Tag Archives: own recipe

Recipe: Pasta with Mint and Parsley Pesto


There are some winter days when curling up in front of the fire with a warm, hearty stew is the best way of celebrating the season, of revelling in the now of the cold and seasonal ingredients. And there are some winter days, like today, when a bitter wind shakes a few flakes of snow from the iron-grey clouds and you want to be reminded of sun, warm days and gentle breezes.

We should, of course, be all about seasonal ingredients, but this fresh pesto only takes a couple of packets of herbs and some store-cupboard staples and you have summer in a bowl. Every winter deserves a couple of those, I think.

pasta with mint pesto

160g pasta
40g frozen peas
1 clove garlic
20g pine nuts
10g fresh parsley
10g fresh mint
10g vegetarian italian hard cheese, grated
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)

Add the pasta boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions
Half-way through the pasta cooking time add the peas.
Put the rest of the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. This is a small enough amount to bash together with a mortar and pestle if you feel in need of the exercise.
Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper.
When the pasta and peas are cooked, drain well.
Put them back in the pan, add the sauce and mix.
Serve immediately, with a wedge of lemon to add to taste.

Serves 2

Recipe: Hot and Sour Soup


I came across chinese hot and sour soup when I first developed my chinese restaurant habit in the late 80’s when I lived in London. I don’t know where I first had it, but the moment that combination of heat and sourness hit my tastebuds I was hooked. It’s a great soup to do at home because you can replicate a restaurant taste without a huge number of specialist ingredients. If you have bamboo shoots and shiitake mushrooms around then by all means use them, but if not it’s a great ‘what have I got in the fridge’ soup. I vary the ingredients practically every time I make it, so please just take this ingredients list as a suggestion not definitive list. There are three things I always include – mushrooms, carrots and peas. It has to have peas. This is in honour of the time I was eating it in Poons off Leicester Square (my favourite restaurant at the time, now sadly gone), thinking that my mouth was on fire and realising that what I had taken for peas in the soup were actually rings of green birdseye chilli.

It’s low fat (or no fat if you leave the sesame oil off), packed with veggies, quick to make and the taste will knock your socks off. What’s not to like?

Hot & sour soup

750ml vegetable stock
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 medium carrot, cut into fine matchsticks (or grated)
75g mushrooms, sliced
25g frozen peas
25g frozen sweetcorn
1/2 gem lettuce, finely shredded
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tsp cornflour mixed with a little water
1 handful beansprouts
sesame oil

Add the stock, garlic, ginger, chilli, soy sauce and vinegar to a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
Add the carrot, mushrooms, peas, sweetcorn and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.
Keeping the soup at a simmer, add the lettuce and spring onion.
Add the cornflour and stir until the soup thickens a little.
Turn off the heat and mix in the beansprouts.
Serve, drizzled with a little sesame oil.

Serves 2

Recipe: Himmel and Haggerty


I have a suspicion that the notes about how I came up with this recipe are going to be longer than the recipe itself, but here goes.

This is a mashing together of two classic recipes – Pan Haggerty and Himmel und Erde. Pan Haggerty is a Tyneside & Northumbrian dish of potatoes, onions & cheese cooked in a frying pan on top of the stove. Himmel und Erde is a German dish of apples and potatoes. I can’t say I grew up with either recipe – I grew up with the Wearside & Durham dish of Panackulty, which is potatoes and corned beef layered and cooked in the oven – but I looked at a recipe of Pan Haggerty, remembered Himmel und Erde and thought ‘Apples would do nicely in this’.

It makes a great supper or lunch dish and it’s a great way of using up the end bits of blocks of cheese if you want something more substantial than a cheese toastie. For a vegan version, this would be great just leaving the cheese out. It’s also great cold for a lunchbox the next day.


