Sunday, 21 July 2019

Slow cooked lamb, Greek style - Kleftiko

This recipe produces slow cooked tender lamb that falls apart easily and melts in the mouth. It makes the idea of being toothless not such a worry - a comfort to the ageing. It's gently flavoured with lemon and oregano backed up by the warmth of cinnamon, all of which soak into the potatoes sit under the lamb as it cooks. The resulting juice has a silky translucence.

I use Felicity Cloake’s Kleftiko recipe. I’ve edited it into steps to make it easier to plan the cooking. This is an easy dish with not too many ingredients, and the flavours are lovely, the lemon sings through.

I have failed to take any pictures both times I have made this meal - next time I make it…. pix to follow.

You need to start preparing this dish the day before, because the meat needs to marinade at least 12 hours. You can leave it a bit longer. I’ve tried making it ahead - up to the last two steps (completely cooked, just needs blasting at a hot temperature) - and everyone was happy, but I preferred it cooked and served immediately.

I have scaled this dish up to serve 20 people, doing a whole shoulder cut into two, and that works fine. I’ve also included a bit more liquid and more potatoes and that works too. It's an adaptable and forgiving recipe.

If you're feeding a crowd keep them happy with some easy starters, watermelon and mint, hummus and pitta, sliced cucumbers, a simple herby salsa, tzatziki. Buy them in, why not?

I like to serve a green salad alongside the lamb, with crusty bread.


(serves 6)
1 lamb shoulder, about 2kg
Olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 heads of garlic
2 lemons
1 kg waxy potatoes
1 large red onion
1 red pepper
1 bay leaf
12 cherry tomatoes or 3 large tomatoes cut into quarters

Step 1 - day or night before serving

  • Make a paste with the oil, juice of one lemon, cinnamon, oregano, salt, half a head of garlic (crushed cloves)
  • Rub paste into the meat and leave for 12 hours
Step 2
  • Heat the oven to 160C. 
  • Use a large lidded casserole large enough for the shoulder and vegetables, or use a baking dish with a lid of double layer of baking parchment
  • Cut the peeled or cleaned potatoes into wedges and spread across the bottom of the dish
  • Cut the onion into wedges and the seeded pepper into chunky strips alongside the cherry tomatoes.
  • Cut the remaining garlic and lemon across their width, squeeze the lemon briefly over the potatoes, and put the hollowed out lemons, the garlic and a bayleaf into the middle of the dish.
  • Pour in 200ml of water and set the lamb on top of the lemon, garlic and bayleaf, pushing it in gently.
  • Seal in the meat and veg using baking parchment under the lid, or tucking the double layer of parchment around the meat to enclose everything. 
  • Bake for 4-5 hours until very tender.
  • Turn the oven up to 220C remove the lid or paper and roast, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes
  • Set the meat aside and cover
  • Roast the veg for another 15 minutes at the higher temperature so they brown and the liquid reduces
Serve the meat and veg together

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Vegan Mushroom Wellington

brush the pastry with plant milk
to make it golden brown
Preparing food for a vegan treat, to be eaten while others tuck into a roast is worth doing. Why should anyone lose out on an occasion meal. The aim, while preparing the vegan mushroom pie (Wellington) is for everyone to envy the person eating it.

What is needed then?
  • a dish that looks great
  • flavour packed into every mouthful
  • texture and moisture - to keep the eater's attention
  • nutritional value
Deep flavour 
- use a mirepoix or soffrito, celery, carrot and onion sweated gently in olive oil. Mix this with chick peas, a spoonful of nut butter or tahini and crush or blend it all together, adding garlic if you like.
- a rich stock, home made vegetable bouillon or ready made with added porcini mushrooms, peppercorns, cloves, bayleaf and other herbs all simmered gently for 30 minutes

This isn't a quick dish to prepare, it's a proper main to match any other Sunday Roast type main. I served this alongside roast lamb, and those eating the lamb still eyed up the veg wellington. You may want to add gravy to the list, although if you serve it with a dressed salad you won't need it.

