Avocado & Yoghurt Dip


I tried the Ottolenghi group’s latest restaurant Nopi with my friend Carly a few weeks ago – among our (many) delicious sharing plates was a really amazing avocado and yoghurt dip with vegetable crudités. Unfortunately this Ottolenghi recipe doesn’t seem to have made it to google, so my attempt below, super speedy if you have a food processor, and great with crisps or vegetables.

Ingredients (Makes two small pots, serves eight):

2 avocados, peeled with stones removed (keep the stones)
200g greek yoghurt
Juice of half a lime
1 green chilli (optional)
Pinch of salt
Mixed seeds


Place all of the above (apart from the seeds) in a blender. Keep in a pot with an avocado stone to stop the avocado browning. When ready to serve remove the avocado stones and top with mixed seeds. Serve with crisps or raw vegetables.

Rough Puff Pastry


There are some recipes where it really is better not to know what is in them – Probably naïve on my part but when I first made puff pastry I was astounded by the volume of butter involved. While making your own is in no way, shape, or form a low calorie or healthy equivalent, you do at least skip some of the nasties added to some of the pre-made brands. The only difficult thing I find about making your own is controlling the temperature of the dough (you want it to stay nice and cold and my kitchen gets warm quite quickly), but if you keep an eye on that the pastry is very easy to do, and freezes well too. Step by step below – This particular one was destined for my chicken bacon and leek pie (recipe here). S

Ingredients (makes around 600g):

250g unsalted butter
250g plain flour
10g salt
125g ice cold water


Step one: Cut the block of butter into cubes and return to the fridge

Step two: Place the butter, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse 10-15 times until just combined

Step three: Gradually add the iced water and continue to pulse until just combined – You should still see chunk of butter in the mixture and it will feel slightly sticky.

Step four: Remove from the processor and, on a lightly floured surface, gently shape into a rectangular block. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour

Step six: Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll (in one direction only) until around three times the original length.

Step seven: The double turn/book fold – Fold both ends into the middle to meet, then fold in half again

photo-41 photo-40
Step eight: Rotate the dough 90 degrees, roll again and repeat the double turn as above. Take care not to over work the pasty, you should still be able to see chunk of butter as below when it has been rolled. Wrap in cling film and return to the fridge for at least half an hour.
Step nine: Remove from the fridge and press down with a rolling pin until c. 2cm thick. At this stage I cut my pasty into sections (so for a pie I cut the dough into two, then work with the base and top separately so the dough stays very cold). When you cut the pastry you should be able to see the individual folds in the dough as below. Keep in the fridge until ready to use. Cook in a very hot preheated oven (200°C) – if your pastry isn’t cold enough and/or your oven isn’t hot enough this can cause the pastry to “melt” instead of cooking (another reason can be if your dough was too wet, which shouldn’t be the case on the ratios above).


Chicken, Leek & Bacon Pie

This recipe was originally discovered by my mum in the Daily Mail (oh yes…) around ten years ago and has been a firm favourite of mine ever since. I haven’t changed it too much to be honest – I use more thyme than the original recipe, use the reserved water from boiling the chicken as my stock for later, and have added mushrooms into the mix. The recipe below serves four to six people (the photos show a filling in larger quantity as I made 1.5x the quantity to freeze the spare filling for a smaller pie another time). The pie is quite rich so you don’t need lot with it, and the filling has enough liquid in it to act as the sauce. Seems the DM is good for more than the Femail and Showbiz sections after all… S


8 chicken thighs
20g thyme
25g butter
1 large onion, diced
2 leeks, chopped
150g button mushrooms
120g bacon lardons or pancetta (or streaky bacon is fine)
1tbsp flour
300ml chicken stock
175ml double cream
300g puff pastry (recipe here)
1 egg yolk


Preheat the oven to 190°C

Step one: Place the chicken thighs in a large pan with the thyme, cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, skim the surface and simmer for 45 minutes.

Step two: Remove the chicken thighs and leave to cool. Pour the liquid contents of the pan into a jug and set aside (remove the whole stalks of thyme from the jug)

Step three: Using the same pan, melt the butter and fry off the onion on a low heat

Step four: Add the leek, lardons and mushrooms and cook until softened, keep the heat low so the filling doesn’t take on too much colour

Step five: Add a tablespoon of flour and cook fur a further 1-2 minutes

Step six: Add cream and chicken stock, cook until thickened (you want to keep enough liquid in the mixture so the inside of the pie still has enough sauce when cooked in the oven).

