Cavolo nero, Mackerel & Olive with Brown Rice Pasta

Often I can't decide what to eat. I head to the shops and let the produce dictate my lunch, pointing me towards what's seasonal and what's plentiful. 

Greeting me yesterday were bunches of Cavolo nero, the glamorous sounding cabbage that is robust in flavour as well as texture. I bought a bag of brown rice pasta, so much lighter than its wheat counterpart, and a tin of mackerel. This was going to be a health tonic of a lunch.  

I roasted the tomatoes with good quality olive oil, garlic and plenty of black pepper before slightly mashing them. The pasta and cavolo nero were cooked together for no longer than six minutes before being tossed with roasted tomatoes, salty olives and mackerel. Healthy comfort food at its highest level. 


Chicken pilaf with wholegrain rice, pommogranate, mint and lemon

Over the last three weeks we've experienced beautiful kindness and generosity. Friends have been quick to drop off food parcels, scoop up tired boys or donate a caffeine hit to sleep deprived parents. We've sat by the fireside, eaten like kings and felt so grateful.

As we begin to see the light dawn on our second month, we are learning to embrace life on our own without quite so much assistance.  My first supermarket shop and my first recipe happened on the same day and it felt good to cook again, so good.

I made a simple, all in one pilaf with roasted chicken, spices, herbs and brown rice. It's an easy recipe, it had to be, and one that was fragrant yet filling. Just what was needed. 


Serves 4 

4 large, bone in, chicken thighs
2 tsp. Chinese five spice
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 red onions, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
5 cardamom pods, bashed
2 star anise
250g/9oz brown rice
750ml/1 ¼ pints  hot vegetable stock
4 tbsp. almonds, toasted
25g/1oz mint, roughly chopped
25g/1oz parsley, roughly chopped
Grated zest and juice of a lemon

Seeds of 1 small pomegranate

1 Preheat the oven to 200C, fan 180, gas mark 6. Place the chicken thighs on a baking tray and sprinkle over the five spices. Drizzle over 1 tbsp. olive oil and roast for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
2 Meanwhile heat the remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and gently sauté for 10-12 minutes until soft and starting to caramelise. Stir though the garlic, cardamom pods and star anise and cook for a further minute. Add the rice and stir well.
3 Pour over the hot stock and bring the pot to the boil them simmer gently, covered, for 25-30 minutes until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
4 Once the chicken is cool enough to handle remove the meat from the bones and finely slice. Add to the rice, with any remaining juices, and season with salt and pepper.

5 Stir through half of the mint and parsley. Serve, topped with the remaining herbs, pomegranate seeds, toasted almonds, lemon juice and zest.


Away in a Manger

Christmas 2014 has been one of over-eating, cracker jokes and full-bodied emotions in their entire splendor.

Lunch on the coast, complete with all of the tinsel-clad trimmings, and an icy walk by the sea; something fresh to wake us from festive hangovers. More Lindt reindeers than you could shake a sleigh at and a semi-formal viewing of the queen’s speech lulled us into an excessively long Downton sitting.

I sat with my own excess of pregnant tummy trying to find any comfort I could and hoping, praying that our very own baby Jesus wouldn’t appear on the 25th. Our prayers were answered and it wasn’t until the 29th that baby Wilber was born in a fast and slightly furious delivery. He sits now, next to me snuffling and yawning deciding whether to be pleased or disappointed at his arrival. We are completely in love all over again. I’m looking forward to the adventure of 2015 with my newest team member on side.


Apple, Cranberry & Pecan Crumble

Christmas has passed and the last of the dry turkey sandwiches has been eaten. I emerged from the house today after a few days spent hiding in Christmas chaos, venturing to the market to re-stock the cupboards with food. 

Cranberries were almost being given away, so cheap was the price tag  - we bought a huge bag and even more apples. I simmered the cranberries with a healthy amount of brown sugar, cinnamon and chunks of orange peel until the texture was sticky and jam like. They were roughly mixed with apple and laid to rest in a baking dish before being covered with a sweet pecan crumble. 

I baked my crumble at 180C for 25 minutes until the apples were soft and the red of the cranberries could be seen trying to escape the dish. We ate generous bowlfuls accompanied with pools of chilled cream and thought about the year ahead and the year gone past. 


Fig & Pistachio Biscotti

Each clear day is feeling like a gift at the moment, so close am I to having a baby. The nights will become awake time and the days may become about survival rather than sustenance.  The house feels ready, all there is left for me to do is wait and bake. 

My first job years ago was to work for a tiny company called Green & Black's. The offices were in an attic in Waterloo and I think the team was 14 strong on joining and far more by the time I left. I've never quite forgotten those years, being part of an inspiring team, talking chocolate, eating chocolate and being shown how a really successful business rolls. 

Post leaving, I was excited to be asked back and assist creating a cookbook, to try new chocolate ideas, develop treasured recipes and test, test, test along side the very talented Micah Carr-Hill. 

I wrote this biscotti recipe in the book and haven't made it since but this week, seemed like a good moment. 

Try dipping them into sweet wine - it's heaven. 

Pistachio & Fig Chocolate Biscotti 

200g Plain Flour 
50g Cocoa Powder
1.5 tsp baking powder 
pinch of salt
150g caster sugar 
100g whole pistachios, roughly chopped 
125g dried figs, roughly chopped 
2 large eggs 

1/ Preheat the oven to 190C/gas Mark 5. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. 

2/ Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Add the sugar, pistachios and dried figs and mix. Gradually, add the eggs to the mixture and combine to make a dough.

3/ Divide the dough into thirds and form into sausage shapes about 20cm x 4cm. Place on the lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. 

4/ Wait until just cool enough to hand and gently cut the loaves on the angle to form 1cm slices (try using a serrated bread knife for this) and return to the baking sheet (fit as many as you can onto the baking sheet or use two). Bake the biscotti for a further 5 minutes on each side.