Spicy Pork and Cucumber Stir Fry

I saw this when I was looking for another recipe, and it got stuck in my brain. I always think cucumber is such a woefully underappreciated vegetable, that I am happy to find more ways to use it. Cucumbers aren’t just for salads, even though I find them to be one of my must have salad ingredients.

Traditionally this recipe uses pork mince, but I didn’t have any of that. I did have some pork belly strips, so I just cut those into very small dice.

1 English cucumber

1 1/2 tsp salt

3 smallish pork belly strips, diced (freeze them until just firm as makes it much easier to dice)

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp rice wine or dry sherry or even brandy (I actually used kommandaria wine, as that’s what I had)

1 tsp cornflour

1/2 tsp five spice powder

1 tsp oyster sauce

1 mild red chilli, deseeded and chopped

3 spring onions, chopped

Handful of raw cashew nuts

Cut the cucumber lengthways into quarters, and cut out the seeds. They are just too watery.

Cut the cucumber into whatever size chunks you want, then place into a large bowl and add the salt. Mix and toss until the cucumbers start to release a little bit of water, about 1 minute. Let them stand for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine pork with the soy sauce, wine, five spice powder and cornflour. Mix well and let sit for at least 30 minutes (you can even do this the night before you want to cook.)

Drain cucumbers and rinse well under cold running water,l to get all the salt off.

Drain well, then pat dry with paper towels.

Heat 1 tbs groundnut or sunflower oil over high heat until smoking. Add marinated pork, spreading it out with a spatula so that it makes a thin layer. Let cook undisturbed for 30 seconds. Using a spatula, break up the pork if it has stuck together. Continue stir-frying until the pork is cooked through and golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add another spoon of oil to the pan, bring it back up to heat, then add the cashew nuts, and spring onions, plus the chilli and garlic and cook, stirring constantly so that the garlic doesn’t burn, for about a minute.

Add cucumbers and cook, keep stirring, for 2 – 3 minutes. Return pork to the wok and mix that in well. Add 1 tsp oyster sauce, continue cooking and stirring until the cucumbers begin to look glossy, about 30 seconds, then serve either on its own, or with some rice.

Eat while still hot.

Pork belly and cucumber


The Sheesh, Bury St Edmunds


We visited The Sheesh for the first time yesterday, and I can safely say we will ABSOLUTELY be going again. Mum and Dad have been telling us how good it was, so we were very happy to get the chance.

I've eaten a lot of Turkish food, my mum lives in Northern Cyprus, and this was easily one of the best places I've been.

When you walk in, the smell of woodsmoke hits you. Warm, and comforting, and a hint of how good the meal to come will be. It did not disappoint. The charcoal grill smell is everywhere, which just makes you even more hungry. This photo is from their Facebook page.

The service is fast, and so friendly! They greeted me in Turkish, and Greek, which made us all smile. He even threw a bit of Cypriot dialect in there. The seating is comfortable, and they are happy to let you sit and talk, even after you're done eating. No hassle, they just let you be.

We started with cold meze platter - taramaslata, houmous, cucumber and mint yoghurt, smoked aubergine garlicky dip, tabbouleh and shakshuka. Olives and stuffed vine leaves were tucked in along with crunchy fresh cucumber slices. A basket of char grilled, soft flatbread comes with it, studded with sesame and nigella seeds. Everything was so good, vibrant and zingy, perking up the taste buds properly. It got mum and dad reminiscing about their trips to the Middle East, sitting out on the sands in Lebanon, eating under the stars surrounded by jasmine. Aw.

Tex also ordered arnavut cigeri – liver cooked with spices and served on a bed of red onions. This is the only way I can eat liver. This one was juicy, and had that smokiness about it too. Perfect.

Next, mains. Two of us had a mixed grill: chicken shish so smoky and tender that you barely needed a knife to cut it, lamb pieces that you could actually cut with a spoon, perfectly crisped lamb chop, and such a gorgeous kofte (minced meat with spices, pressed onto a long skewer) that we were speechless for a bit. Rice comes with that on the plate, and they brought a huge bowl of very fresh salad as well.

Mom had the vegetable moussaka, which was a very generous serving, lots of veggies, topped with a cheese sauce.
Dad had lamb guveç, a very hearty casserole with lots of vegetables and tender lamb cubes.
All of us were full, so they packed leftovers for us to take home.

We did manage dessert; sadly the rice pudding wasn’t on that day, but the pastries were in! The baklava and kataifi are all pistachio filled, and come warm, with ice cream. A very nice touch. They brought us complimentary Turkish tea at the end of the meal, and a plate of proper Turkish delight, soft and sticky.

