Busy Dinners

A new #askmim request appeared in my inbox the other day, this one is from Veena. Ahoy there Veena!

Veena said:

“I’m a fish eating veggie and am going back to a really full on job after having a baby. I want to be able to cook something delicious and healthy when I get home, that isn’t pasta, and doesn’t mean that I spend ages in the kitchen away from my daughter when I should be spending time with her. Any ideas?”

Good challenge. Righteo, I’ve spent some time cooking up a few  ideas this week and come up with 3 tasty new mid-week suggestions for you.

Mackerel Rice Bowl

Easy Mezze

The first was inspired by some of my favourite sushi ingredients. You can vary it too though, tofu would be ace instead of mackerel and any green veg like spinach or green beans could take the place of the seaweed as it can be a bit tricky to get hold of.

Smoked Mackerel Sushi Bowl

Serves 1


75g brown rice (dried or a sachet of microwave brown rice)

chunk of cucumber (I used about 50g)

1/2 teaspoon of finely grated fresh root ginger

2 teaspoons of rice vinegar

1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds

1 or 2 smoked mackerel fillets

To serve

1 tablespoon of pickled red cabbage

a handful of dried seaweed (which has been rehydrated in some boiling water – check pack for guidance) or some wilted spinach


1. If you’re using uncooked rice pop that on to boil for 20-25 mins (check the pack for proper timings). If you’re using the microwave kind (nowt wrong with that – check the pack but all they usually add is a dash of veg oil to stop it sticking together) heat that up at the last minute.

2. Next mix the cucumber, grated ginger and rice vinegar together in a nice bowl or soup dish then nudge it to one side to make space for everything else. Pile the cooked rice in down one side, tuck in the mackerel fillets, add the seaweed or spinach then the pickled cabbage and finally sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds over the rice. Add a spritz of soy sauce if you like but I’m not sure it’s necessary. Dig in!

Mackerel sushi bowl

Sometimes all I want for dinner is a big sandwich and this one is great as it’s so quick, filling and probably jolly healthy too as the fish is poached gently in water.

Poached Salmon Pittas 

Serves 2

2 salmon fillets
5 black peppercorns

1 tablespoon of Greek yogurt or sour cream

handful of soft fresh herbs (I used a mix of dill and basil but parsley, chives or tarragon would also be fine)

2 wholemeal pitta bread

handful of salad leaves

1/2 punnet of salad cress


1. Half fill a deep sided sauté pan or medium sized saucepan with water and add the peppercorns. Bring to the boil then add the salmon fillets. Turn the heat right down and simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until the salmon is just cooked through and when you break a piece off the flesh is opaque pink.

2. Take the salmon out of the water with a slotted spoon, discard the peppercorns and leave the fish to rest just while you pop the pitta bread in the toaster.

3. Chop the herbs with scissors and stir into the sour cream or yoghurt. When the pitta is ready, cut a slit in each one along one of the long sides and divide the herby mixture between them.

4. Peel the skin away from the salmon (if it had it on) then gently break the fish into pieces and put them inside the pittas. Stuff with salad leaves, sprinkle in the cress and serve.

Poached Salmon Pitta

And finally a bit of a treat, even midweek…perhaps especially midweek! Pretty much everything on this platter keeps really well in the fridge, so can be hurled together whenever you need a little lift, like your own mini party!

Storecupboard Mezze


1 espresso cupful of couscous

1 tablespoon of light tahini

pinch of smoked paprika

3 mini crisp breads or 1 flatbread of your choice

few olives

few sundried tomatoes

1-2 tablespoons of feta cheese

1 teaspoon of pomegranate molasses

1/2 an avocado


1. Pour the couscous into a heatproof bowl then add 1 1/2 espresso cupfuls of boiling water. Leave to stand whilst you prepare the rest.

2. In a small bowl mix the tahini with enough cold water to make a houmous-like consistency. Keep mixing until it’s nice and smooth then sprinkle the smoked paprika on the top and if you like a little drizzle of the oil from the sundried tomatoes.

3. Once the couscous has absorbed the water, fluff it up a bit using a fork to break up the grains then add the feta and the pomegranate molasses.

4. Pop everything else on a platter and dig in, cold glass of something lovely (alcoholic or otherwise) is a jolly nice addition.

Storecupboard Mezze

Hope you like the recipes, do let me know what you think x

If you would like me to write a recipe for you too or answer a burning kitchen conundrum please get in touch via facebook, instagram or twitter using the hashtag #askmim.

Homemade Pasta

The latest #AskMim request comes from Elaine, hello Elaine! She wanted to know how to make fresh pasta and a good recipe for goat’s cheese & watercress tortellini…no problemo!

fresh pasta

Some of my favourite recipes are so neat, and once they’re in your head they stick there forever, always ready when you need them.


