Sprouts Are Not Just For Christmas Salad

I love sprouts. There. I said it.

It’s true though, I really do! I used to hate them as a child, and would try to hide them under leftover mash, but then as I got older, and my tastebuds changed, I got to liking them, and then to loving them.

Poor, maligned creatures they are, left on the side, pushed away, invited to Christmas dinner every year but then cast out into the cold of the rubbish bin and discarded. It shouldn’t have to be this way. I’m sure it’s because people have only eaten them when they have been boiled to death, turned into small, soggy globules of waterlogged green, where all taste has long since leached into the water. No amount of butter can revive something like that. It’s too far gone, and should be given a decent burial in the compost heap.

To prevent such tragedy, the spout needs to be treated nicely. It’s a delicate vegetable, that doesn’t need cooking from November to December. A light steam, then a dressing of butter, lemon and thyme, or cut in half, sautéed gently in butter and bacon until they just start to turn soft.

Today I wanted an even lighter way of eating them.

Sprouts Are Not Just For Christmas Salad

3 rashers smoked bacon (I had chestnut wood smoked, which struck me as vaguely Christmassy)

2 spring onions, finely chopped

10 sprouts, outer leaves taken off, and finely sliced

1 large portobello mushroom, thinly sliced

4 tbs garlic oil

2 tbs white wine vinegar

1/2 tsp dried tarragon

I started off by cutting the mushroom crosswise into thin slices, then popped the slices into a bowl with some garlic oil, white wine vinegar and 1/2 a tsp of dried tarragon. I gave it a mix to coat all the slices with the dressing, and then left it to sit.


I diced the bacon into small pieces, and put it to cook in a deep pan with a little olive oil.

Then I got to work slicing the sprouts on the side of the cheese grater, but decided I liked my knuckles too much, so resorted to a very sharp knife instead and cut the sprouts in half lengthways, then across into thin slices.

Meanwhile the bacon had started to crisp and let out its fat, so I threw in the chopped spring onions, and mixed them in well with the bacon.

Once the sprouts were all sliced, I popped them in the pan, and cooked them quite fast, using two spoons to toss them around and coat them with the oil. (Thank you La Nigella for that tip)

Once the sprouts had started to soften, I tipped the whole lot into my 70stastic leaf serving dish (yes, it is that old) put the mushrooms on top and then poured the rest of their dressing into the hot sprout shreds.

This dish is best eaten while it’s still warm, it’s really not as good cold.



Give it a go. No sprout should be alone at Christmas.


Seasonal Salad

I do love a good salad. Not the old British version that was a strip of lettuce, a tomato, a few slices of cucumber and some salad cream – though there is a place for that, and I love salad cream – but a full on, flavour packing plate of different flavours and textures.

I like making paintings on a plate, and finding colours to contrast with the base of rice, or grains or pulses but, most of all, I like eating them.

With the sudden downturn in the temperature this week, my seasonal tastes turned to clementines, and dates. Dates I had in abundance, dye to making Mediaeval Mincemeat earlier in the day, during which activity one of the old time inhabitants of my kitchen became a mincemeat casualty. The spoon has been with me since we bought our first flat in 1992.

The patterned spoon on the left will now become my mincemeat spoon.


Clementines I definitely had as I had bought some last week, and they were looking at me like I’d abandoned them. (I had.) Time to do something with them.

I thought I had pearl barley, but I think I’ve buried it somewhere in the depth of the cupboard. Cous cous just wasn’t right, and so I found some farro instead. It doesn’t take long at all to cook.

50g quick cook farro

1 litre water

1 tin of Merchant Gourmet puy lentils, drained and rinsed

2 clementines, peeled and segmented

4 Medjool dates

Juice of 1/2 an orange

2 tsp tahini

olive oil


2 tsp honey

Anari cheese (the hard variety) or gran padano/parmesan

Bring the water to the boil, tip in the farro, and simmer it for 10-12 minutes until it’s tender.

Drain it well, season to your taste with salt, and mix with a little olive oil to coat.

Mix in the drained lentils

Chop each date into 3, and cut each clementine segment in half. Mix with the warm farro.

Mix the juice of half an orange with 2 teaspoons of tahini (the light coloured one), and a good squirt of runny honey, then pour over the warm lentils.