There was nothing I could fault them on. Kind, very friendly service, and excellent food, making us feel like we'd known them for years. (We haven't!) We're already planning when we can get back to Bury to see the in-laws, and go again. Such a find, visit soon! We've already spotted at least 8 things on the menu we want to try.

£91 for a meal for four, with drinks and desserts? Brilliant!


The Sheesh, 9 Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds, IP33


Culinary Genius: calling all cooks!


I’m tempted by this, but I admit, if another cook with an ego steps into my kitchen, I’m not entirely sure it would go well…

Others of a less…Mediterranean disposition may also apply. Winking smile

Have fun, and go for it!


Culinary Genius Flyer


Comfort Soup: Quick Fasolada

I have a feeling that cheap and cheerful comfort foods are going to be big on the menu for a while.

It was so cold today, I couldn’t shake it from my bones, no matter how I wrapped up, and so some sort of soup was on my mind when I got in from work. I knew I had lentils, and split peas, but then I found that I had half a large carrot left that needed using, and an idea formed. Fasolada. A Greek comfort food dish that never fails to hit the spot.

I found a small potato, an onion and some white beans ready cooked in the fridge but I had no fresh celery. You need the celery. Honest.

I do have a celery leaf plant in the garden, but the thought of trying to make my way across a wooden deck already frost rimed and slippery as glass was not appealing, so imagine my joy when I remembered a stash of celery in the freezer. The stalks and the leaves freeze really well, they’re worth saving in a tupperware, and you can use them from frozen. The stalks might turn a bit brown in the freezer, and the leaves will darken, but they’re perfectly alright to cook with.

I didn’t have any bay leaves, or I’d have added one of those in to the stock as well, but you make do with what you have.

This is not a highly spiced soup, it’s soothing, and gentle, but you can of course add garlic or chilli if you want to.

1/2 a medium sized red onion, thinly sliced

Half a large carrot, sliced into thin rounds (about a 3” piece)

1 small Cyprus potato, or any waxy potato, cubed

1 celery stalk, chopped finely plus leaves

700ml stock (I use Essential Cuisine chicken, which is not very salty)

1 tsp tomato paste

1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight and cooked til tender (or a 400g can, drained)

Pour a good glug of extra virgin olive oil into a large pan. I realise that this is not a useful measurement, so it’s probably around 3 to 4 tablespoons. This will also be a flavouring as well as a cooking medium, which is why I use extra virgin.

Pop in the onions, celery and carrot, stir to coat them with the oil, and cook gently until the onion is soft.

Add the beans, the tomato paste and the stock, give it a good stir and simmer for about half an hour.

Then add in the potato. Simmer again until the potato is tender. If the soup has condensed a little, just add a little more water.

Taste to see if you need to add salt, as some stocks are quite salty, and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and some crusty bread if you wish, or some cubed feta on top.

It is not a pretty soup to look at, but it is tasty, filling and warming.

Fasolada soup


Savisto Coffee Grinder

Please welcome my new kitchen friend to this page.


Isn’t it cute? Yes, I am aware that it looks a little like a red Dalek. This is in no way a bad thing as far as I am concerned. And no, every time I press the button I do not say “CAFFEINATE! CAFFEINATE” That would be silly.

This little machine is surprisingly lightweight for its size, which is something that makes me happy. When the box arrived from Savisto, I wasn’t expecting it to be so light!

Since breaking my wrist a few years ago, I can’t always lift things so easily, and hefting kitchenware about makes it ache badly. One that is as easy to lift as this is a treat.

It has a generously sized hopper, so can take a fair amount of beans.


Teaspoon for scale:


I put 4 measured tablespoons in, and it coped perfectly well. It’s fairly quiet too, so that’s handy for grinding beans when you don’t want to wake up the rest of the house in your search of that perfect first cup of the day.

The grind is a little more coarse than some, but it’s even. I suspect I could just have held the button down for longer though! (I have a slight worry about overheating kitchen tools, so I tend to err on the side of caution.)


The blades are more raised than some grinders I’ve used, so the beans didn’t get caught underneath, which was a huge pain with my old one. I was forever fishing out bean shards that had gotten stuck and made the blades stop turning. The clearance on these blades worked very well.


Because the sides are slick, the grinds don’t stick to the sides, they just slide back down into the hopper. The size of the hopper also made cleaning much easier. I could just wipe it out with a paper towel, no fuss, because my hand fitted in with no problem.