2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
100g cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp dried sage

Put a small amount of oil in a small frying pan. Starting and ending with a layer of potatoes, build up layers of potatoes, onion, apple and two thirds of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper as you go and sprinkle in the sage as you do.
If your frying pan has a lid you can use that to cover, otherwise kitchen foil or a plate work just as well.
Heat over a low to medium heat for 20 minutes.
When you can slip the point of a knife easily to the bottom, the potatoes are cooked.
Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top and put under a hot grill until the cheese is bubbling and browned.
Serve with a crisp green salad.

Serves 2

Recipe: Roasted Root Vegetables with Lemon and Harissa Dressing


I didn’t intend to make this recipe. I was just going to roast some excess red onions to make a basis for a salad and then I noticed I had a lot of things in the fridge that would benefit from some roasting as well. When I put the harissa and lemon on the root vegetables I just had to share it because it tastes so good. You have the sweetness of the roots, the heat of the harissa and the fragrant sourness of the lemon and it’s an unbeatable combination.

I used carrots, parsnips and butternut squash (not technically a root veg, I know!) because that’s what I had in the fridge, but turnip and sweet potato would be great in this as well.


2 medium carrots, chopped into large pieces
3 parsnips, chopped into large pieces
1/2 butternut squash, chopped into large pieces
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp harissa paste

Pre heat the oven to 220C.
Put the vegetables on a roasting tray, rub with vegetable oil and season well with salt and pepper.
Roast for 30 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and a little brown round the edges.
Put the lemon juice, zest and harissa in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.
When the vegetables are cooked, remove the skin from the butternut squash.
Toss the vegetables in the dressing and serve.

Serves 2 as a warm main course salad with some green leaves for crunch.

Recipe: Chinese Mushroom Pancakes


AKA Peking Crispy Duck with Pancakes Substitute

The last time I went to a Chinese restaurant, I was a bit underwhelmed with the meal. It wasn’t bad. It was just that the sparse veggie options were definitely the also-rans of the menu. My satisfaction levels weren’t helped by my eating companions having a full Chinese banquet beside me. I tried not to look envious at their plentiful dishes, well cooked and beautifully presented, but I think I got a bit yearning when they got to the crispy duck with pancakes. I loved that when I ate meat. I averted my eyes and went back to my not completely crispy noodles with vegetables.

Maybe because I yearned a bit more than usual over a meat dish, it got me thinking. As with most meat dishes, it’s actually the vegetables and the sauces that add most of the flavour. What you would need is a vehicle to carry that flavour and add a bit of mouthfeel with it. Once you ask the right question, the answer is obvious – mushrooms!

I’ve used ordinary button mushrooms here, but if you can get shiitakes they would be the ultimate replacement. You also don’t get the crispy skin texture from the mushrooms, so I’ve upped the crunch quotient in the vegetable garnishes, adding a crispy little gem lettuce. Finely sliced mangetout or sugarsnap peas (if you don’t mind the carbon footprint) would work brilliantly too.

There’s enough sauce left around the mushrooms after cooking that I nearly left the separate hoisin sauce out. I kept it in, however, and I’m glad – it adds another level of flavour that the dish wouldn’t be the same without.

I can definitely recommend this one. And next time I go to a Chinese restaurant I won’t feel quite so forlorn.

Chinese Mushroom Pancakes

For the mushrooms:
100g mushrooms – thinly sliced
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp five spice powder
1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp sugar

6 chinese pancakes

spring onions – finely sliced
2 inches of cucumber – sliced into matchsticks
1/2 little gem lettuce – shredded
4 tbsp hoisin sauce

Heat up a small frying pan or omelette pan. Add the mushrooms, the soy, five spice powder, rice wine, sesame oil and sugar. Stir round until the mushroom are cooked and sauce is thick, bubbling and clinging to the mushrooms.

Warm the pancakes through either by steaming them or in the microwave.

Plate the mushrooms, spring onions, lettuce and cucumber so that everyone can take bits of each. Have the hoisin sauce in a dish, and the pancakes on a plate.

