Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Roast Asparagus with Sweet Pepper and Chorizo

I think asparagus is one of my favourite vegetables of all, and buy it as often as I can when it comes into season. We have wonderful local asparagus at Church Farm and Hawarden Estate.

Asparagus works well when it is cooked for a very small amount of time, so that it retains its crunch and vibrancy. I start to panic when I buy it, but don't get the chance to cook it so it sits in the fridge for a few days.

In this recipe, I've roasted it with wonderful sweet pointed peppers, complemented with the smokiness of chorizo sausage. The oil is released from the chorizo into the baking tray, and can be mopped up with potatoes, bread or pasta. The dish is incredibly easy to make, and would work well just on its own, or as a side with some grilled meat.



  • 250g asparagus
  • 1 sweet pointed red pepper
  • Approx. 10 thin slices of chorizo, sliced on the diagonal
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Some really good quality extra virgin olive oil
Serve 2 as a side, or 1 greedy asparagus lover


  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees fan
  • Wash the asparagus and trim the woody bases
  • Cut around the stalk of the sweet pepper, then pull out the stalk and seeds. Slice into thin rounds, on the diagonal
  • Lay the asparagus in a baking tray. Scatter over the slices of pepper, then tuck the chorizo slices in between.
  • Season with salt and pepper and pour over 2-3 generous glugs of best quality extra virgin olive oil
Tuck the chorizo slices between the pepper and the asparagus

  • Put the baking dish into the oven and roast for 8-10 minutes, until the chorizo is beginning to crisp up and the peppers have charred and softened
  • Remove from the oven and serve immediately
Roast asparagus with sweet pepper and chorizo

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Garlic and Rosemary Roasted New Potatoes

This accompaniment is very easy with practically no effort involved! You can use any waxy potato.


  • 3-5 new potatoes per person
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 sprigs of rosemary, cut into 3cm lengths
  • 3-4 big glugs of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Serves 4-6



  • Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees
  • Wash and scrub the potatoes, and cut the larger ones in half (mine tend to be 3-4 cm across)
  • Using the flat of a cleaver or a rolling pin, bash the cloves of garlic once to break, but leave in the skin
  • Bash the rosemary springs to bruise them slightly
  • Add the potatoes, garlic and rosemary to a roasting dish and season generously with salt and ground black pepper (it doesn't matter if the potatoes are not all in a single layer). Pour over 3-4 big glugs of olive oil and stir to mix.
  • Roast the potatoes for 20-25 minutes depending on the size. Stir them periodically to brown evenly
Halfway through cooking, turn the potatoes
  • When the potatoes are cooked through, remove from the heat and serve immediately
Garlic and Rosemary Roasted New Potatoes

Slow-Cooker Chick Peas with Tomato and Chorizo

These chick peas were supposed to be part of a vegetable curry, but like most grand plans on this training year, fell by the wayside. This dish is a "chuck it all in and turn it on" type of meal, save for soaking and boiling the chick peas first. If you can't be bothered with that, then just buy a couple of tins and reduce the amount of cooking time (I'm guessing a couple of hours in the slow cooker would be enough).

I bought a tiny slow cooker from Lakeland Limited with some birthday vouchers, which is the perfect size for one meal and which I cooked this dish in. It could easily be done on the hob or in the oven as an alternative.


  • A very large handful of dried chick peas (I think this was about 600-700g when reconstituted)
  • 10 - 12 slices of chorizo
  • 6 ripe tomatoes (they must be ripe!)
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
  • 2 shallots
  • 3-4 big glugs of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Knorr chicken powder (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs (rosemary, oregano, thyme, marjoram)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil leaves to garnish
Serves 4-6 as an accompaniment


  • Soak the chick peas over night, then drain, place in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 15 minutes
  • Peel the shallots and slice into thin rings
  • Score a cross in the bottom of each tomato and cover with boiling water, then leave for 5-10 minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the water, peel off the skin and dice the tomatoes
  • Add the chick peas, shallots, chorizo, mixed herbs, chicken powder, tomatoes, tomato puree, bay leaf, mixed herbs and 3 large glugs of olive oil to the slow cooker. Season generously with salt and ground black pepper and mix thoroughly
  • Switch the slow cooker onto high and cook for 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally

  • Remove from the heat, drizzle over some fresh olive oil, garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve immediately

Slow-Cooker Chick Peas with Tomato and Chorizo

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Lemon and Basil Griddled Sea Bream

Tonight my eldest asked me what was for dinner then sighed immediately, saying "let me guess.... rice, am I right?"