The wire tucks under nicely, as there’s a small  notch on the underside that enables the unit to sit flat.

I haven’t tried to use it for spice grinding yet, but I might do when I have a little more time. All in all I’m really very happy with this machine, and would not hesitate to recommend it to people.

Also, you know, RED DALEK.


Rock, Rolls and Hollywood

I’ve always had a difficult relationship with bread. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating it, but the baking of it was always a bit of a mystery, and a challenge.

With regards to eating it, I like it rather too much for my own good, to be honest. I’m one of those lucky people who, medically, should really eat a low carb diet. Pesky endocrine system.

Bread is now a treat for me, and so I decided that if I do eat it, it has to be really GOOD bread. Not for me the products of the Chorleywood process high speed mixers, mainly because I don’t like the texture, but also because it leaves me feeling like there should have been something else in there. There seems to be no substance to it. A bit like when you read an eagerly anticipated book that never seems to get anywhere. You reach the end thinking “Was that it?” (I will add a disclaimer that I am very well aware that sometimes, the cheapest of the supermarket loaves is all that some can afford. This is not denigrating them, this is about MY personal choice.)

Bread used to be a proper ‘filler upper’. If you only had bread and small beer, you needed that bread to be substantial, to keep you going. Can you imagine a field worker or manual labourer eating two slices of Mother’s Pride or Tesco’s value and then going on to do a full day of very physical work?

Bread should be flavourful, and have a density to it, not squish to nothing and dissolve if it gets wet.

I will admit that it does depend on what you need it for, of course. A light, crisp baguette, just with butter, is a thing of beauty, though fleeting as the properly made ones last a day only. They go dry very fast.

A dense, hearty wholemeal loaf can be spectacular, eaten with chunks of cheese and pickles. The homeliness of a soda bead, quick to make and oh so fast and easy to eat.

The sourdough, the original bread more than likely, with its long leavening and proving, brings a tanginess along with the trademark holes in the body of the bread, and then that lovely chew to the bottom crust, and the crackling crisp to the top.

Thanks to the no knead crock pot method, I have been having fun making extremely nice bread at home.

No knead bread

But prior to finding that method, I bought two of Paul Hollywood’s books, and worked through some of those recipes. He has a very good way of explaining what to do, and how things work. For me, his recipes took away what I now realise was a fear of working with bread dough. A nervousness that I would somehow spoil whatever I was making and it would all collapse if I was too rough with it/not rough enough/got stuck to it.

I am much more confident in my bread making now, thanks to those recipes. I’m also a convert to using cold water for the liquid, not warm, as it makes the yeast work harder, and seems to develop the flavour much better too.

Talking of flavour, please do not skimp on the salt. It really is needed in bread making, or the taste is just flat and doughy.

I do like the flavour that the overnight or longer rises give. They use very little yeast, so the dough is forced to work hard, and on one occasion, it was akin to sourdough, without using a sourdough starter. I might even give that a try again.  Who knows.

This week I decided I wanted to bake some rolls to go with some Turner and George burgers on Friday and some Cookwitch-made burgers on Saturday. I’m not a huge fan of brioche style buns, simply because they can get a bit soggy too fast. I wanted white, soft rolls, but fairly substantial.

Cue a Mr Hollywood recipe.

You will need:

500g bread flour (I used 400g Wright’s bread flour and 100g plain)
8g salt
10g fast action yeast
20g soft unsalted butter (I used salted, it’s what I had.)
320ml cold water

Put the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl (take care to separate yeast and salt).

Add the butter and rub that in a little so it’s distributed.

Add 240ml of the water and mix using one hand like a dough hook.

Trickle in the remaining water and continue mixing until it comes together. I added a little too much, but just added a tsp of flour to bring it back.

Knead until it starts to feel springy. I oil my hands with olive oil, which really helps with any stickiness. Knead for around 4-5 minutes. (I’ve timed this and made it more fun by listening to old rock songs. It’s usually about 2 Lemmys and a Black Sabbath. Or one Hawkwind.)

Form the now smooth dough into a ball, put into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film, or put a plastic bag over it,  and leave to rise for about 2 hours. It may double in size faster if the temperature is high.

Turn out the dough on to a floured surface and flatten out into a square.

Divide the dough into about 12 lumps and shape each piece into a ball. (I will admit to weighing the dough, and then weighing each piece. You do not have to do that!)

I use an old store card as a dough scraper/cutter, and it works really well! Each lump was approximately 71g.