Grate the cheese over the top, and add a drizzle of fruity olive oil.

Eat while still gently warm.




Chocolate Chip Buckwheat Cookies

Ever since I read about triple chocolate buckwheat cookies in Simply Nigella, I knew I had to try baking some. It’s like an itch in my brain that won’t go away until I give in and buy the ingredients.

I reread the recipe yesterday, and realised that the inspiration for Nigella’s recipe was from London Bakes. *waves at Kathryn*

Nigella’s recipe sounds lovely but, well, I couldn’t be faffed with different bowls, and melting chocolate. I wanted quick and easy. Off to London Bakes I went, and got the original recipe.

Here are the (slightly tweaked, of course) results.

115g cold butter, cubed

150g soft muscovado sugar (I prefer less sweet cookies)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

180g buckwheat flour

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon salt (plus extra to sprinkle on top if you're so inclined)

150g dark chocolate (70%), chopped (I only had 100g, so made the weight up with cinnamon baking chips)

Beat the cold butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This takes about 5 minutes and do use a handheld electric whisk if you can. It takes a while to get the butter to soften enough to take up the sugar. (I’m sure soft butter would be okay too, to cream with the sugar if you do not have an electric whisk.)

Add the egg and vanilla and whisk until everything is mixed in, and smooth.

Add all of the dry ingredients and beat until just combined, no more than that.

At this point I put the dough bowl in the fridge, as it was quite late at night, and the dough is rather sticky.

Sunday morning rolled around.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line a baking tray with non-stick baking parchment, or silicone liner.

Roll into balls (I basically just squidged the cookie dough into round shapes) and place on the baking tray. Space well apart, as they spread.

Bake for 8 - 10 minutes until the cookies are just golden around the edges. Allow to cool on the baking tray for 10 - 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish the job.

London Bakes: “Any extra dough can be popped in the freezer and baked from frozen - just add a couple of minutes to the cooking time.”

They are crisp around the edges, and soft in the middle at 10 minutes’ baking. There is a slightly different mouthfeel – perhaps akin to rice flour – but they are very tasty indeed.



Proto Cookie



Gratuitous Close Up


Hope and Forever Greenwood

Most of you will have noticed the BBC series called Sweets Made Simple, with the lovely animations and scrumptiously naughty sugar mice. 

It had the same aura of The Great British Bake Off, the scent of an era that we wish had happened, with flowery tea towels, and clipped vowels, when received pronunciation was the norm. Simpler days, like the summers that were always long and hot when you were a child, and the rain that pattered only at night. It's mostly an imagined era, though you do get people that can remember when the apron with pockets was queen of the kitchen regalia, along with pale yellow fittings, and twin tub top loading washing machines. 

A time when we all made sweets with Grandma (I know we all didn't), and didn't get fillings (oh yes we did) and life was full of sunshine. 

When Kitty Hope and Mark Greenwood burst onto our screens with the beautiful kitchen, and their sauciness (Cherry Chapel Hatpegs? Matron.) and the sheer ease with which they reintroduced the sweet making skills of the past, it was like a waft of the good old days had come in through the open window. The Bisto Kids, but made of sugar and vanilla and all things good.

Gentle, and smiling - much like the Nigel Slater show about childhood biscuits - with oh such deliciousness bubbling away in a saucepan, or setting in clouds of snowy icing sugar.

Turkish Delight reminiscent of Narnia, where a lot of us longed to be, for a while. Marshmallows tempting in their rounded whiteness, plumped out with raspberry jewels. English Almond Butter Toffee, with golden layers of crunch, and buttery smoothness surrounding the whole.

How could we fail to love them? 

Hope and Greenwood

Everything old fashioned and good shone through. People were enthralled.

Their shop in Covent Garden because a haven for grown ups escaping the stresses of work in their lunch hours, to pore over jars and jars of old time confections, and sneak a few Toffee Kisses or Aniseed Balls here and there. Their Peanut Butter Truffles became knows as Emergency Chocolates at work, because people didn’t just want them, they said they needed them.

Coconut Ice, and proper fudge, all were accessible, and made people happy. The books came out and people made pan after pan of fudges, and candies. No longer scared to work with sugar, because Kitty and Mark had taken that mystique away.