She would have been right, as I had been to the fishmonger in the morning and bought a sea bream, intending to steam it with dried lily flowers, cloud ear fungus and soy sauce, but following this little exchange, I decided to indulge her.

I remember many years ago going to a restaurant called Lemonia with my big sister, where we sat close to Bob Hoskins. We had a lovely dish of griddled sardines, fragrant with lemons and olive oil and I wanted to try and replicate this. In fact, I think there are few things in life nicer than tucking into a big plate of really fresh, griddled fish with a big wedge of lemon, some decent company and preferably a sea view.

We ended up sharing this dish of griddled sea bream, some slow-cooked chick peas with chorizo and tomato and garlic and rosemary roasted potatoes. The eldest made pizza using this Cook Italian pizza kit from Tesco, which was better than I had expected it to be!

Last year on our holiday to Tuscany, I visited a local producer (Novo Frantoio) and horrified my husband by returning with a 3 litre can of olive oil (I had packed light intentionally). Here it is:

Ridiculously tasty olive oil
Words cannot even begin to describe how delicious and beautiful this oil is! I am already starting to worry what I will do when it runs out!


  • 1 sea bream, gutted and scaled
  • 1/2 lemon, cut into slices
  • Grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh basil
  • Plenty of extra virgin olive oil
Serves 1, or can be shared as part of a bigger meal


  • Wash the bream and pat dry with kitchen towels. Using a sharp knife, slash each side three times, taking care not to cut through the bone
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper inside the cavity of the fish, then stuff with 3-4 slices of lemon and 2-3 sprigs of fresh basil leaves
  • Place the fish in a dish and pour over extra virgin olive oil to coat the fish. Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper on each side, then leave in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to marinate if you have time
  • Heat a griddle or frying pan until very hot. Remove the fish from the fridge and sprinkle salt over both sides, before adding to the griddle. Using a spatula, press down on the fish periodically and griddle for 6-7 minutes on one side

  • Carefully lift the fish with a spatula (I use two) and turn over. Griddle on a high heat for a further 6-7 minutes, or until the flesh turns opaque throughout
  • Remove the fish from the heat and place on a warmed serving dish. Add the freshly grated lemon zest to the fish and pour the oil from the pan over the fish. Add a little fresh olive oil, then garnish with a few fresh basil leaves
  • Serve immediately

Lemon and Basil Griddled Sea Bream

Monday, 9 February 2015

Butternut Squash, Spinach and Mushroom Lasagne

To be honest, I don't know why I cooked this (apart from the fact that it's delicious). It is a faff and a half, and if I tried putting spinach and mushrooms (and in the middle child's case, white sauce) in front of the children, there would be an outcry of "eeeeeewwwww! Vom!"..... which would inevitably end in someone being sent to their room and a big old strop from me. You see, I mind much less if they don't like something that has taken about 5 minutes to put together, but when it has taken an arsenal of kitchen equipment and hours to prep all of the separate components then.... well....

For this reason, I've made the lasagne in two separate, smaller dishes, one of which I've given to a friend. It's a really tasty vegetarian lasagne, a little bit sophisticated and would be a good dish for entertaining. Personally, I preferred it without the goat's cheese, but my husband disagreed. To be honest, I'd rather just grate some cheddar over the top!

I've added a very small amount of dried, crushed chillies when roasting the butternut squash, which works well with the sweetness of the squash and the earthy flavours of the spinach and mushroom.