Rolls on a tray

Pop the rolls onto a lined baking tray and cover with oiled cling film* for about hour until they have proved again.

Rolls on a tray risen

My baking tray is 10.5 “ x 14.5”. I thought that might be useful.

Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan) and pop a roasting tray in the bottom.

When proved, fill the roasting tray with hot water and pop the rolls in the oven. The steam from the tray gives them a nice crust.

Bake for about 15 minutes until they are golden on top. Tap the bottoms and if they sound hollow, they’re done. Rest on a wire rack, so the bottoms don’t go soggy.



Carrot, Fig and Walnut Muffins

This is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe. It’s the sweet potato muffins from a few weeks ago, but changed around a bit.

This whole thing can be done in the food processor.

400g carrots – don’t bother peeling, but wash if grubby, obviously.
200g demerara sugar (original recipe asked for 400g, just not needed.)
Good handful walnuts (Lidl do lovely ones)
6 dried, soaked figs (I had pre soaked. Plumptious little jammy things)
2 tsp black treacle
4 eggs
300g plain flour
170ml olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp speculaas spice
1 tsp mixed spice

Cut the carrot into chunks. Whizz in the food processor until it’s very fine. I just use the normal blade, no grating attachments to clean!
Add in everything else. Whizz until it’s very well mixed.
Line a tin with cupcake cases, fill each one three quarters full.
I topped mine with a walnut.
Bake at 180C for 20 minutes.
This made 18. (I use an ice cream scoop to portion it out.)

Carrot Fig and Walnut Muffins


Strut and Cluck


Last year I raved about Café Murano Covent Garden to anyone who would listen. (It has now become my boss's favourite restaurant.) On our visits we made friends with the flame haired Kelly, who was the Manager. She has the knack of making you feel like you’ve just dropped in for dinner with old friends, whilst still looking after you like a valued customer.

Sadly in the December she left Murano (on good terms I might add) and I thought we’d lost touch, but then she resurfaced on the Instagram feed of a restaurant in Shoreditch whose photos I’d been ogling. Hooray! 

Yes, Shoreditch. I know, I know, hipster central. Well it is, in some ways, but it still retains a goodly chunk of the old East End spirit. It’s also one of those places that I get lost in, almost every time, so I was a little wary of heading that way, but the menu, and Kelly, made me absolutely certain that I wanted to go.

I loved the name as soon as I heard it. Strut and Cluck. Male turkeys strut, and the females cluck. Clever, eh?

They offer turkey (free range) based dishes, inspired by their Eastern Mediterranean roots, though vegetarians are also easily catered for. The mere mention of using turkey hooked me first, because I adore it, and the words Eastern Mediterranean ensured that I absolutely had to go. For the record, I will now state that contrary to popular belief, turkey is not a naturally dry meat. I think it has suffered from years of overcooking at Christmas, and I promise you faithfully that you really do not need to cook one for 6 hours until it turns to sawdust. Following supermarket cooking times will overcook it. Buy a meat thermometer, and go by that. (If a supermarket packet instruction says 20 minutes per pound plus 20, I never, ever use the extra 20. I suspect they are covering themselves for legal reasons.)

I needn’t have worried about getting lost, as I found a bus that went from my work pretty much all the way to Commercial Street, and then it was a 5 minute walk, if that. They are right opposite Ted Baker (who are very happy about this) and quite easy to find. The olive trees outside give it away slightly.

It’s a small place, as are many of the commercial units in the East End, but they’ve done the very best they can with the space and made it beautiful without being twee or going the full Cath Kidston.  Pale wooden high  tables in the bar area, and simple squares and rounds in the restaurant itself, combined with plain walls serve to make the space look large and airy.

Photo taken from their Instagram feed:


My welcome there was warm, and very friendly. People who know instinctively to greet you with a kiss on both cheeks always makes me feel at home straightaway, plus I think Kelly may have mentioned me to the owners. Smile

Look how lovely they all are! Photo also from their Instagram feed which I was not stalking at all in any way.


I happily ogled the furniture, wondering if I could fit one of their high tables into my kitchen.  (The answer is no. Rats.)

It wasn’t long before my dining partner arrived, and we went through to the restaurant part. Then came the menu, and oh my…how on earth was I going to choose? There wasn’t one single thing on there that didn’t appeal to me. Making a decision was going to be tough. I had a Rose Lemonade to  drink while I was trying to make up my mind, because rose is a flavour that I can never pass up, and spent a few minutes getting pomegranate seeds stuck in my straw while I tried to decide what to order.