I remember reading Kitty’s blog, way back when, and roaring with laughter at how she wrote about their adventures. To have them actually ON MY TELEVISION SCREEN was the proverbial fondant on the fairycake.

I wanted to walk along the beach with them, and eat caramels by the sea. I watched them time and again when I was feeling low, because they made me smile so much. I’d even try chillies with white chocolate because they made them look so good.

Then the series ended.

They were still all over Twitter, having terribly good fun and jolly times. They were – are are -  brilliant social media-ites, caring, and engaging, making us feel that we mattered to them. Mark’s moustache became more waxed, Kitty’s shoes were still fabulous.

A few months ago, I saw that the shop had closed.

With a sinking feeling I tweeted at Kitty and she confirmed that yes, it had closed, but never say never.

Then came An Announcement.


Mark: “We can keep our names but not as a confectionery business.”

We don’t know what happened, exactly, or why. But what we DO know, is that Hope & Greenwood THE BRAND is not, and never will be, anything without the original and best Miss Hope and Mr Greenwood.

It was their love, and joy, and brilliance that made the books and the blog and the series what it was. (Not to mention a very, very fine producer in Melanie Jappy.)

I believe they still own the rights to the books, so get buying you lot!

Beware the H&G brand in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. It is NOT theirs any more. The packaging is wrong, the letters off kilter.

The rumour I heard is that the Monty Bojangles people bought them out, and then sacked them. Well if that was you, then shame on you for what you have done.

The outpouring of real grief on Twitter has been astounding. That Company may as well have just sold the Queen, or turned Nelson’s Column into a Poundland, or called Mary Berry names.

Kitty and Mark fully engaged with us, their fans and supporters, and the silence from the new people is utterly deafening in its coldness. Trying to shill the public that K&M are still Hope & Greenwood the brand.

Well I tell you, New Owners, you may be the man in black with the pointy moustache and the top hat, who has tied Our Heroes to the railway lines, but they will escape, and they will thwart you.

They will come back bigger, and better, and DAMMMIT MAN TWICE AS JOLLY AS BEFORE.

Because they have what you do not have. Passion, and heart, and us.

And unsuitable shoes.





Melitzanasalata and last minute mash.

You know that thing where you’re out shopping, and you get all excited and inspired by ingredients, buy them, bring them home, then…forget them?

Well, I always do that with aubergines, and tinned beans.

Beans are great, I eat them a lot, so long as I don’t put the tins away in the cupboard. *rolls eyes*

I love eating aubergines. But I always seem to forget about them once I’ve bought them, or mealtimes just end up being something that doesn’t go with aubergine and a few days later I find what essentially looks like  a large prune, sitting in the corner of the kitchen asking for a dignified and quick end.

Oops. I’m sorry aubergines. It honestly isn’t you. It’s me. I promise.

In a conscious effort to stop the same thing happening yet again, and to avoid being dubbed the nightshade killer, I viciously stuck my one aubergine onto a gas flame.

It wobbled around a bit, and refused to sit still.

Remembering that I had a gas diffuser in the cupboard (it’s easier to balance the Moka coffee pot on) I saw no reason not to use that as a roasting platform. The aubergine was a lot more comfortable, and I popped on some cloves of garlic and a shallot too, just for the hell of it.

I scorched them for about half an hour, so that all sides of the aubergine had some smokey skin, then roasted everything in the oven for a bit too, as the aubergine was being shockingly badly behaved and refusing to soften, but I showed it who was boss.


Once the aubergine had cooled down enough to handle, I scraped all of the soft flesh out into a bowl, and mashed it together with the soft pulp of the garlic and the shallot.


I had to add in some olive oil to thin the aubergine out a bit, then popped in a tablespoon of tahini, a squeeze of runny honey to balance the bitter hint of the tahini, and then a squeeze of lemon.

Perfect. Not at all pretty, but very tasty indeed. It became one side to go with a goose fat roast chicken a la Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries III.


The other side was where the tinned beans got their outing. Everyone else was having mashed potato, and I wanted some form of mash to go with the chicken juices, but not potato.

Borlotti beans it was.