Fresh pasta is just such a recipe, once you know the formula – it’s with you forever and you can play around with it all you like.

1 large egg + 100g pasta flour = 1 portion of fresh pasta.

(Use grade ‘00’ / pasta flour if you can get it, if you can’t try strong white bread flour or ordinary plain flour.)


1. Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and add the egg. Using fork beat the egg into the flour then pop the fork down and get stuck in with your hands. Knead it really well for about 5 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic.

2. Wrap the ball of dough up in cling film and leave it in the fridge. It will keep happily in there for about half a day, any more than that and the dough tends to oxidise and you get a grey tinge to the outside which looks a bit dodge.

3. If you want to serve the pasta with something slow cooked like a rich tomato sauce or a ragu, now is the time to get cracking on that.

4. To shape the pasta, press it gently with your hands so it’s like a pitta bread and rub it with a dusting of flour. Set your pasta rollers to the thickest setting on the machine. Run the pasta through twice, rub again with a little flour then switch it to the next setting down. Again run the dough through twice. Keep going, rolling and dusting with flour until you’ve been through all the settings, or until it’s the thickness you want. If you have one, add the cutting attachment for spaghetti or tagliatelle and run it through to cut it up. Alternatively, fold it into a concertina and slice it to get long ribbons of pappardelle or cut into squares with a knife, or circles with a cookie cutter, for tortellini and ravioli. If you don’t have a pasta machine, don’t fret. You can roll it out with a rolling pin (I usually do, I borrowed the pasta machine especially). Rolling it out by hand works fine, but it can be a bit heavy going, especially when you want to get it really thin. 

Homemade pasta

5. Pop some flour (or fine semolina) onto a work surface and toss the pasta ribbons in the flour so that they don’t clump together.

fresh tagliatelle

6. Bop it into a large pan of boiling water, (salted or fling in a glug of olive oil in there if you like) and cook for 4-5 mins or to your liking. Scoop the pasta out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon/pasta spoon, straight into a serving dish or into the pan with the sauce in. A splash of pasta water is good for thinning down a thick sauce that needs a little more movement. Serve straight away.

tortellini making

For the goat’s cheese tortellini


2 portions worth of fresh pasta, as above (rolled out into sheets and cut into squares approx. 7 – 8cm square)
100g soft goat’s cheese
1 clove of garlic, crushed
50g watercress, finely chopped
1 egg
1 tablespoon of pine nuts, crushed
3 tablespoons of finely grated parmesan
pinch ground nutmeg
salt & black pepper


1. In a small saucepan mix all the ingredients together, then cook gently over a medium heat for about 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring all the time as if you were making scrambled eggs. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then it’s ready to pop into the pasta.

cheese and watercress filling

2. Place 1/2 teaspoonfuls of the mixture into one corner of each pasta square. Fold the oposite corner over it to seal it in. You might want to use a little water or egg wash to seal it. Push the air out carefully then roll the triangle up twice (like when you roll a neckerchief in the scouts/guides). Turn the parcel over and fold the ends to the middle then to the back, pressing gently but firmly to make sure it’s sealed well.

Folding tortellini

3. When you’ve repeated the process with all of the pasta and the filling, drop them carefully into boiling water for 3-4 minutes or until they’re starting to bob merrily on the surface. Scoop out with a slotted spoon. I like to serve mine very simply with a little more finely grated parmesan and some salt and pepper.

Buon appetito!


Goat's cheese and watercress tortellini

If you would like me to write a recipe for you too or answer a burning kitchen conundrum please get in touch via facebook, instagram or twitter using the hashtag #askmim.

Happy Cooking and thanks Elaine for getting in touch. Hope you have fun making pasta. xx

Lazy Carrot & Potato Tartiflette


It snowed…in London! I’m convinced this never happens, but on Monday night it blooming well did!
I’d been complaining about a headache in the office on Monday afternoon, and threw out a comment that I only ever get headaches like that when there’s going to be a storm…so now my colleague is totally convinced I’m psychic. Before I get taken away for scientific analysis, here’s my recipe for a tartiflette inspired bake that’s going to bring a bit of a ski lodge vibe to your weeknight supper.
It’s so easy (I’ve called it lazy) because there’s no par boiling of the potatoes, or even slicing them, and the bacon goes in raw so there’s no frying either!

Serve with a glass of chilled white wine…I like Gewürztraminer because it cuts through the richness of the cheese and because I really like saying Gewürztraminer x

Carrot and potato tartiflette

Lazy Carrot & Potato Tartiflette

Serves 3


500g of baby new potatoes (I used a mixture of red and white ones but any are fine)
250g baby carrots
6 baby onions or small round shallots
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
25g butter
200g smoked bacon lardons
2 tablespoons of white wine, plus more for drinking if you like, and if you’re old enough of course!
150g – 200g reblochon cheese, sliced
2 tablespoons of crème fraîche

Small bunch of tarragon, chopped
1 little gem lettuce
Baguette (optional)


1. Preheat your oven to 200°c. Peel the baby onions and trim off any roots. Pop them in a large oven proof dish with the potatoes, carrots, garlic cloves, and butter then scatter over the bacon lardons.

2. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally during cooking (oh and if the potatoes start to whistle prick them with a sharp knife, I was a bit worried mine were going to explode so keep an ear out)

3.  When the bacon is cooked and starting to crisp up and the potatoes are tender and it’s all looking generally ace, take the dish out of the oven and with the back of a fork gently crush some of the potatoes. You just want to flatten them a little bit, don’t totally mash them. Now pour over the white wine and season well with black pepper and a pinch of salt. Next lay the sliced reblochon cheese on top and return it to the oven for another 5 or 6 minutes to allow the cheese to melt, and that’s pretty much it.

4. When the tartiflette is ready, add a dollop of crème fraîche and the chopped tarragon. Serve with chunks of warm baguette, put on your slipper socks and relax.

Happy cooking!

What do you eat when it snows? Gimme a shout on twitter or facebook  #askmim


Easy tartiflette

Lazy carrot and potato tartiflette

Red Cabbage Cobbler

Red cabbage cobbler

Hi gang! I’m back writing recipes, did you miss me? :-)

To make up for my extended absence I asked you lovely lot on instagram, twitter and facebook to send me your recipe requests. I picked one at random, out of a bobble hat no less…and the request was for me to “make something veery interesting with Red Cabbage – lots of it!

tweet askmim


So, here goes, I hope it’s exciting enough for you N’ham Youth Theatre x

Thanks so much to all of you who submitted ideas – I will be picking a recipe at random again soon so if you would like to put an idea forward please get in touch via facebook, instagram or twitter using the hashtag #askmim – you can also use it for any foodie questions or conundrums you need help with.

Happy cooking xxx

red cabbage cobbler

Red cabbage cobbler

Serves 4 – 6


1 tablespoon olive oil
20g butter
150g – 200g shallots, peeled and quartered
1 sweet potato or around 200g of diced sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash (or a combination)
1 tablespoon of plain flour
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 red cabbage, about 1 kg, finely shredded
300ml red wine
couple of sprigs of thyme and rosemary (if they’re kicking about in the garden/on the window ledge/at the back of the fridge)
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
2 heaped teaspoons of cranberry sauce
2 heaped teaspoons of Dijon mustard

For the cobbles

50g butter
200g plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
50g pecan nuts, chopped
100ml milk
lemon juice

Optional extras

100g feta cheese or 6 chipolata sausages
Pumpkin seeds
Sunflower seeds
Chopped parsley


1. Heat the oil and butter in a really large saucepan over a medium heat. Throw in the shallots and fry for 5 minutes so they’re starting to soften. Next chuck in the sweet potato or squash, keep frying for another 5 minutes, then add the tablespoon of flour. Stir in the red cabbage, garlic, juniper berries, red wine and 300ml of water. Mix really well scraping the bottom of the pan to make sure the liquid lifts off all the flavour that’s caught there.

2. Turn the heat down to low and tuck the cinnamon stick, bay leaf and herbs into the cabbage, cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 1 hour.

3. Shortly before the hour is up, make your cobbles: Rub the flour and butter together with your finger tips – you know, till it looks all lumpy like fresh breadcrumbs. Add the chopped pecans, bicarbonate of soda, tiny squeeze of lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Pour in the milk, stir then knead just enough to bring the dough together into a ball. On a floured surface press the dough flat (about 3cm thick) with your hands. Cut it into squares or triangles or if you’re feeling super fancy use  a cookie cutter to make circles, stars, anything you like.  Preheat the oven to 180°C.

4. When the cabbage is ready either leave it in the pan (if your pan is oven safe) or transfer it to an oven proof dish. Pick out and discard the bay leaf and cinnamon stick then stir in the dijon mustard and cranberry sauce, taste and season with salt and pepper accordingly. Top the cabbage with the cobbles, brush them with milk or beaten egg and pop the whole thing in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cobbles are starting to brown on the top and are cooked through.

5. Serve! I had this just with some chopped parsley over the top but have also tried it with some feta cheese crumbled over in the last 5 – 10 minutes of cooking then scattered over some toasted seeds before dishing up, which was ace, but would also be smashing with a pile of cooked chipolatas. A green salad with a sharp vinaigrette goes really well with this too.

red cabbage cobbler served red cabbage with pecan cobbles

red cabbage cobbler with feta

Food Safety Week

Summer Roast ChickenIt’s Food Safety Week (16th-22nd of June) and this year the Food Standards Agency (FSA) wants us to stop washing raw chicken. I was invited to a special FSA event to find out why.