“Olives, we’ll get olives.I know we always get olives but those do look good…”


“Ok…and oh look, butterbeans with cumin. Yes?”

“Yep, we can share those too.”

“Ok…um…oh…slow roast thigh with sweet potatoes…but then there’s sticky harissa wings…and the kofta with currants and cashews and and…”


Eventually we narrowed it down and managed to make a decision or two.

Olives and butterbeans for nibbles.



These beans were a revelation.  If you are only used to tinned butterbeans, these are a serious step up.  Smooth in texture, and not grainy or mealy, with a good bite to them. I am not a fan of whole seeds, I admit, but these were soft, not crunchy, and perfumed rather than overpowering, which cumin can sometimes be. I might have to try making this at home.

Watermelon, feta and mint salad as a starter for me:

watermelon salad_thumb

This was beautifully fresh, and the olives worked extremely well with the watermelon. The mint was just enough to add a zing to the fruit, and didn’t overpower as it can sometimes do. I think I have found a new addiction in toasted pumpkin seeds, and immediately went out and bought some. I will admit, they do conflict a little with the watermelon seeds, but I managed to pick most of the black seeds out. I’ve never been able to eat them, not even as a kid. All in all this was a mouth-watering starter. Not too much, light and cleansing.

Grilled sourdough sabikh style with aubergine, soft boiled egg, tahini and sumac for Simon. 

Sourdough aubergine tahini eggs sumac_thumb[1]

Given the speed at which this disappeared, I assume that it was absolutely delicious. I tried a piece of the bread and tahini together, and it was the perfect combination of crunchy, savoury bread and silky smooth, slightly sweet tahini. Another one for me to try next time I go, that’s for sure.

When the mains came out, I was just bowled over by the heady mix of scents. Spicy and rich; the rounded warmth of the turkey juices, plus the spiced smells from the shawarma bound together to form a lovely cloud between our plates. Of course we took photos, because it all looked so delightful, but I was also busy inhaling those scents as much as I could. I kept sticking my nose in the jug that contained the turkey juices, and sniffing happily.

Slow roast turkey thigh on sweet potatoes, red onions and sweetzingy barberries for me:


Slow roast thigh_thumb

Poultry thigh meat has always been my favourite part to eat. It just holds so much more flavour, and easily stays more juicy. This particular turkey thigh was absolutely gorgeous. The fat from the skin had completely rendered out, leaving the skin golden and crisp, and the meat below it saturated with seemingly the essence of turkey taste.

Turkey, date and green freekeh shawarma with labneh for Simon:

Shawarma with dates and green freekeh_thumb[1]

This was a beautifully rich dish, but not at all heavy. The sweetness of the dates worked with the spices, not against them, and the sweet didn’t overpower. Freekeh has a fresh and slightly smokey flavour, which is the perfect partner for the heady spices of the meat. Yet another one for me to try next time. I did mention to Kelly that I think I should just move in, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind, I wouldn’t be any trouble.

We had a bit of a rest before the dessert. To be truthful, we weren’t actually going to have any, but then we saw the menu…also the staff are so enthused about their food, that decisions were made harder because they sell it ALL to you. It’s a treat to find people who not only know their menu, but love it, too.

I went for the Levant Milk Pudding. Anything with treacle and pistachios was going to be the winner, no matter what. Pomegranate treacle, doubly so.

This was smooth, like panacotta, and with just enough wobble to make me smile. The treacle was tart, but with a sweet edge that went perfectly with the pistachios. I could happily have eaten another, and another.

Levant Milk Pudding_thumb[12]

S went for the ice cream and sorbet, and my goodness, they were outstanding.

Pistachio ice cream, ok, lots of us have had that, but this one had a deep, roasted flavour to it, and a beautifully creamy texture.

Trio of desserts_thumb[8]

The sorbet was smooth, and with a good back tang of mint. Extremely light, and just the thing to be a palate cleanser after a rich and spiced meal.

Mint sorbet_thumb[5]

This is a place where I felt at home straight away. The menu is varied, light and fresh, and certainly not run of the mill. The seasonal changes already have me excited and looking forward to the next time that I can go. Life needs to stop getting in the way!

Sitting there in the twilight, with the buzz of conversation surrounding us, and the lights just starting to come on, I could have been in a Tel Aviv café, or one in Cyprus.

We all eat bread, we all eat houmous. Celebrate that together, and eat well.

(They are also open for brunches now, so if you are lucky enough to work near there, pop along. You will get a warm welcome, and amazing food.)