1 400g tin borlotti beans

1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tbs almond butter*

1/4 tsp smoked garlic granules (use garlic salt if you cannot get the smoked one)

Drain the beans, then put them into a bowl and smoosh them with your hands. It’s way easier than using a potato masher, and you don’t want a smooth puree.

Once it’s mostly smooth, but with some bits of beans, get the excess of your hands – yep, sticky! – and them stir in the oil, almond butter and garlic salt.

That’s it!

I did the goose fat chicken, and it was lovely. Stayed nice and moist (ha, yes, I said moist) though the skin didn’t turn as golden as it does with butter.


Again with the not pretty, but oh my goodness this mash is gorgeous. It would be fabulous as a layer in a sandwich, maybe with roast peppers.




*I make my own as it’s cheaper (roasted almonds with the skins on, whizzed in the food processor for about 10 minutes, with added olive oil to make a paste.) but you can buy it ready done.


Chicken and Spinach with an egg and lemon sauce

There is a Greek soup called avgolemono. It is pure comfort food to any Greek, speaking to us of the days when we lived at home and Mum fed us soup when we weren’t well. Or when we had a broken heart. Or just because we loved it so.

I remember being on holiday with all the cousins, one Easter, in a big rambling house in St Osyth, and my sister, Nina, had made an enormous pan of it. It was in the fridge, and my Mum kept sneaking into the kitchen and stealing a mugful of it.

It is usually made from simmered whole chickens, their flesh turned silky and slippery, all their goodness gone into the stock that surrounded them.

Once the birds have been taken out, and portioned (never throw anything away) the stock is skimmed and brought to a gentle simmer. Rice is added, and when that is tender, the heat is turned off, and one ladleful of the stock is whisked slowly into eggs beaten with fresh lemon juice, until they heat up.

This is then stirred back into the stock/rice mixture, producing a cloudy, cream looking soup. We either pop the chicken back in, or keep it warm and eat it afterwards. Cubed halloumi can be added in to the soup instead of the chicken, and the chicken used the next day.

There are other uses for the avgolemono sauce. As a dressing over steamed vegetables, a sauce to pour over stuffed vine leaves, or just added to other dishes to thicken the sauce up.

This was christened How to Make Simon Wibble Chicken, because the first time he ate it, he almost fainted with happiness.

3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly lengthways

1 bag ready washed spinach

3 chicken breasts, skin removed (it will just go flabby otherwise) and then cubed

1 large lemon

1 large egg

1 medium white onion, very thinly sliced

1 200g block feta cheese, cubed

Slice the onions and fry them until translucent and soft in a decent amount of olive oil. (Decent may vary from normal person to Greek)

Add the garlic and also cook through but DO NOT brown it.

Add the chicken. Stir well to colour all over.

Add the spinach. Just lay it on top of the chicken so it steams and put a lid on.

After about 10 - 15 minutes the chicken should be done and the spinach wilted.

There will be a LOT of liquid - this is good!

Add in the cubed feta, stir to mix well and turn off the heat.

Juice the lemon.

Beat the egg and lemon juice together and gradually add spoonfuls of the hot liquid to the mixture then return the egg mix to the pan.

Turn the heat back on but it has to be a very low heat.

Stir continuously until the liquid thickens. It should look like a cream sauce.

Season to taste.

Sadly I have no photo, because we ate it too quickly. I expect I shall just have to make it again, and update here when I do.

I imagine you could make this with blocks of very firm tofu, or chunks of Quorn fillets, though add some vegetable stock powder to the juices to up the flavour content. You don’t want it to be bland.

Eat with a spoon and a friend.


Something to prep for Christmas

I know. I know, we haven’t even had Hallowe’en yet, but if I don’t write this down now I shall forget it, and it’s quite a useful thing to have in the cupboard. Plus today being the day of the mad scramble to change the clocks/remember what time to change the clocks/find out which clocks set themselves means we are now done with BST, so Autumn can officially start.

One of those scents that always invokes the latter part of the year, and Christmas for me, along with cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg is orange in all its forms. I read a cookery book when I was very young (yes, I really did start early) , and it showed pictures of a Christmas table, all frosted grapes, ivy tendrils and beautiful clementines. I still want a Christmas table like that, though I fear it would be impractical. I’ll leave that up to Ina Garten.