My initial reaction to the invitation was highly enthusiastic (I love a good cookery demo) and I was keen to find out more and share my findings here on my blog. But the more I thought about it the more I wrestled with the idea. I have professional experience in two fields; Cooking and Facilities Management (specifically cleaning), which I fear may make me a rather unpopular dinner party guest. Most people both cook and clean to some degree and have learned these skills over a number of years…so probably don’t like to hear that something they are doing is wrong. The difficulty I have is that I need to know the safest way of working and once I know it…well I can’t un-know it.
If you’re cooking in my kitchen I will probably have one eye on what I’m doing and the other on making sure you’ve washed your hands, are using the correct colour coded chopping board/cleaning cloth/utensil for the task and if you so much as think about double dipping you’re out on your ear! Unfortunately for my friends and family I can be a little too eager to share gross food hygiene horror stories.

But this particular campaign isn’t aimed at professional chefs but to anyone and everyone who cooks chicken, especially at home, and the FSA are keen to reach as many people as possible with the message “Don’t Wash Raw Chicken”.

Food Standards Agency Campaign 2014 Campylobacter

The FSA have found that washing raw chicken in your kitchen sink before cooking it increases the risk of contracting campylobacter which is a form of food poisoning. They issued a press release on why they want to increase awareness now:

“The call comes as new figures released today show that 44% of people always wash chicken before cooking it – a practice that can spread campylobacter bacteria onto hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment through the splashing of water droplets.

Campylobacter is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK, affecting an estimated 280,000 people a year. Around four in five of these cases come from contaminated poultry. The resulting illness can cause abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea and vomiting. In certain cases, it can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, reactive arthritis and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a serious condition of the nervous system. At its worst, it can kill. Those most at risk are children under five and older people.”
Food Standards Agency 16/06/14

At the press event the speakers were Bob Martin from the FSA, Professor Sarah O’Brien from the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool and Home Economist Sue Ashworth who demonstrated how to prepare a raw chicken for roasting and whipped up a quick Caesar Salad. Even though we’d spent the morning talking about food poisoning I still managed to scoff a load of Sue’s chicken salad.

Sue Ashworth Home Economist Sue Ashworth Home Economist Sue Ashworth's Chicken Caesar Salad Sue Ashworth's Roast Chicken for FSA Event

I knew that raw chicken was something to be dealt with carefully but I thought that was due to the risk of salmonella. I was shocked to then discover the number of campylobacter cases far outweighs the instances of salmonella, e.coli and listeria put together! The facts kept getting scarier – the amount of organisms you need to consume to become infected is tiny and if you’re unlucky the effects can be horrendous. BUT this isn’t a public health scare. This isn’t like when BSE hit the headlines or Edwina Curie started flapping about eggs. From what I could understand from the data presented; cases of camplyobacter have been steadily high for many years. The FSA seem genuinely committed to bringing these figures down and, as well as this campaign, they are talking to farmers, suppliers and major supermarkets to reduce the contamination at all stages.

FSA Campylobacter Campaign 2014

So, now you know! There’s loads more information, if you want to hear even more grizzly details on the FSA website. All you need to do is tip the raw chicken straight into the roasting tray or frying pan directly from the packet then wash your hands. The bacteria is mostly on the surface and the high heat of the oven or the pan will destroy the bacteria for you…no go tell your friends, preferably at a dinner party so that I’m not the only one!

Summer Roast Dinner

Now for the tasty bit.  If all this talk of bacteria hasn’t put you off your dinner (and I really hope that it hasn’t) I’ve come up with a super simple alternative to a traditional Sunday Roast, perfect for a hot Sunday evening. Everything cooks together in one tray at the same time and there’s no sweating over a hot pan of gravy.


Summer Roast Chicken with Watercress

Serves 4

3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 baking potato
5 sticks of celery
1 medium sized fennel bulb
1 head of chicory
5 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
2 eating apples
Salt & Pepper
1 medium sized free-range chicken
1 bag of watercress

For the dressing
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 dessertspoonfuls of olive oil
Salt & Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C then drizzle the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over a large baking/roasting tray.

2. Pick the leaves off the celery stalks (if there are any) and the fronds from the fennel and set aside for using in the dressing.

3. Wash and chop into large chunks the apple (discard the core and seeds), potato (no need to peel it), fennel, celery and chicory. Pile all these chopped ingredients and the garlic cloves into the roasting tray and toss in the oil. Season well with salt and black pepper then make a space in the centre of the tray for the chicken.
Roasting tray ready for the chicken to be added

4. Remove and dispose of all the packaging from the chicken and place it in the centre of the roasting tray, no need to wash the chicken first. Wash your hands in hot soapy water.
Chicken with Potatoes, Fennel, Apple, Chicory, Celery and Garlic ready to be roasted

5. Cover the whole tray in tin foil and roast in the preheated oven for 1 hour.

6. After an hour remove the foil and use a spoon to baste the chicken in the juices. Put the tray back in the oven for another 30 minutes.