Step seven: Remove the skin from your cooled chicken thighs, and pull the meat away from the bone, adding to the pan

Step eight: Remove the filling from the heat and set aside. Take a lightly buttered and floured dish and line with pastry (my rough puff recipe here), add the filling and top with puff pastry. Keep in the fridge until ready to bake. When ready, brush with egg yolk and bake for 30-40 minutes.


Double Crumbled Crumble

Fruit crumble of any description is pretty hard to beat in the pudding arena, as one of my favourites I have spent a while playing around with the crumble part of the equation.  There are tons of recipes out there – oats or no oats? how much butter? white or brown flour? nuts or no nuts? The possibilities are pretty endless, but one part of the method that I think makes a difference is the “double crumble”.  I came across this after mixing up the ratios by accident a couple of years ago and getting a mix that was too dusty – in an last ditch effort I pressed the entire thing down in a dish and put it in the fridge for an hour, when I took it out it crumbled nicely into bigger chunks and kept its texture.  That evening our friend Andrew christened it “double crumbled crumble” and my quick fix had name.  Details for the crumble below, I filled this one with apples covered with a little bit of caramel sauce.  S

Recipe (serves 8):


200g flour (white or brown)
100g butter, cut into small cubes
150g light brown sugar
50g chopped hazelnuts
50g chopped almonds
50g oats

For the filling:

8 granny smith apples (chopped and cooked for 10 mins with 25g butter until soft), I added a little but of caramel sauce on top before putting the crumble on top


Preheat the oven to 180°C

Step one: Place all crumble ingredients in a food processor and pulse


Step two: Take the mixture and press tightly into a dish, refrigerate for an hour (or longer)


Step three: Cook your filling as above

Step four: Remove the crumble from the fridge and re-crumble, this should leave you with a mix of large and small chunks

Step five: Assemble – Fill a dish with your fruit filling and top with your crumble, pressing lightly.  Use a fork to lightly rough the surface and sprinkle with brown sugar


Step six: Bake for 40 minutes at 180°C


Sweet Potato & Goats Cheese Tortilla – Saturday Night Tapas

A few years ago I discovered a vegetarian lasagne recipe from my friend Natalie – The original is on Nigella’s community website here and is one of my favourites, even for non veggies.  One of our guests on Saturday was a fan of this lasagne last time I made it so I thought about doing it again, but given my original plan for the menu was tapas, a lasagne wasn’t quite on the agenda – hence the tortilla experiment.  I like tortilla but often find them a little dull – the sweet potato in here makes it a bit more interesting than normal, and the mix of spinach, leek, red pepper and goats cheese comes straight from the ingredients list of the original lasagne I was trying to recreate.  Recipe below, we served the leftovers for lunch with salad and it is just as good cold.  S


Sweet potato & goats cheese tortilla
Self stuffed aubergines with tomato sauce (here)
Chilli & garlic prawns with lemon zest (here)
Grilled calamari (scored and cooked in oil and lemon juice)
Manchego cheese with (my friend Ems’ dad’s) quince jelly

Sweet potato & goats cheese tortilla

Recipe (serves 6-8):

1 onion, chopped
700g sweet potato, cut into cubes
2 garlic cloves
80g spinach
1 leek, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped into strips
4 springs of thyme
6 eggs
100g goats cheese


Preheat the oven to 170°C

Step 1: Place the sweet potato in the oven and cook for around 45 minutes

Step 2: Heat a small amount of olive oil in a 24cm pan, add the garlic, onion, peppers and leek and cook over a very low heat (I used a 26cm pan but think a 24cm one would be good to give a deeper tortilla)

Step 3: Add the thyme and leave to slowly cook for around 20 minutes



Step 4: Add the spinach to the vegetable pan and stir until wilted, remove the thyme sprigs and season


Step 5: Whisk 6 eggs and add the sweet potato, vegetable mix – add the goats cheese in individual chunks and stir to combine (this will make sure your ingredients run evenly through the tortilla

Step 6: Using the vegetables pan, pour in your egg and filling mixture.  You want to keep the keep very low to stop the mix sticking.

Step 7: When you see the mix setting around the edges (I tried to take a close up here) place a chopping board on top of the pan and with the help of an oven glove flip the half cooked tortilla onto it.  Using a large spatula slide the tortilla back into the pan to cook the other side.  You might get some uncooked mix spilling onto the board, just pour them into the pan and they will set.

Step 8: When the mixture feels fairly firm but not hard use your chopping board again and flip the tortilla out.  Lovely eaten hot or cold.