If I can’t have the table, I can at least have the oranges.

I hate wasting anything, so whenever I juiced some oranges, I used to loathe throwing away the skins until I’d figured out something to do with them.

I’ve chopped the skins into tiny pieces in the food processor and made marmalade. It made one big jar, which made me feel a lot better about things.

The other thing was to zest the oranges first, and then dry it out in the oven on a very low heat overnight. This makes a lovely addition to cakes and cookies, without adding extra moisture. It also makes the whole house smell of Christmas while you’re doing it.

You could mix it up with sugar, and perhaps pop a cinnamon stick in there too, ready for your Christmas baking.


Have a photo from Christmas last year, in Cyprus.

The garden belongs to a fabulous restaurant, in an old Cypriot house, run by a mother and daughter team. It’s called Ikimiz, which means ‘the two of us’.

This just added to my idea perception of the orange as a Christmas fruit, not to mention the amount of orange that gets added to Cypriot breads and pastries at celebration times.

Quite magical, seeing them there in the dark.


I shall soon start my annual hunt for Christmas oranges again.


Low Carb ‘Cornbread’

I do hope that I don’t harp on about low carb stuff to people too much, it just happens to be the way I need to eat if I want to feel healthy, and for my body to stop hurting.

Weight loss is a side effect. It’s a useful one, for sure, but that’s all it is. I am perfectly happy with my body, bigger or smaller, but my KNEES are happier with it a bit smaller.

I’ve been on a low carb kick recently as I had to fit into Ryanair seats, and that is a challenge for average sized people, let alone voluptuous goddesses* like yours truly. Lowering the carbs is the best way for me to do that. Not NO carbs, just lower carbs.

I do get the craving for bread, every so often. It’s just so useful!

I regularly make a version of Chick Pea Flour Focaccia, but I’d run out of the flour, so turned to the internet.

Green Onion Cornbread? Yes please!

Did I have any green onions? No. So the first attempt was made with cooked shallots, and it was okay, but just a bit dry. Plus I wasn’t sure whether the 2 tbs butter went in melted, or unmelted, and I think I chose the wrong one.


I purposely went out and bought spring onions, and tried again.

Melted butter this time, and a touch more sour cream, plus I upped the salt. It made all the difference.

1 cup almond flour
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2  tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. (It was 170C on my fan oven.)

Mix all the ingredients together well with a whisk.

Pour into well greased baking dish (I use a 7” diameter cast iron pan), then bake for 20 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

Et voila!

Cast iron panful

I had a wedge with a bowl of chilli, and then it made a rather good sandwich the next day too. I already had roasted peppers in the fridge, so I just popped some sliced manchego in there too. No butter or oil was needed, the bread had stayed quite moist, covered, in the fridge.

Roasted pepper and cheese sandwich







*Yes, I am a goddess. Did you think I was going to tell you I wasn’t?

Vanilla Tea Duck

Since I started reading Ottolenghi’s Nopi, and misread ‘lamb with vanilla braised chicory’ as ‘vanilla braised lamb’, I’ve been wanting to cook meat with vanilla. One recipe has already been done, and I’ll post about that soon but on Friday I had another ‘I’ve got a recipe stuck in my head’ moment that I needed to exorcise. (Please tell me that other people get that too?)

I love vanilla anyway, with its caramel notes and sweet, heavy scent. I don’t really prescribe to the notion that certain spices are only for sweet, or only for savoury (though I’m not sure yet of a sweet use for cumin) so I do mix things around a bit. The amount of times that people have been aghast that I put cinnamon butter onto a roast chicken before it goes into the oven…

2 Gressingham duck legs

The Marinade

3 tbs Ceylon Tea with Vanilla

3 tbs dark soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cardamom pod, crushed

1 tbs runny honey

1 tbs smoked garlic oil

Pour 2.5 pints boiling water (you need enough liquid to immerse the duck legs) over the marinade ingredients, then let it infuse until it’s properly cooled down.

Strain the bits out, and put the duck legs in.

Leave overnight in the fridge so that the duck soaks up all of the flavour.