Mushroom Wellington - makes two


  • Leaf spinach - one bunch
  • Mirepoix - 1 stick celery, 1 carrot, half onion
  • large onion
  • mushrooms (1 punnet)
  • half cup chick peas
  • parsley chopped fine
  • chopped mixed nuts (I use sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds)
  • half dessert apple peeled and finely diced
  • porcini mushrooms 
  • puff pastry block or ready rolled
  • 1tsp veg bouillon or veg stock cube (read label to ensure they are vegan)
  • 1 tbsp nut butter (I like almond butter as it adds richness but not flavour)
  • nut or other plant milk
  • mixed herbs
  • oil


  • Take half the onion for the mirepoix mixture (see below)
  • Prepare the mirepoix, chopping celery, peeled carrot and onion very fine, put into pan over low heat with a spoonful of oil, cook gently until tender (this is sweating) check the heat and stir, you don't want the mixture to brown.... once it's cooked add finely diced peeled dessert apple and cook until soft, stir through the finely chopped parsley, season and then set to one side COMPONENT: MIREPOIX MIXTURE
  • Clean mushrooms by tapping out soil and removing stems, set caps to one side COMPONENT: MUSHROOM CAPS
  • prepare half cup of stock adding spoonful of porcini mushroom and stems from the other mushrooms - boiling all together to deepen the flavour. If you don't have any suitable stock the mushrooms will good favour in a cup full of water, add herbs to taste. Once the stock is flavourful turn it off. You can discard the mushrooms or keep them to add to the chickpea mixture BUT if you do you'll need to puree them very well
  • slice remaining half onion and fry gently in small amount of oil until brown, add herbs and chickpeas and stock and reduce until only small amount of liquid remain, then mash or puree chick pea mixture adding in spoonful of nut butter, pepper and salt to taste stir through the mixed nuts and set to one side COMPONENT: CHICK PEA PUREE
  • wash the leaf spinach and dry COMPONENT: SPINACH
  • you're nearly ready to put the mushroom wellington together 
you can prepare up to this point in advance
these are all the ingredients except the nut butter

Putting together the mushroom wellington - mounding the ingredients

whole nuts add crunch and the apple adds
pops of sweetness

Set the oven to 180 degrees to warm up
Line a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper
  • roll out the pastry if needed and cut  four squares, two about 10x10cm (4 inces) two about 14x14cm (over an inch larger than the other) and us the smaller squares as the base COMPONENT: PASTRY SQUARES
  • Line up the components: pastry base, mushroom caps, chick pea puree mixture, mirepoix mixture, spinach leaves
  • set out two smaller squares spacing them a couple of inches apart
  • moisten the edges of the smaller pastry square with nut milk using your finger or a pasty brush
  • cover pastry base with spinach leaves, keeping the edges clear
  • spread a spoonful of mirepoix mixture onto spinach leaves, spreading it like butter in a sandwich
  • spoon chick pea puree mixture on top of mirepoix mixture and spread thickly
  • stack sliced mushroom caps onto mixture, leaving a gap at the sides so the mushrooms sit inside the chick pea puree mixture
  • spread another spoonful of chick pea puree over the mushroom slices
  • spread mirepoix mixture over the chick pea puree
  • cover with spinach leaves
  • drape larger pastry square over the mounded ingredients and seal it to the base square using a fork
  • put some steam holes into the top so that the steam can escape during cooking
  • repeat with second mushroom wellington
  • pierce pastry with fork to let
    steam out while cooking
  • brush both wellingtons with nut milk
whole mushroom caps for the centre
chopped mushroom stems and onions for added richness
cook for around 40 minutes until piping hot and golden brown

serve with veg gravy, and steamed green veg or salad

crimp the edges with a fork

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Chocolate sorbet - vegan

Whether you're vegan or not, this chocolate frozen dessert is for you if you're a chocolate lover. It would work brilliantly as a ripple through a vanilla ice cream if you aren't vegan. 

It is very easy to make, using one pan and a freezing receptacle. If you have an ice cream maker it's an absolute doddle.

If you would like it a bit softer, add two tablespoons of alcohol after the chocolate, vodka or other flavour of your choice. If you want it lighter with bigger crystals add another 1/2 cup of water at the beginning of the method.