7. Check the chicken is cooked through by inserting a sharp knife or a skewer into the thickest part of the bird. If the juices run clear and the meat inside is opaque white all the way through then it’s ready. If not pop it back in the oven until completely done.
One-tray Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Fennel, Apple, Chicory, Celery and Garlic

8. To make the dressing, finely chop the fennel fronds and celery leaves (reserved from earlier) and add to the zest and juice from one lemon. Whisk the mixture whilst you gradually add 2 dessertspoons of olive oil until well combined, it should also thicken slightly. Season with salt and pepper.

9. To serve, scatter some watercress leaves on each plate, pile the roasted fruit and vegetables on top then add pieces of roasted chicken. Drizzle everything with the lemon dressing and enjoy, preferably outside with a cold glass of white wine.
Summer Roast Chicken

Summer Alternative to Roast Dinner

What are your favourite chicken dishes? Did you wash raw chicken before the campaign started? Do you have any questions on cooking or ideas you want to share? Do get in touch I’d love to hear from you. I’m on twitter as @miriamjsnice and you can throw all your kitchen queries at me using the hashtag #askmim. Alternatively say hi on Facebook or drop me a message via the Ask Mim! contact page.

Happy cooking xxx

Fish Fingers

I must warn you, my reason behind making fish fingers this week isn’t particularly thrilling. I wish I could recount some whimsical, nostalgic tale… or discuss Doctor Who serving them with custard …even explain that I needed comfort food for some sob story or another. The truth is much less exciting. Basically I found the end of a loaf of rather nice black olive bread (which I had left in it’s bag on the kitchen table for a couple of days) and although still perfectly edible, it had become so stale that if thrown, it could probably smash through a brick wall! I hate chucking things away so I thought I’ll make breadcrumbs and that led to FISH FINGERS and here we are. I have decided to share it because it actually turned out to be a lovely, healthy meal made from mostly store-cupboard regulars. The salty capers and gherkins in the sauce plus the lemon juice on the pea salad mean’t that the whole dish is packed with so much flavour I don’t think the dish needs extra salt or butter in the mash – give it a whirl let me know what you think.

Fish Finger Dinner

Serves 2

For the Fish Fingers
2 Fillets of fish (I used salmon)
Approx 50g of stale bread
2 tablespoons of plain flour
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon of vegetable oil

2 sweet potatoes, peeled
2 handfuls of frozen peas
few sprigs of fresh mint
juice of half a lemon
Olive oil

5-6 small radishes
2-3 mini gherkins
1 teaspoon of capers
1/2 teaspoon of djion mustard
1 tablespoon of Greek Yoghurt


Start by making the sauce. I must add that I was tempted to call this Tartare Sauce but with so few ingredients in common with the traditional I was worried about getting slammed with the trades descriptions act. It is a bit like tartare sauce…but not really…it does go bloomin’ well with the fish fingers though, honest!
1) Finely dice the radishes, gherkins and capers.
2) Add the mustard and yoghurt to the chopped ingredients and stir well.
3) Pop into the fridge until needed.
4) Next, chop the sweet potatoes into chunks and put into a pan of boiling water. Let boil for 20 minutes whilst you prepare the fish.
5) Cut each fish fillet into thick strips – for the fillets I used I just had to snip them in half with scissors but you could cut them into three if yours are bigger.
6) Put the stale bread into a food processor and blitz to make breadcrumbs. If you don’t have a food processor you can use a grater but it will take ages if the bread is as stale as mine was.
7) Dip the pieces of fish into the flour, then into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs. If there are still breadcrumbs left in the bowl after the first dip, pop the fish back into the egg and then in the breadcrumbs again to get them all used up.
8) Place the fish fingers on a baking tray greased with a teaspoon of vegetable oil and put into an oven preheated to 180°C for 15 – 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. 
9) When the fish is nearly ready put the frozen peas into a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water, leave to stand until defrosted (around 5 minutes).
10) Drain the peas and add the lemon juice, chopped mint and a splash of olive oil, mix well.
11) To serve, drain and mash the sweet potato and serve alongside the fish, pea salad and the sauce.
What leftovers inspired you this week? Or are you feeling uninspired by your store-cupboard ingredients? Send me a message and I could write a recipe just for you xx

Low Carb Diet

In response to my last blog post (where I offered to come up with dishes to help those on specific diets) I received the following email from a reader: (love the title she’s given me!)

