)
8. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees celsius.
9. Use a skewer to poke 2 cm holes into the dough around 3 cm apart. Drizzle with oil and fine sea salt and any other chosen toppings. I particularly like finely sliced red onion and rosemary sprigs
10. Bake for 20 minutes until golden. Drizzle with olive oil and enjoy either hot or warm.

A Super Easy Roux Sauce

A roux sauce is a white sauce used as the base of a huge number of sauces. People usually make it by mixing the flour and butter first over the heat and then gradually adding the milk until the sauce thickens. Not only is this method time consuming but it can even lead to dreaded lumps in the sauce.

Instead, try this amazing, fool proof method.

Serves 2

250ml whole milk
25g butter
25g plain flour

1. Place ALL three ingredients into a saucepan over a medium heat.
2. Using a wooden spoon stir continuously.
3. Don't panic if it looks lumpy, just keep stirring constantly. I promise in no time at all you'll have a silky sauce.
4. Cook for 5 minutes.

Try adding nutmeg to the sauce for an easy bechamel sauce as a base for lasagne. Or add cheese and pour it over macaroni or cauliflower.

Saturday, 9 February 2013


Hummus has become ridiculously popular in recent years filling an entire fridge in my local supermarket. According to BBC news, Tesco now stocks an astonishing 21 varieties of hummus and in America you can purchase peanut butter, pizza and chocolate mousse flavoured hummus. In England, we're far more conservative with flavours, but popping to my local supermarket I found caramelised red onion, red pepper, piri piri, moroccan, lemon and coriander flavours.

I wanted to share this recipe with you to show you how easy and quick homemade hummus is to make. Although supermarket varieties are super convenient, please try this recipe. You won't want to buy hummus ever again, I promise!

Serves 2-4

200g canned chickpeas
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp tahini (sesame seed pasta, widely available at supermakets)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp peanut butter
4 tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
a sprinkle of paprika (optional)

1. Use either a hand blender or a food proccessor blend together the chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, tahini, peanut butter and water. It's up to you how much you blend your hummus - some prefer it very smooth while others prefer a chunkier consistency.
2. Taste your hummus and then add more lemon juice, garlic, cumin and salt to taste.
3. Place your hummus in  a serving bowl, add a swirl of olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika
4. Serve with lightly toasted pitta bread.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Chocolate ganache

Chocolate ganache is extremely versatile. As mentioned before, it's perfect for sandwiching together macarons, but it can also be made into truffles or used as the icing on a rich chocolate cake.

This quantity of ganache will fill and cover a 20cm chocolate sandwich cake.

400g dark chocolate (buy the best quality you can), broken up
380g whipping cream
100g butter

Simply place the broken up chocolate into a bowl. Heat the cream up until almost boiling, stirring occasionally. The pour the cream onto the chocolate, stirring in order to melt the chocolate. Add the butter and stir to combine. Leave to cool. If you cover the ganache with cling film so that the cling film touches the surface, this helps to prevent a skin from forming.

Thursday, 7 February 2013


These are tricky, fiddly things to make, but as the end result is absolutely delicious they are well worth the effort.

150g egg whites (macarons are annoying in that the egg white quantity really does need to be 150g. Supermarkets are now beginning to stock eggs whites in the dairy section which you can just pour out. If you're using fresh eggs, make sure that they're not super fresh. Two week old eggs are best.)
100g caster sugar
170g ground almonds
260g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
optional: food colouring

1. Whisk the egg whites with an electric mixer until they form firm peaks
2. Add the ground almonds and icing sugar (both sifted) and vanilla paste to the meringue. If you're using food colouring, add a few drops now.
3. Fold the ingredients together
4. Add mixture to a piping bag with a 1 cm nozzle and pipe the mixture onto a baking tray covered in greased parchment.
5. The macarons should be 4.5cm in diameter. Use a stencil to make it more accurate. The paper stencil should be placed under the baking parchment - the baking parchment is transparent enough to see through to the stencil.