Chilli & Garlic Prawns with Lemon Zest


This was a super easy one in the tapas menu – These take literally a few minutes so I put them on as everyone was sitting down then put them on the table right at the last minute (hence the slightly dark blurry photo!).  From what I can see, the traditional recipes for this do not use any lemon zest, but there is a brilliant Jamie Oliver chilli prawn pasta recipe here which uses lemon zest on top and I think it lifts the whole thing.  I cooked the prawns in the pan I used for the tomato and aubergine filling so you get a hint of tomato running through it – If you are making this on its own you could add a tiny bit of sun-dried tomato paste to get the same effect.  S

Recipe (serves 4):

200g prawns
Generous glug of olive oil
20g butter
3 garlic cloves (thinly sliced)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
Zest of one lemon


Step 1: Heat the oil and butter in a pan and add the garlic and spices.  Allow to bubble before adding the prawns

Step 2: Add the prawns and cook for around 3 minutes

Step 3: Quickly transfer to a plate and top with lemon zest


Self Stuffed Aubergines with Tomato Sauce


I have made Rick Stein’s lamb stuffed aubergines a few times and really enjoyed them, but always found it a bit of a shame that the really tasty inside of the baked aubergine was put backstage to the taste of the lamb in the filling (and mixing the lamb with the insides of the aubergine you have a lot more filling than you can fit inside the aubergine).  One of our friends from Saturday night is a vegetarian so I gave it a go without the lamb, mixing the insides of the aubergine with the tomato sauce to create the filling.  As well as removing the lamb I changed the ratios of the spices in (less cumin and nutmeg) and added star anise, which gave me the “self stuffed” aubergine.  The end result feels a lot less heavy than the original which worked in this context since we had quite a few other dishes – Despite not being able to come up with a more attractive title for the recipe I would definitely do this again – most of this can be prepared in advance and then finished 15 minutes before serving.  S

Recipe (serves 4):

2 aubergines, tops removed and sliced in half lengthways
1 onion, chopped
400g chopped tomatoes
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp paprika
Pinch of dry chilli flakes
1 star anise
100g manchego cheese


Preheat the oven to 180°C

Step 1: Slice the aubergines in half lengthways and score diagonally with a sharp knife (try not to pierce the skin). Drizzle with oil and season, bake for 45 minutes



Step 2: Heat some olive oil and add the onions, after 10 minutes add your spices and stir.  Cook until the onions soften

Step 3: Add a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes to the onion mix

Step 4: Remove the aubergines from the oven and using a spoon, scoop out the insides and set the skins aside to fill later



Step 5: Add the insides of the aubergine to the tomato and onion sauce and simmer

* You can get to this point quite a way in advance and then do the last step 15 mins before serving

Step 6: Add the filling to the aubergine skins, top with grated manchego cheese and bake for 15 minutes



Beef and Avocado Burgers


I was persuaded of the virtues of warm avocado after trying an amazing baked avocado starter at lunch for Mother’s Day this year. I love avocado as a burger topping so decided to go one step further and try it inside the burger itself. Recipe below uses no flour so needs tight patting when you shape them and a bit of a delicate touch when you move or flip them. These can be made in advance (just add a squeeze of lime to stop any exposed avocado browning) and take under ten minutes to prepare from start to finish with the help of a magimix mini… This recipe makes 6-8 burgers depending on the size, great served with an egg on top, sweet potato chips and a green salad – an easy one to do for a BBQ when Summer finally arrives… S


Makes 6 x 200g burgers or 8 x 150g

800g extra lean beef mince
1 medium egg + 1 yolk
20g chopped coriander
2 ripe avocados, chopped
1 onion
2 green chillies
2 garlic cloves
1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste


Step 1: Very lightly pulse the onion, green chilli and garlic in a food processor.

Step 2: Chop the coriander and avocado by hand

Step 3: Place in a large bowl with the mince and add the eggs plus seasoning


Step 4: Mix using a large spoon, be gentle so your avocado stays in individual pieces


Step 5: Take handfuls of the mixture and make into burgers (start with a ball and then pat down, then smooth the sides)

Step 6: Transfer (using a large spatula as they are quite delicate) to a plate for cooking or keep in the fridge. Add a squeeze of lime to stop any exposed avocado browning. These two were packaged to go in transit to a pre shopping trip sleepover with my friend Meels….


Step 7: Cook under a grill or in a pan for around 6 minutes each side, turning frequently. Great with an egg on top.

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