Dear foodie agony aunt, 

I’m attempting a low carb diet and a few days in I’m already running out of meal ideas and I’m starting to lose steam… :(
– I can have meat of any kind, but the leaner the better.
– Eggs
– Dairy (ideally low fat)
– Vegetables
– On the occasions when I eat carbs they should be low GI and very small portions
– Minimal use of oils/fats

Once a week I’ll be having no carbs during the day at all, so those days will be the hardest to vary. What I want to avoid is meals like spag bol but without the spag (where the carb is so clearly missing it’s depressing!).


Ahoy there Reader!

Thank you so much for writing in :-) Firstly, however I should say that cutting out a food group entirely is not always the best idea, so I’m glad you are permitted to have some carbohydrates in your diet. But more importantly, everyone is different and if you know this plan works for you I admire your determination to stick to it.

Right, now first let’s address the spag situation. Grab yourself a good vegetable peeler – mine is one of those ‘Y’ shaped speed peelers and it was from Morrison’s and cost 80p! It’s one of the best peelers I’ve ever had (and no this post is not sponsored by a supermarket).

1. Using a vegetable peeler create long ribbons – here I’ve used courgettes but carrots work really well too, or a mixture of both is even better!


2. Drop the vegetable ribbons into a pan of boiling water and cook for no more than about 3 minutes.

3. Drain and serve your vegetable mock-spaghetti with your bolognese sauce.

Alternatively make your own pesto.


This is a great way to use up store cupboard bits and you can vary it how you like or to suit your dietary plan.
Here I used a mixture of almonds and cashews, blended with rocket leaves and a little olive oil. I would normally have added garlic but I had to go out that afternoon so I flung a few capers in instead. Olives work well too and a little grated hard cheese…

Basically you need:

– a leaf (basil, spinach, rocket, mint or watercress)
– a nut (pinenuts, brazils, cashews, almonds or walnuts)
– a dash of olive oil
– salt & pepper to taste

Optional extras:
– grated hard cheese like Parmesan, Gruyere, Comté
– crushed garlic
– olives, capers and anchovies
– lemon juice

Blend all of your chosen ingredients together in a blender or smash them up in a pestle and mortor. Taste and adjust the ratio or seasoning as you like, have fun experimenting!



My second suggestion is an alternative to rice. It’s so simple it’s barely a recipe, but it’s super delicious!
All you do is coarsely grate some peeled butternut squash. Then pop it in a non-stick frying pan without adding any oil. Dry toast the grated butternut squash turning it frequently with a spatula so that it can all cook evenly. After about 5 minutes it should be tender but with slightly scorched edges, serve immediately with your main dish. I think this would be delicious with grilled fish and a green salad or with a good spoonful of chilli con carne!


Healthy eating and getting fit can be really difficult. I hope these recipes are helpful and what’s great is they actually take less time to cook than traditional rice or pasta!
I’ve started trying to get fit by doing some yoga and jogging. I’m not fit enough yet to brave the jogging route down regents canal – at busy times it can get quite hairy with Cyclists, Dog Walkers, Joggers and Canada Geese all getting tangled up under a footbridge.
Instead of joining them I’ve cleared a small area of floor space in my bedroom and use an app which shouts out various exercise or yoga instructions! So currently, my idea of a work out is to jog basically on the spot whilst a disembodied voice shouts “almost there” and “you know what to do!”. I normally find this really boring but I discovered that the jogging routine is approx 30 minutes long so there’s no reason why I can’t watch TV or a film to keep me entertained. So last night I jogged to an episode of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle on iplayer! Yay for cardio workout + satire! I felt much better about eating some more broccoli and pepperoni pizza… and a glass of my housemate’s red wine ;-)

If you’re stuck for recipe ideas too, please do send me a message via the contact form or head over to my Facebook page.

Oxford Marmalade

It’s marmalade season…although in terms of eating seasonably it doesn’t appear to be my year!
My fruitless search for forced rhubarb and wild goose-chase for full fat goat’s milk meant that it wasn’t a total shock when I couldn’t find a Seville orange anywhere. Seville oranges might be the marmalade makers choice but I’d planned to blog about marmalade this week and once it’s in the notebook, well, there’s no turning back! (with or without the right oranges!)
Instead of Seville oranges I picked up a selection of oranges, clementines and lemons.
I like recipes you don’t have to read (odd for a food writer I know) like those cake recipes where you use a yoghurt pot to measure out all the other ingredients or the “half fat to flour” rule for pastry.
For this marmalade I weighed out all he fruit I’d bought and it came to 1.3kg. For the sugar I used double that weight so used 2.6kg of demerara and the same number but in litres of water (2.6l). This seemed to be the simplest way and hopefully a handy rule of thumb for future marmalade adventures.