  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1x 250g box of chestnut mushrooms (or use oyster/shiitake if you are feeling indulgent)
  • 1 x 200g bag of spinach
  • Dried lasagne sheets
  • (Optional) 25g goat's cheese (I used Kidderton Ash, you might prefer something milder), or use grated cheddar
  • 30g butter
  • A pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp olive oil for frying mushrooms
  • 2 tsp dried mixed herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram and optional crushed chillies)
  • 2-3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
For the tomato sauce:
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram)
  • 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Ground black pepper to season
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
For the white sauce
  • 40g butter
  • 2 dessert spoons of plain flour
  • Approx. 2/3 - 3/4 pint milk
Serves 4 - 6



(Roasting the butternut squash)
  • Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees fan
  • Slice the butternut squash into quarters lengthways. Place skin-side down on a baking tray, then sprinkle salt, ground pepper and dried mixed herbs over the top. Drizzle with olive oil, then place in the oven and cook for 35 minutes until the squash is softened and browned. Remove from the heat and let cool
Yummy roasted butternut squash

(Making the tomato sauce)
  • Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil very gently in a heavy-based pan, and add the crushed garlic. Let it bubble very gently for a minute or two to infuse the oil - do not let it catch and burn, as this will make the sauce bitter
  • Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, dried mixed herbs, red wine and sugar. Using a sharp knife, pierce the chilli a couple of times so that it doesn't explode. Add the chilli to the pot and give several turns of the pepper mill. Mix well to combine
  • Heat the tomato sauce until it is bubbling, then reduce the heat, put a lid on the pan and simmer for 45 minutes until all of the flavours have infused. When the sauce has cooled down, remove the chilli and discard
(Preparing the spinach and the mushrooms)
  • Rinse the spinach and drain. Heat 30g butter in a heavy-based pan until bubbling. Add the spinach to the pan, then grate over some black pepper and add some salt. Add a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, then stir rapidly until the leaves are just wilted. Remove from the heat
  • Slice the mushrooms finely. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to a heavy-based pan and heat the oil until it begins to move. Add the mushrooms and a good pinch of black pepper, than stir-rapidly until the mushrooms are coated in oil and slightly browned. Remove from the heat

(Assembling the lasagne)
  • When the butternut squash is cool enough to touch, take a quarter and place it skin-side down onto a chopping board. With a sharp knife, remove the skin from the narrow end, and peel as much as you can away. Don't worry if you can't peel much.
  • With the skin-side on the board, slice the butternut squash into slices 3-4mm thick. Peel the skin away gently with the knife as you cut towards the board.
  • Place a few spoonfuls of the tomato sauce into the base of a baking dish, so that the base is just covered. Arrange slices of butternut squash across the bottom of the dish, then scatter over some sliced mushrooms and spinach. Top with a layer of dried lasagne sheets, then repeat, layering the lasagne as you go. Finish with a layer of lasagne sheets, then spread any remaining tomato sauce over the top

(Making the white sauce)
  • Gently melt 40g butter in a heavy-based pan until it starts to bubble. Add 2 heaped dessert spoons of plain flour, and whisk into the butter. Keep whisking for a minute or two, to allow the flour to cook
  • Add the milk a splash at a time to the pan, whilst whisking continuously. Don't worry that the roux goes solid.... it will loosen eventually! Keep adding the milk and whisking, until the sauce resembles custard in its consistency. I find that a silicone whisk works well at getting rid of any lumps. Add salt and pepper if desired
(Baking the lasagne)
  • Using a ladle, spread the white sauce evenly over the lasagne, until the sheets are completely covered. Dot the top of the lasagne with cubed goat's cheese or grated cheddar and finish with a light dusting of grated parmesan

  • Bake in the oven at 195 degrees for 35 minutes, or until the lasagne is piping hot throughout. Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Would be nice with a peppery green salad to cut through the richness

Butternut Squash, Spinach and Mushroom Lasagne