Saturday night dinner in the garden

Yesterday my friends and their wee boy came to dinner. This was the menu, that I promised to write up so that I didn't forget what I’d done.

No Knead Bread

It was meant to be this recipe: http://www.jennycancook.com/recipes/faster-no-knead-bread/ but I let it go for far too long and it was very liquid, so I just poured it into a tin and baked it to see what happened. It was crusty and chewy and delicious.

3 cups plain flour

1.5 cups water

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp yeast

Mix all the ingredients together, cover and leave to sit overnight.

Heat the oven to 200C

Pour the dough into a baking dish with sides, with a good 2 mm of olive oil in it

Leave to rise for 30 – 40  minutes

Drizzle with a little more olive oil

Sprinkle with sea salt flakes

Bake until risen and golden – probably about 30 minutes

No knead flat bread

Bean Stew

1 tin chick peas, drained

1 tin rosecoco beans or borlotti beans, drained

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 giant spring onion cut into chunks, or probably 3 or 4 shop bought ones

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 heaped tsp smoked paprika

2 tsp red pepper paste

1 tsp tomato puree

salt to taste

olive oil

Cook the onions and the garlic together in the oil until softened a little.

Add in the chick peas, beans, tomatoes, pastes, and paprika.

Mix well, leave to simmer until the sauce has thickened.


One of the huge spring onions that I’ve managed to grow from offcuts of shop bought ones.

Next to it are beautiful fresh celery leaves, sprouted from yet another offcut.
I adore celery leaves used as a herb. They are almost a cross between mint and parsley.


1/2 cup of chopped mixed mint and celery leaves (I used lime mint and lavender mint plus the celery leaves)

1 tsp butter

olive oil

1 cup basmati rice

2 cups water


Sauté the rice in the olive oil until the whole lot is coated. Add the chopped herbs, and mix well.

Add the water, and the butter, and a good pinch of salt.

Bring to the boil, then turn down to the lowest heat possible.

Cover tightly (I usually put a square of paper towel under the lid to make a better seal) and cook for around 10-15 minutes. All the water should be absorbed.

Put the lid back on, cover with a heavy towel and leave to sit and steam for at least 10 minutes.

Sweet Potato Cupcakes

Based on a Jamie Oliver recipe. This whole thing can be done in the food processor, but you can also grate the potato on a fine grater, and just whisk everything together with a hand mixer. The original recipe used butternut squash.

400g (peeled weight) orange sweet potato (NOW I’m wondering about the purple ones…)

150g dark muscovado sugar

250g light soft muscovado sugar

4 eggs

300g self raising flour

175ml olive oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp cinnamon extract

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Cut the potato into chunks. Whizz in the food processor until it’s very fine.

Add in everything else. Whizz until it’s very well mixed.

Line a tin with cupcake cases, fill each one three quarters full.

I topped mine with 1/2 tsp peach butter each, you can use whatever jam you like, or don’t top with anything. They are good either way!

Bake at 180C for 20 minutes.

Sweet potato cupcakes


Cashew Cocoa Iced Dessert

I’ve been reading a lot of the raw/free from food blogs lately, mainly because their Instagram feeds are just so pretty that I get drawn in, but also because Tex and his dad can’t have cream or milk, and Pa also can’t have wheat, so dairy and wheat free free desserts are useful.

I’d managed to amass a large amount of plain cashew nuts, and they needed using up, so I thought I’d try my hand at a cashew ‘cream’.  This is not vegan, as it has honey in it.

(Notes to self: your blender is not powerful enough for this. Use the food processor. It’ll save you a lot of time, poking and effort.)

350/400g plain cashews, soaked in water overnight

8-10 heaped tablespoons of date puree (literally just whatever dates you can find, soaked overnight if quite dry, and then blended with cinnamon and enough of the soaking water to make a soft paste)

vanilla extract

pistachio slivers



Cling film

2lb loaf tin

I blended the cashew nuts – eventually – into a smooth cream. I had to add a fair bit of the soaking liquid to get them to process. While it was blending I added in 1 tsp vanilla, and 2 tbs clear honey. When I do this again, I will probably blend in more vanilla, and also some coconut milk powder or some coconut condensed milk, plus the pistachios, as it needed more flavour.

I scattered pistachio slivers on the bottom of a cling film lined loaf tin, spooned in half of the ‘cream’, then added more pistachios.

On top of that I dolloped date paste all the way along the middle, then sprinkled some peanut powder that I had over that.