6. Leave the macarons out for 20 minutes. This causes a 'skin' to form - improving the final appearance of the macaron.
7. Bake at 160 degrees celsius for 8-10 minutes
8. Allow the macarons to cool on a wire rack and then sandwich together using a variety of fillings. Jam, a simple butter cream, and chocolate ganache work well.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Poached eggs

Eggs are incredibly nutritious but can sometimes prove tricky to cook. Poached, fried and scrambled eggs on toast make delicious alternatives to cereal for breakfast and keep you feeling full until lunch time. Try giving boiled eggs with bread/toast soldiers to little ones - they love dipping the bread into the egg and seeing the golden yolk flood out. It was always my preferred breakfast when I was growing up. Always buy the best quality eggs you can - they will yield a much brighter orange, tastier yolk compared with the caged variety. Over the next few weeks, i'm going to be sharing my methods for making perfect eggs every time. Today i'm starting with poached, but i'll also cover fried, scrambled, boiled and hard boiled.

Poached eggs

These are notoriously difficult to make, but with these simple steps, you can make them perfect, every time.

Firstly, you need incredibly fresh eggs. If your eggs are older than 4 days, you'll need to add a teaspoon of white wine vinegar to your pan. Don't over do the vinegar - there's nothing worse than a vinegary tasting egg and it makes the egg white rubbery. The vinegar, incidentally, helps keeps the white together. Only poach a maximum of two eggs at once - any more becomes difficult to handle. Use a large frying pan filled with boiling water. Have the eggs preprepared by cracking each into an individual cup. Create a vortex in the water by stirring quickly with a spoon. Now add each egg to the pan on opposite sides. Place a lid on the frying pan and boil for 3 minutes. And voila perfect poached eggs - a lovely runny yolk, and firm white.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Recipe of the week - Sausage Casserole

Sausage casserole is one of those hearty, comforting meals. It's ridiculously easy to rustle up and perfect for long, cold winter evenings.

Serves 4

1 large tin of chopped tomatoes (try and buy good quality as these tins contain more fruit. I usually use Napolina)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 dash worcestershire sauce
1 tsp sugar (this complements the sweet tomatoes perfectly.)
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 vegetable stock cube
Salt and pepper
Splash of olive oil
8 sausages
1 sprig of rosemary
10 new potatoes, halved
1 tin chick peas
1 small tin of baked beans

optional: sliced carrots, swede, turnips, parsnips

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius

1. Begin by making the sauce. Start by chopping the onions, and garlic.
2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic. Fry on a medium heat until they are softened but not colouring. Adding a little salt is helpful as it helps to draw the moisture out of the vegetables and stops them burning.
3. Add the tin of tomatoes
4. Fill the empty tin of tomatoes with water and wash into the pan - this ensures that no tomato is wasted.
5. Add the sugar, mixed herbs, tomato puree, vegetable stock cube, salt and pepper and worcester sauce to the pan.
6. Cover with a lid and cook for ten minutes.
7. Meanwhile brown off the sausages for a couple of minutes in a frying pan. Chop roughly.
8. Add the tomato sauce, sausages, rosemary, potatoes, chickpeas, baked beans and any other vegetables you are using to an ovenproof dish.
9. Cover and cook for two hours.

*for a QUICK version, fry the sausages until they are cooked. Boil the potatoes separately for ten minutes. Then combine all the ingredients in a large pan and simmer for 5 minutes on the hob until everything is heated through*

Monday, 4 February 2013

Simple Tomato Sauce

This tomato sauce forms the basis to a lot of my cooking. It's great as a pasta sauce. Just boil some penne pasta and add some shavings of parmesan as a final flourish for a simple weekday dinner. The sauce can also be used as a base for spaghetti bolognese or sausage casserole or as the topping for homemade pizza. Honestly it's that versatile. Luckily it's really straightforward and quick to make. It's also great for disguising a large number of vegetables for little mouths. This is easiest done using a food processor - try blitzing courgettes, mushrooms and carrots and adding them to the sauce.