To eat: take a pancake, spread with a little hoisin sauce. Add a little of the mushrooms, onions, lettuce and cucumber. Fold the pancake and eat, trying not to dribble out of the other end.

Serves 2 as a starter.


Recipe: Baked Falafel


There are some kitchen activities I seem doomed to failure at – long-grain rice and keeping home-made burgers or rissoles together in the frying pan. Falafel falls into that last category. No matter how hot I get the pan for the first sizzle or how careful I am at not poking at them, they always break up in the pan and I end up with falafel mash with a few burnt bits. It’s tasty, but not what I’m after. Then I found the concept of baked falafel while looking for low-fat falafel recipes online. It sounded like a good idea worth trying.

Baked Falafel

1 tin of cooked chickpeas
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 red onion
1 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp sumac powder (optional – I used it because I didn’t have any lemon juice)
3 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 180C.
Put ingredients in a food processor and whizz until coarsely smooth.
Form into patties (this amount makes 6).
Put on to a baking sheet.
Bake in oven for 30 minutes, turning each patty over half-way through.

Baking the falafel makes them lighter in colour than frying them and they are a bit dry on the outside. However, the flavour is much better than shop-bought and they’re still moist on the inside. They are a bit delicate though, but at least they made it to the plate in one piece – which is a big improvement for me.

Serve with pitta bread and a nice, juicy salad.

Recipe: Spring Minestrone Soup


Spring Minestrone

Spring Minestrone Soup

What is minestrone? Wikipedia describes it as “a thick soup of Italian origin made with vegetables, often with the addition of past or rice. Common ingredients include, beans, onions, celery, carrots, stock and tomatoes.”

I think the first minestrone soup I made for myself would have been from St Delia’s Complete Cookery Course. Her recipe, which is light on the bacon and heavy on the vegetables, would take very little adaptation to make a delicious (and hearty) vegetarian soup. But a little too hearty for springtime, I feel.

Looking for other recipes, I tried to work out what makes a minestrone soup for me.

I narrowed it down to my idiosyncratic collection:
cooked beans, a green leafy vegetable, pasta (preferably the tiny pasta shapes because they’re so cute and where else are you going to use them) and whatever other vegetables are in season and in your fridge.

It’s spring and I wanted to have a lighter, more fragrant minestrone. For the leafy vegetable I opted for little gem lettuce. I’ve been using it in lunchtime noodle soups a lot recently, and added right at the end of cooking it retains a sweet crunch to the end of eating. I debated long about whether I should include tomatoes, but in the end I decided that I didn’t want to change the green colour scheme of the soup. I have specified 6 fresh mint leaves to be added at the end. I didn’t want this to be a minted soup or a mint soup. Adding so few at the end, means that you get a little waft of cool freshness every third mouthful or so rather than them taking over the whole dish.

As you’re only cooking leaf or stem vegetables here with very small pasta shapes, this is a lovely, quick lunch dish to make. Some garlic bread on the side, wouldn’t go amiss either!

4 spring onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
olive oil
2 tsp veg stock powder
750 ml boiling water
1/2 tin cooked beans (whatever you have, as long as they’re not baked beans!)
30g pasta soup shapes
asparagus tips (mine were tinned)
fine green beans, chopped on the diagonal
tender stem broccoli, sliced
1 little gem lettuce, shredded
6 fresh mint leaves, finely shredded
salt and pepper

Add the oil to a large saucepan, heat and add the spring onions and garlic. Sweat these until they are translucent.
Add the boiling water and stir in the stock powder.
Add the beans and sprinkle in the pasta.
Add the rest of the vegetables other than the lettuce and the mint.
Season with salt & pepper.
Simmer for 10 minutes or so until the pasta is cooked and vegetables are to your taste.
At the last minute before serving, stir in the lettuce and mint.
Turn off the heat.
Serve into warmed bowls, maybe with a bit more olive oil drizzled over.

Serves 2