The rest of the batch that was still in the blender then had a good few tablespoons of the date paste mixed in, then 1-2 tbs of cocoa. Add 1 tbs first, taste it, then adjust it. Cocoa can overpower a bit.

That mixture then got poured on top of the white layer.

I pulled the cling film up and over to cover, then popped the whole thing in the freezer and forgot about it for a month...

When we tried to cut it, it did put up a fight. The date layer was easier, so I started there and cut down to the white layer instead of the other way around.

The date/cashew/cocoa layer was really lovely. The dates gave it softer, more rich texture. The white layer was far more like a sorbet, and did need a touch more sweetness. I think perhaps a paste of dried soaked mango would work rather well in it, and serve to soften it a little. Though it would make a brilliant ice lolly, as it didn’t melt as fast as the cocoa layer. I have considered getting some lolly moulds purely for this.

All in all, I really liked it. You do have to leave it to stand out of the freezer for a good ten minutes so that you can cut into it though…I used a hot knife, and it went through in the end.

I’m so happy with it that I’m going to enter it for Kavey Eats June Bloggers Scream for Icecream.



slice with kaymak


Wing It Rhubarb Dessert

This is very definitely called winging it.

I had meant to make a rhubarb and strawberry compote, and bake an upside down cake.

Said compote turned into more of a sauce.

Hmm, says I. My mantra is 'if it goes wrong, call it by another name and pretend you meant it' so it turned into a fruit sauce topped with what was meant to be a plain sponge.


I had run out of light sugar. It's actually a dark brown sugar and ginger sponge instead.

1lb rhubarb chopped (I suspect I chopped mine too small.)
1lb strawberries, hulled and cut in half
3/4 cup of golden caster sugar (you can see why I ran out now can't you?)
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon extract (optional)

Mix the fruit with the sugar, add the lemon juice, then put on to simmer.
Once all the sugar has dissolved, and the fruit has let out its liquid, turn the heat up slightly, add the extracts and let it cook until the fruit has cooked down.

3 tbsp breadcrumbs
200g butter , softened
90g golden caster sugar
110g dark muscovado sugar
3 medium eggs
200g self-raising flour
5 tbsp milk

Sprinkle the crumbs over the base of a large cake tin or casserole dish. DO NOT USE A LOOSE BOTTOMED TIN because there will be leakage.
Pour in your warmed jam or compote or even drained tinned fruit if you like.
Whisk the sugars and the butter until fluffy and well mixed in. If there are lumps of sugar, don’t worry, they’ll just be added texture and pockets of caramel.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Do not worry if the mix curdles.
Whisk in the ground ginger and the vanilla.
Then whisk in the flour.
Use a spatula to scrape the edges down, and continue to mix.
Add 5 tbs milk, and fold that in.
Dollop on top of the jam/compote/fruit
Bake for 35-40 minutes until risen and golden brown.
You may need to bake it for longer, mine ended up needing 50 minutes.

Now to see if it survives the journey to Nottingham. 


Lamb Stuffed Peppers

Lamb is definitely one of my most favourite meats, so when I heard about the lamb recipe challenge (link here: http://www.tastyeasylamb.co.uk/Follow-the-Flock/Lamb-Recipe-Challenge ) I was sold. Winning something is nice, of course, everybody likes the chance to win something, but I admit that was more motivated about having a chance to experiment with lamb, which I always enjoy doing.

I love everything about lamb, from the sweet meat, the glistening fat, and the crisped skin to the aroma that fills the house when you roast it, or the garden when you barbecue it.

It pairs well with so many things, such as the sweetness of fruit in tagines, the zesty crunch of chillies and spring salads, the soft, gentle creaminess of coconut in a curry perhaps or just plunged into plain old soothing yoghurt, jazzed up with some mint and cucumber. I’ve used it in mediaeval mincemeat too, and it makes for a soft, rich taste to the spiced mixture.

I’ve used all kinds of cuts over the years. Shoulder marinated in white wine, lemon and olive oil and slow cooked for 12 hours; boned out and butterflied leg jazzed up with Ras el Hanout and herbs; belly stuffed with cinnamon, onions and dates; chops covered in cinnamon and cumin paste and chargrilled; the liver spiced up and quick fried with onions and parsley…I’ll take it any way I can get it.

This is a fairly easy dish, quick to put together so not bad for after work, and it's even faster if you have a food processor. I used red pointed peppers, as they are thin skinned, and cook faster. You can, of course, use red bell peppers, but they will need longer cooking, so you might want to mix the lamb with some part cooked rice and extra herbs so that it doesn't dry out.