Serves 4
1 large tin of chopped tomatoes (try and buy good quality as these tins contain more fruit. I usually use Napolina)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 dash worcestershire sauce
1 tsp sugar (this complements the sweet tomatoes perfectly.)
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 vegetable stock cube
Salt and pepper
Splash of olive oil

1. Begin by chopping the onions, garlic and any other vegetables you wish to use. A food processor makes this really easy.
2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the vegetables. Fry on a medium heat until they are softened but not colouring. Adding a little salt is helpful as it helps to draw the moisture out of the vegetables and stop them burning.
3. If you want a smooth sauce, blitz the chopped tomatoes in food processor or simply add passata. Add the tomatoes of your choice to the frying vegetables.
4. Fill the empty tin of tomatoes with water and wash into the pan - this ensures that no tomato is wasted.
5. Add the sugar, mixed herbs, tomato puree, vegetable stock cube, salt and pepper and worcester sauce to the pan.
6. Cover with a lid and cook for the desired time - minimum ten minutes. The longer it cooks for, the richer flavour. A maximum of one and half hours.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Blueberry muffins

This recipe from Waitrose makes a healthy, super tasty blueberry muffin, ideal for breakfast on the go or for a mid morning pick-me-up. There is only 187 calories per muffin, due to the low quantity of fat and sugar used - the muffin avoids being dry and remains wonderfully moist due to the inclusion of butter milk in the recipe. Buttermilk is one of my favourite ingredients - it has completely revolutionised my scone making. Look out for my favourite scone recipe, to follow shortly! Although this recipe uses cinnamon which I love, I realise many people do not, so feel free to omit.

Makes 12

250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100g caster sugar
1 lemon, zest
1 large egg, beaten
200ml butter milk
50g butter
225g blueberries
20g demerara sugar

1x 12 hole muffin tray lined with paper cases

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the caster sugar and lemon zest and stir.
3. Stir the egg, buttermilk and butter together thoroughly. Tip into the dry ingredients and mix lightly. Finally fold in the blueberries.
4. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and add pinch off demerara sugar to the top of each muffin.
5. Bake for 25 minutes until well risen and golden.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Recipe of the week 2nd February - Hollandaise sauce

Hollandaise sauce is the mother of all sauces. Exceptionally unhealthy this is not a sauce I recommend that you make too frequently, but for a special occasion, there is no better sauce.

Hollandaise sauce provides the perfect accompaniment to eggs benedict, eggs florentine for a super special breakfast. Try chopping some fresh tarragon into the sauce for a perfect accompaniment to steak.

Serves 2

2 large egg yolks
1 desert spoon of lemon juice
1 desert spoon of white wine vinegar
110g butter
salt and peper

1. Place the egg yolks and seasoning into a large bowl.
2. Using a hand blender, mix for one minute.
3. Heat the lemon juice and vinegar together on the hob until they begin to simmer.
4. Add the acidic mixture to the egg slowly and blend.
5. Melt the butter and then add VERY slowly to the egg mixture. To begin with, it is best to add the butter dropwise to avoid splitting your hollandaise.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Best ever Christmas Cake

I realise that january is probably the least appropriate month for sharing this recipe, but I simply can't resist. It is the very best christmas cake recipe I have ever used. It's only in recent years that i've actually decided that I like fruit cakes. I was always a staunch chocolate cake person. However, the rich complexity of flavours that a fruit cake (especially one which has been maturing for two months) offers,  is second to none. In fact it's so good, that the cake was eaten in no less than three weeks by only two greedy mouths and I've already made another one in preparation for my birthday afternoon tea i'm having in april.

This recipe is from BBC Good Food and is called a 'simmer and stir cake'.

175g butter, chopped
200g dark muscovado sugar
750 mixed dried fruits e.g. rasins, sultanas, mixed peel and glace cherries
finely grated zest and juice of one orange
100ml brandy, plus 4 tbsp more
3 large eggs, beaten
100g ground almonds
200g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground all spice

1. Place the butter, sugar, fruits, zests, juice and 100ml of the brandy into a large pan. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the butter has melted. Reduce the heat and bubble for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and leave for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the over to 150 degrees celsius.
4. Stir the eggs, nuts, and almonds into the fruit mixture.
5. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into the pan.
6. Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth down evenly.
7. Bake for 45 minutes, then turn down the heat to 140 degrees celsius and the cake is dark golden and firm to the touch.
8. Make holes all over the top of the cake with a skewer and pour over the remaining four spoons of brandy.
9. All to cool completely on a wire rack before covering in many layers of foil and storing in an air tight container in a cool place.