Chocolate sorbet

300g caster sugar
350ml / 2 cups strong coffee
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup cocoa powder
150g dark chocolate - that's about 1/2 bar


You'll need 

  • a saucepan
  • a whisk 
  • a large shallow fridge container (or an ice cream machine)

  • break the chocolate into small pieces and set aside
  • put water, coffee, sugar and cocoa powder into a saucepan, put over a medium heat and whisk until the sugar has dissolved
  • add the vanilla and chocolate, as they melt into the hot liquid beat together until smooth
  • let the mixture cool before freezing - if you're using a fridge container take it out of the freezer every 20minutes until it has the consistency you want

get the sorbet out of the freezer 20 minutes before you want to eat it

It's great with:

  • cantucci biscuits
  • orange segments
  • vanilla ice cream or yoghurt
  • banana bread

Vegan caramel sauce

I put together a vegan meal the other night including chocolate sorbet and caramel sauce. The chocolate sorbet had a wonderfully intense flavour, and the caramel sauce was plentiful and smooth and a wonderful contrast to the dark chocolate.

This sauce is truly delicious, fudgy if left thick, smooth and pourable if made thinner. You could use it in a vegan banoffee pie, or eat it with slices of a nice sharp apple.

In terms of dates, you can get lovely medjool dates to use, or you can use dried dates which you'd need to soak in hot water to help when you blend them.

I use a stick blender.

This is the recipe for the sauce

Vegan Caramel Sauce

10 dates, without stones
2 tbsp nut butter or tahini
1 tsp vanilla 
salt to taste

8tbsp approximately liquid to dilute (almond milk, water or coconut milk)

Blend the dates, nut butter, vanilla and salt until smooth
Add liquid is small amounts to get the texture you want

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Kitty's carrot and orange cake

Lots of people like carrot cake, and lots of people make it as a frighteningly sweet concoction. Kit came up with a beautiful recipe that didn't give you that sweet sickly cinnamon hit, but was a great textured cake with a hum of orange. This is my kind of cake.

You don't have to use the chocolate glaze, but it's worth knowing that it is fantastic. And I don't even particularly like chocolate. It was a shock.

25cm cake tin, liner
set oven to 180


3 large carrots, grated
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups brown sugar
2.25 cups self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
Zest of 1 orange
2 big squeezes from half an orange

1/3 cup whipping cream
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla

CAKE - method
combine and stir all the wet ingredients with the sugar until combined: oil, eggs, vanilla, orange zest, squeeze of OJ, sugar
stir in the grated carrot
stir in the dry ingredients: sugar, sr flour, baking powder, until combined

pour mixture into lined 25cm baking tin

cook in medium oven 180 for 45-60 minutes

GLAZE - method
put all the ingredients in a pan
bring to a boil over a medium flame/heat
stir and simmer until thick
set aside to cool, pour over cool cake

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Silk road bulghur salad or transcaucasian delight

The bright colours and bursting flavours of this salad are particularly welcome on a drizzly day. The pomegranate seeds look like jewels, and the dark green of the herbs is accented by the pale green of the pistachios. The flavours and textures combine to make very enjoyable mouthfuls, sharp and sweet, aromatic and savoury, and satisfyingly filling.

The recipe comes from a combination of cooking that I suppose could be called transcaucasian. I’ve been travelling the silk road in my kitchen, I was already familiar with middle eastern and Turkish cookery, and I’ve travelled a little bit further. I suppose you could compare it to tabbouleh.

It is what the French call a salade composée, a mixed salad, or a put together salad. The French make a big deal of such things, although many salads have more than one ingredient, even a green salad.

I’ve been known to complain about long lists of ingredients needed for some recipes, and I hope this recipe doesn’t put anyone off. The ingredients are now easily available in London and many wholefood and supermarkets – pomegranate seeds can be seen alongside sandwiches offered as a lunchtime snack. Currants are traditional standard of the store cupboard, used in old style baking, eccles cakes and squashed fly biscuits. I love their name, evolved from the way the French say Corinth, where they first came from. 

I’m writing this in March, slightly at the end of the pomegranate season this side of the globe. If you are reading this and can’t find pomegranates you can use another sour flavour such as barberries, lingonberries or such, but they won’t give that exploding in the mouth pleasure, rather flavour and a bit more chew. If you can’t find bulghur brown rice would work. Of course if you start substituting too many things then you won’t be making this salad.

I add a pinch of gomasio, which gives an extra dimension. Because sometimes more is more. 