3/4 pointed red peppers
8-900g lamb mince
2 medium carrots, grated
1/2 a large red onion or 5 spring onions if you prefer them
1 slice granary bread, soaked briefly in water and squeezed out
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
1 small bunch fresh mint (the ready cut packs you get in the supermarket)
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley
2 tsp red pepper paste (or use 1 tsp tomato paste)
1 tsp pul biber, or 1/2 tsp cayenne

You can chop all the herbs and onions by hand, though they won’t be as fine as if you do it in the food processor. Make sure your knife is really sharp, as parsley can be a right pain to chop, I have no idea why. If you do do things by hand, work the spices and herbs into the meat well, it should turn into more of a cohesive paste. That makes it easier to push into the peppers. Don’t worry about overfilling as the meat will shrink back as it cooks. I used the food processor for mine, as my hands ache after too much knife work.

Pulse the herbs, onions and the garlic together until they are very fine.
Add in the lamb, carrots, cumin, cinnamon, salt, red pepper paste and pul biber/cayenne.
Blend well until they make a fine paste. You could add in some currants and pine nuts at this stage if you wanted to, or grated courgette, then pulse again. It’s a good way of adding extra vegetables to a family dish.

Once everything is combined, push it into all the crevices of the peppers, and then mound slightly in the centre.

Place the stuffed peppers in a baking tray with sides, drizzle with olive oil, and then bake at 170C fan for half an hour. The peppers will wilt slightly, and the filling will shrink inside the cases.

5 minutes before the end of the cooking time, I crumbled over some feta, drizzled that with olive oil, and topped with a bit more pul biber.

Lovely to eat hot, and equally as good cold – though I let them come to room temperature first.

The filling makes very good meatballs too.

I’ve successfully fed two colleagues and me with these!


Aubergine is marmite.

Well no, not actual aubergine marmite (though...hmm....) but aubergine really is the marmite of the food world. 

The amount of people that loathe it, and the amount that adore it, seems to be about equal amongst my friends and, to be honest, given how I have had it cooked in this country, I can see exactly why people hate it. If I didn't know just how lovely it can be, and had only had past restaurant versions of it, I'd steer well clear too.

I'm very lucky. I was brought up eating the well cooked, silky version. The kind where the flesh of the vegetable almost disappears into the dish it's in, or else is the smokey, garlicky staple into which you repeatedly dip your bread because you can't get enough.  

I will readily admit that there are problems with aubergines.

Sponges, soaking up oil like there's no tomorrow, worse even than mushrooms and thrice as rubbery.

The whole point is that they cook down, and that you must cook them for twice as long as you think you should. Also, that oil? Make sure that it is a good, well flavoured one, because it becomes a part of the taste of the dish, not just an unguent.

Salt is important. These days not so much to draw the bitterness out, as that seems to have been bred out over the years (except from the tiny pea sized Thai ones), but to draw the moisture out. If you want to grill them till they are crisp, salt them first, then wipe the salt off, and pat them dry with a kitchen towel. Don't add any more salt, obviously, as they probably won't need it, but you can salt afterwards if you like. You can add, but you cannot take away, when it comes to salt.

I will eat them any way I can get them, but one of my favourite ways, and one of the most simple, is just to roast them with olive oil and salt. That's it. I also add honey sometimes, and cinnamon, but they are good just on their own. 

Take one large purple aubergine. Or cosh, as my husband calls them. 

Cut it in half lengthways, then make scores into the flesh with a sharp knife - but do not pierce down through the dark skin. 

Liberally douse the cut side with decent olive oil. Remember, the oil is a part of the dish. 

Sprinkle with salt, place on a baking tray with sides, and set to roast in a 170C fan oven. 

After 15 minutes, give them a check. They should have started to brown a little.

Pop them back in for another 15 minutes. 

After this set of 15 minutes is where I would add honey, sea salt and cinnamon. You do not have to do this. You can just roast them as they are, and then eat with a smattering of sea salt.

If you choose the No Honey way, then roast them until they are a deep, golden brown, and the slits have opened up. This may take longer than you think. It does depend on the aubergine.

If you do add honey, roast them until the honey has caramelised, and the slits have opened up. 

My aubergines today were quite large, and also quite watery, so I had to turn the grill on for 5 minutes to finish off the browning process, but usually I do not have to do that. I think, all in all, it took 45 minutes including faff time.

These are good hot or cold, but I like them at room temperature, eaten as a side with meat, or just on their own with some good bread and feta cheese. 

You can wait until they are cooled, chop them up and add to couscous or rice if you like.