This batch is Oxford Marmalade for 2 reason: the first is the traditional addition of black treacle and the second (to make it really authentic) is that I sent a jar of the finished marmalade on at very own vacation to Oxford University!

1) The first step is to prepare the fruit. Cut each orange or lemon in half and squeeze out all the juice into a bowl. Then turn the fruit halves inside out so you can pull the flesh away from the peel. Put everything except the peel into the bowl with the juice.
2) Once all the fruit had been separated like this, slice the peel up into matchstick sized pieces and set aside.

3) To cook the marmalade put the water, fruit juice, pips and flesh into a pan and bring to the boil. Allow the mixture to bubble away for about 15 minutes.

4) Then pass the mixture through a metal sieve to get rid of the pips and bits of fruit. Put the strained fruit juice back on the heat and add the chopped peel. Bring back up to the boil for an hour or until the peel is soft and the juice has reduced by about half.
5) Once the peel is soft you can add the sugar and a tablespoon of black treacle, this is the slightly scary part. You need to make sure that the sugar dissolves and then heat the mixture until it reaches the correct setting point. The traditional (fun) way to do this is to put a plate or saucer in the freezer and then when you think the marmalade is ready you put a few drops of it onto the cold saucer and allow it to cool. Then if when you press the blob of marmalade with your finger it wrinkles (the marmalade not your finger) then it’s ready. But, keep watching your marmalade and make sure that your saucepan is very large…if you take your eye off what is essentially boiling sugar, it will try to make a break for it and that’s not a good look! If you can see it starting to rise up make sure your hob gets turned off quickly and stand well back while it calms down. Don’t try and touch it – it’s properly hot!

6) When it’s ready put the marmalade into clean, sterilised and preferably warm jars. I wash mine really well with hot water and washing up liquid and then put them into the oven to dry before carefully pouring in the hot marmalade.



My marmalade did try to escape from the pan but it does clean off pretty well with a soft cloth and warm water.

Clearly my marmalade had somewhere it wanted to be…so I sent it on a road trip to Oxford, I think it had a good time! Thanks for sending me these photos Damian!



Bonfire Feast

I’ve always thought of black treacle as the bitter cousin of golden syrup, useful only for bonfire toffee (aka treacle toffee) and fruit cake…how wrong I was. I rediscovered its usefulness when trying to come up with a no-cook version of a balsamic reduction for a dish in my book (I’m in constant book promo mode I know, I know) and I’ve been keen to experiment with it further ever since.
So, this week I’m dusting off that little red tin at the back of the cupboard and celebrating the general super duperness of black treacle by using it as a base for a salad dressing and piling it into a new take on a treacle tart in my bonfire night menu.

Another unsung hero of the season is the marrow. My friend Zara, her daughter Florence and I lugged an enormous marrow home from their allotment last week and invented this dip together which forms the basis of my starter.

Marrow Baba Ghanoush
Serve with cheese straws, crisps, crudités or as I did, with little croquettes made from mashed sweet potato or pumpkin.

1 marrow
Black Pepper
Olive oil
50g cream cheese
Small bunch of chives
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika

1) Preheat the oven to 200°c
2) Cut the marrow into large wedges and place on a baking tray, skin side up
3) Drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper
4) Roast for 30-40 minutes or until the marrow is really soft and the skin is caramelised or scorched in patches.
5) When the marrow is well roasted place it in a blender with all of the other ingredients. Blend until smooth.
6) Can be served warm or cold which means you can make it the night before and just pop it in the fridge.


Venison Hot Dogs
I think hot dogs taste better outside on a cold day and they’re easy to hold and eat with a sparkler in your other hand!
To make them super special I’m using venison sausages and a cheeky drizzle of dark chocolate. Trust me it works! To balance out the richness of the hot dogs I’ve made this firework ‘slaw with brightly coloured veggies and a black treacle dressing.

For the firework ‘slaw:
1 carrot, peeled
1/4 red cabbage
1 beetroot, peeled
Small bunch of radishes, leaves and stalks removed
1 teaspoon of black treacle
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the hot dogs:
2 red onions or 4 large shallots
Knob of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
5-6 juniper berries
1 tablespoon of red wine (leaving plenty left in the bottle for serving with dinner)
2 bay leaves
8 venison sausages
8 brioche rolls
100g of dark chocolate (at least 70%)
English mustard

1) Finely slice the onions or shallots and place in a large frying pan with the butter, oil, juniper berries and bay leaves.
2) Soften gently on a low heat for 15-20 minutes then stir in the red wine.
3) Heat for another minute or so to allow the wine to soak into the onions.
4) Cook the sausages in the oven for about 25-30 mins (as per the packet or your butchers instructions)
5) Melt the chocolate either in a bowl fitted over a pan of simmering water or if you (like me) can’t be bothered with all that; pop the chocolate in an oven proof dish and chuck it in the oven very very briefly (don’t let it burn or you’ll have to start again).
6) Warm the brioche rolls for a couple of minutes in the oven then split them lengthways and stuff in the onions, sausage, dash of English mustard then a very light drizzle of melted chocolate.

