Risotto Stuffed Savoy

I've had a little bit of a bleak week and haven't been particularly well. People have advised rest, taking care of myself and indulging a little. It might seem a little odd but spending an hour or two in the kitchen ticks all of those well being boxes and so that was exactly what I did. Sunday afternoon, me, myself, a cabbage and radio 4. 

There is something very beautiful about the intricately wrinkled leaves of a Savoy cabbage; they seem wiser and more interesting than their white contemporaries and wouldn't be seen dead in a coleslaw. I wanted to use the leaves, these natural containers and play with them a little. Their fate was to be stuffed with an almost sweet tomato risotto and laid to rest in a pool of white wine sauce. Lucky leaves, I'd say. 


Serves 4

8 large leaves of a Savoy cabbage
For the risotto
2 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion
knob of butter
200g risotto rice (Arborio or Carnaroli)
800ml very hot chicken stock
2 tbsp red pesto
100g sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
For the sauce
A knob of butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
200ml white wine
200ml double cream

1/ Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a deep sauté pan over a high heat. Add the onion to the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes until it has turned translucent and edging on golden.  Reduce the heat to low. Over a gentle heat, add the risotto rice to the pan and stir so the grains are coated in oily butter. Gradually add all but 100ml the hot stock, one ladleful at a time, stirring each until absorbed before you think of adding the next, it will take about 20 minutes so go slowly. Season.
3/ When the risotto cooked and the stock has been absorbed stir through the pesto and the sundried tomatoes.
4/ Preheat the oven to 180C, fan 160C, gas 6.
5/ Meanwhile prepare the cabbage; carefully remove the outer 8 leaves (no more – the inner leaves are too small!) and cut away a triangle section of the thick base end. Blanch the leaves in batches in a pot of boiling water for a minute or so until softened but not boiled; leave to cool.
6/ Once the risotto and leaves are cool, make the parcels; divide the risotto into 8 and place spoonful’s at the bottom of each leaf. Roll the leaves up, one at a time, wrapping the sides in as you go and placing them into an ovenproof dish with the edge side down so they have no chance to unwrap.
7/ Make the white sauce by simply melting a little butter in a small pan, over a medium heat. Add the shallots and fry until they soften but don’t colour. Pour over the wine and increase the heat a little. Allow it to bubble until halved in volume and then pour over the cream. Reduce the heat and simmer for a minute or so.
8/ Pour the creamy sauce over your cabbage rolls and give the dish a good grating of black pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes before serving with a fresh green salad.


Potted Cromer Crab

A weekend at home and the sun briefly shone; spring in the light but still too cold in the shadows. It was Saturday, we needed an occupation and Cromer won the destination battle. An old Edwardian seaside town, arguably the home of the English crab seemed to be quite appealing on paper. 

I wouldn't say it was a total disappointment, just perhaps not quite the beautiful North Norfolk towns that I've grown used to. Think more crazy golf than open gardens.  The highlight was one opportune stall sitting outside a tiny house which sold the seemingly elusive crabs. We rang the doorbell, clearly disturbing the owner from daytime television and gave him £3 in return for a dressed crab. 

We walked to the beach and saw the crabbing boats pausing before their early start the next morning and then, a little cold, went home with one dressed crab in our pockets. 

Potted Cromer Crab 

250g prepared crab
150g butter 
Juice & Zest of 1 lemon 
2 tbsp double cream
Pinch of mustard powder 
1 bay leaf 

1/ Melt 100g of the butter in a small pan and add the lemon juice and mustard powder. Remove from the before stirring through the double cream and crab meat. Mix well but not too aggressively, you don't want to totally mince the crab meat. Empty into a small bow, pressing down lightly.
2/ Melt the remaining butter. When it is foaming, remove from the heat. Using a large spoon carefully remove any scum from the surface then pour the clean, clarified butter over the surface of your crab mixture. Decorate with a bay leave. 
3/ Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving with hot toast. 


Braised Duck Legs with Juniper & Ginger

I can't remember the last time I ate confit of duck, it's just not something that comes to mind of a Monday night. Imagine my suprise when we were invited to friends for dinner on Friday and the menu was duck confit, preserved and brought all the way from France. Saturday was a birthday pop up with no choice of menu; duck confit it was! 

I'm certainly not grizzling, rich duck, rendered and cooked gloriously slowly in it's own fat is only going to be good. I was reminded of this recipe I wrote for my book, beautifully easy and perhaps slightly easier on the thighs than a traditional version. 



We buy chicken legs without too much thought but duck legs, without good reason seem a little more daunting. This intimidation is an urban myth, an old wives tale and conspiracy theory all rolled into one.  Please find below one of the easiest recipes in the whole book, seriously, it can be prepared in moments and then the hard work is left to the oven. I’ve served the finished dish a number of ways so put your own stance on the recipe and choose if you’d like it hot or cold, in a sandwich or heaped on a salad.

Prep Time – 10-15 minutes
Cook Time – 2 hours plus cooling

Serves 4

4 large carrots, scrubbed and roughly chopped into roughly 1 cm cubes
5 sticks celery, diced into 1cm cubes
2 large onions, peeled and chopped roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
6 cm knob of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp juniper berries, finely chopped (available at good supermarkets)
Juice and zest of 1 orange
A glug of vegetable oil
4 duck legs, skin on
2 tsp zatar (optional)
4-5 spring onions

1/ Preheat the oven to 180C, Fan 160C gas mark 4.
2/ Put all the chopped vegetables, ginger and juniper berries in the bottom of a shallow casserole dish and drizzle with a good glug of vegetable oil and the fresh orange juice. Toss everything to make sure it sees the oil.
3/ Lay the duck legs over the vegetables and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the zatar over each leg.  Now you’ve done the hard work – simply pop in the oven, uncovered, for 1 ½  - 2 hours depending on the size of your duck legs.  The dish is done when the flesh can be pulled away from the bone with the touch of a fork.
4/ Remove from the oven and admire your work. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing the meat from the legs using 2 forks as a means of attack. Shred the duck and skin and return to your pot.
5/ Tumble everything together with the fresh spring onion, check for seasoning and serve with a light green salad or in a roll for the ultimate sandwich.

Cook’s Note – Take a moment to smell the juniper berries and inhale your gin fix without the need for tonic.

Zatatar is a wonderful spice mix including oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds and salt. Its available at most big supermarkets and is worth seeking out. 


Avocado, Almond & Poppyseed Cake - Gluten & Dairy Free

Consider this a start. A gorgeous Australian girl has just moved in with us for a little while. She comes bright eyed and full of energy from the sunshine coast, eager to explore life on our decidedly, cloudy coast. Tales of mango trees in her back garden, virtuous sounding shopping baskets and how her family cook with coconut oil have inspired me. 

She talked about the avocado cakes that are quite common in the local grocery store but didn't know of a recipe - so we have begun a quest to develop our own version. Of course the buttery, rich flesh of avocado would be glorious in a cake and negate the need for butter? 

First take was good though too dense, too much of a 'bready texture' so the eggs were upped, the polenta removed and a little more lemon juice added. Take 2 (photographed) was very good. A soft gentle cake with a flavour not dissimilar to an pistachio macaroon. It had a gloriously soft texture, buttery almost. The colour reminded me of Spring. The crust was a little too tough, easily caught by an enthusiastic oven so I will address that, by reducing the sugar, I think. We will have take 3 in the next few weeks, one complete with an icing. Watch this space for the recipe.