Preparation: 30 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, sharp knife, medium sized bowl

(For cooking bulghur see information at the end)

1 cup (or mug) of cooked wholewheat bulghur
Small bunch  of fresh mint
Small bunch  of fresh parsley
Small bunch  of fresh coriander
3 spring onions
Seeds of small pomegranate (1 cup)
1 tbsp currants
2 tbsp shelled pistachios

Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 mandarin or Satsuma or tangerine
3tbsp olive oil
1 tsp honey
Generous drizzle of pomegranate molasses
Salt and pepper


Chop the herbs as fine as you can
Slice the spring onions as thin as you can
Chop the pistachios – but not too fine

Put the cooked bulghur into medium sized serving bowl
Add the chopped herbs, sliced spring onions and chopped pistachios
Add the pomegranate seeds and currants

Add the lemon juice, olive oil, mandarin juice, honey and pomegranate molasses and stir well and add salt and pepper to taste.


Cook the bulghur as usual or as follows:
Warm one tablespoon of the olive oil in a pan over a gentle heat and add a half cup of bulghur, shaking it around in the pan until it is coated in oil
Add a cup of stock and bring to the boil, and then to a simmer
Put a lid on the pan and cook at a simmer for 10 minutes, covered, then turn off and leave, covered, for five minutes
After this check the bulghur is nice and chewy, and not sticking to the bottom of the pan. There should be no liquid.

NB bulghur can vary hugely, and you may need to adjust the cooking of the bulghur in your store cupboard accordingly

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Fast cooked flattened chicken

I like recipes that work, recipes that you can follow with confidence and get the result that has been described. 

Flattened chicken is one of those. It is a recipe by Marcella Hazan, with a dash of eccentricity by me. It is a spatchcocked chicken with a light lemon and pepper marinade. In itself it's perfect. This weekend I will be trying a variation... hoping not to break the spell.

More to follow. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Minestrone - hot vegetable soup on a cold day

  • A bunch of fresh vegetables chopped up small along with some spaghetti, cooked in a tomato broth, and topped off with parmesan or the chees e of your choice. Yep, it’s a hot recipe for a cold day. It is vegan, if you leave the cheese off.

Minestra di verdure is vegetable soup in Italian. I got the recipe from a friend at school, but it is the same as many soups I’ve eaten in Italy. This version is pure veg, but people use meat stock, and sometimes include beans or bacon. On the basis that this is a pot luck soup, you include any vegetables you have to hand. My most recent version included courgettes, instead of potatoes.

Don’t bother with this soup unless you like chopping veg.

1 large onion
2 celery stalks
2 garlic cloves
2 carrots
2 potatoes
1 bay leaf
pinch of thyme
handful of fresh parsley
1 can chopped tomatoes
100g dry spaghetti (a small bunch)
salt and pepper and 2tbsp olive oil

  • Chop all the vegetables and garlic into small pieces, I like them to be about 1cm cubes
  • Fry gently a couple of spoonfuls of oil  using a heavy bottomed pan for a couple of minutes stirring all the time
  • Add enough water to cover all the vegetables and add thyme parsley and bay leaf, bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper
  • Bring back to the boil and simmer for a few more minutes
  • Break the spaghetti into the cooking soup – I like short lengths, about 5cm and cook for about 11 minutes, or until the spaghetti is cooked
  • Serve with grated parmesan and a piece of buttered toast.

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Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Persian vegetable stew

Sweet and slightly soured vegetable stew with a lovely golden colour from the turmeric and a sharp sweetness topped by dried limes.

50g ghee (clarified butter)
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
½ tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp tomato paste
20g coriander
10g tarragon
10g dill
1kg waxy potatoes, peeled and chopped into 4cm chunks
1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into 4cm chunks
3 dried limes, pierced 2-3 times
1 whole green chilli, slit on one side from stem to tip
5 medium tomatoes, quartered
150g spinach leaves
15g barberries 
1l water

300g Greek yoghurt (optional)

Serves six.


Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. 
(if you are preparing ahead, do this 25 minutes before you want to serve the stew)

  • Put a large casserole dish on medium heat and sauté the butter, onion, turmeric and cumin for 10 minutes. 
  • Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for two minutes. 
  • Tie all the herbs into a bunch and add to the pot with the potatoes, squash, limes, chilli, a teaspoon and a half of salt and a litre of water. 
  • Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and boil gently for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are semi-cooked. 

- You can prepare the stew ahead up to this point -

  • Stir through the tomatoes, spinach and barberries, crushing the limes gently as you do so, to release some of the juices inside.
  • Transfer to a large roasting tray and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a little and the vegetables are soft. 
  • Remove from the oven and leave to sit for five minutes before serving

Serve with yoghurt if you like, and rice.