To make the accompanying ‘slaw. Stir the black treacle and balsamic vinegar together until well combined. Then whisk in the olive oil a little at a time, season with salt and pepper and set aside. Finely chop or grate the vegetables and toss in the dressing just before serving.

Bonfire Brazil Nut Tart
Dessert has all the flavours of treacle toffee but it’s softened by the buttery brazil nuts (…went a bit Greg Wallace then sorry, can’t help it it’s well yummy!)

200g plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
100g cold butter, diced
1 large free-range egg
Cold water to bind

300g golden syrup
300g black treacle
100g fresh breadcrumbs
150g chopped brazil nuts
2 tbsp of whiskey

1) Rub the butter and flour together with your hands until it looks like breadcrumbs.
2) Lightly beat the egg and add it to the flour and butter. Stir in a little cold water too, just a tablespoon or so, just enough to bring it together to a smooth, soft dough.
3) Dust your work surface with flour and then roll out the dough to line a medium sized spring form cake tin or tart case (mine was an 18cm cake tin, which was probably a bit too deep so you might be better with something slightly bigger to make a shallower tart)
4) Chill the pastry in the fridge for 15-20 minutes and preheat the oven to 190°c
5) Blind bake the pastry (line the pastry case with grease proof held down with baking beans) for 15 minutes then (remove the paper and beans) and bake for a bit longer, until starting to turn golden brown.
6) Stir all of the remaining ingredients together and tip into the pastry case.
7) Bake the tart for 30 minutes.
8) Serve with double cream, custard or vanilla ice cream.

Have a super bonfire night xx

Soup Season

Is it soup season already? It must be as I seem to be spending most evenings curled up on the sofa with a blanket watching The Great British Strictly X-Factor Come Dancing Bake-Off!*
So, without further ado, dig out those slipper socks, whip up this delicious soup recipe and hibernate. See you all in the Spring ;-)
OK, ok, so not really going into hibernation; some of us have dishes to wash and a book to promote (any excuse for a plug). With that in mind and the horrendous news (which I cannot seem to escape) that there are only 64 days until Christmas I have added a bonus recipe to this soup dish – just double up on a few of the ingredients (see below) and you’ll have a stunning little salad treat for tomorrow, giving you even more relaxing telly time! Hooray! X

Roasted vegetable soup with figs and balsamic dressing

Makes 4 portions
1 Butternut squash
1 Beetroot
2 Onions
4 Garlic cloves
1 baking potato
3 carrots
Olive oil
Grated or Ground Nutmeg
Salt and pepper
200ml milk
300ml boiling water or chicken stock
4 Fresh Figs
Few sprigs of Fresh Thyme
1 tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon of Black treacle

100g goats cheese or 2 tablespoons of toasted flaked almonds (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 200°c
2) Peel the beetroot, potato, butternut squash, onions and carrots and cut into chunks. Put the chopped veg into a large roasting dish and drizzle over 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt, black pepper and about half a teaspoon of grated or ground nutmeg.Throw in the garlic cloves (unpeeled) and roast for 30-35 minutes or until they are soft and the potatoes are golden and starting to caramelise at the edges.
3) Once the vegetables are in the oven cut a deep cross in each of the figs to almost cut each one in quarters (but not all the way through). Pop them on a smaller baking tray or oven proof dish and drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
4) Roast the figs towards the end of the vegetable cooking time as they only need 15 minutes.
5) To make the balsamic dressing simply whisk together 1 tablespoon of the oil from the vegetable roasting tray with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and the teaspoon of black treacle. Set a side until serving.
6) Carefully remove the skin from the now roasted garlic and discard. Put the peeled garlic and roasted vegetables in a blender with the milk and 300ml of boiling water (or you can use chicken stock if you prefer) blend until smooth. Add a dash more water if you want a thinner consistency.
7) Pour into shallow bowls, top each one with a few thyme leaves, a roasted fig and either a sprinkling of toasted almonds or pieces of soft goats cheese. Drizzle a little of the dressing over each one and serve.


Bonus recipe
Peeling and chopping vegetables can be a bit boring so why not put a few chunks of the roasted vegetables to one side for tomorrow before blending? Save a bit of the balsamic dressing too, an extra fresh fig and a lump of goats cheese.
Simply scatter some rocket or watercress on to your plate, add the cold roasted vegetables, chopped fresh fig and goat cheese then pour over the balsamic dressing make an elegant seasonal salad.



(*rock and roll!)