Pat the duck dry, and put the marinade in a pan to reduce.

When it has reduced by three quarters, and I will admit this takes some time, add 3 tbs soft muscovado sugar and 1 heaped tsp of marmite (yes, Marmite), mix well, and continue reducing until it’s syrupy. Leave aside to cool and thicken some more.

Put the duck legs into a pan, sprinkle with a little salt, then put into the oven at 170C for half an hour. After that, then turn it right down to 90C and cook for about 3/4 hours.

The Pancakes

This is someone else’s recipe that I found on that there interweb, and tweaked. They used ground almonds, but I had coconut flour, so went with that, as it seemed to fit better with my vaguely Asian theme. I’m not sure I’d use this exact recipe again, as they were quite fragile but they were extremely tasty, if not particularly malleable.

4 oz cream cheese

1 cup coconut flour or 3/4 cup almond flour

4 eggs

1/4 cup coconut or almond milk

pinch salt

I cooked them in a small pan, on a medium heat, and used coconut oil to stop them sticking.

Pour the batter into the hot pan, until it spreads out to about 3 inches across. (My first one went right to the edges of the pan and would NOT come out, hence deciding on the smaller size, so I could at least get the spatula underneath.

Once you can ease the edge up without tearing the pancake, jiggle a spatula under it and flip over.

They do keep quite well, and taste just as nice cold, so I made them before I cooked the veggies.

The Vegetables

I started cooking these when the duck came out of the oven and was resting.


1 large courgette, cut across into 3, then each section cut into 1/8ths.

light olive oil

sea salt

3 spring onions cut crosswise into 2, then each piece split in half lengthways

Stir fry the courgette pieces until they start to turn brown, season with a pinch of seal salt, then add the onion strings and cook until they wilt a bit. The courgette should still be a little crunchy.

Pile onto a plate with the pancakes, and the duck, and a wee bowl of the sauce.



The duck meat isn’t overly sweet, but the vanilla adds a smoothness, and a roundness to the taste. The slightly sweeter taste works incredibly well with the tang of the spring onions, and the slight crunch of the courgettes.

The coconut pancakes definitely work with the vegetables, and the dish really works as a whole.

Something I’d cook again? Yes, definitely.


Pastry, Baking Blind and a Nice Big Tart

I’m not a pastry maker. More of an eater, for sure, but making it and deploying it seems to be one of life’s mental blocks. Discovering you can make it in a food processor made the Making easier, but the deployment? I’m still pretty cack-handed.

This is never going to be me.


However, I have finally succeeded in making pastry that’s edible, not reminiscent of dwarf bread, and crisply short.

Thank you, Jamie Oliver, for this recipe.


I made it in the food processor, adding 1 tsp vanilla extract to it, and watched in wonder as it all came together in a pale gold ball. I it wrapped in cling film and put in the fridge to rest.

While that was resting, I made a frangipane filling. Tex loves bakewell tarts, so I wanted something along those lines. For that I turned to Mary Berry.


For the filling:

75g (3oz) butter, softened (I used salted as that’s what I had)

75g (3oz) golden caster sugar

2 eggs, beaten

75g (3oz) ground almonds

1 tsp almond extract (we really like almond flavour)

1/2 tsp vanilla

Rolling the pastry out is usually where it goes wrong. This one was very well behaved but the edges seemed to crack a bit. No matter. It draped into my new fluted Le Creuset pie dish nicely. (Thank you Karen!)

I did the rolling pin over the top thing,. but that just seemed to squash the pastry rather than cut it. I expect the pie dish’s sides are too thick.

Put baking parchment in, (I scrunched it up foist so that it was more malleable)filled with lentils and baked blind for 15 minutes, then removed the lentils and baked for another 15. That SHOULD have been another 5, but I misread the recipe because I was over-excited.

It still came out very nicely. A bit brown, but tasty.


I spread spiced apple butter over the cooled base, filled it with the frangipane, angsted that there wasn't enough and baked it anyway.

The offcuts were made into 2 small tart shells, baked in a Lakeland perforated silicone mould then filled with fresh cherries and more frangipane.


Definitely one to make again! Judging by Tex’s reaction, this may be one that doesn’t get taken to work to share out…

Frangipane and apple butter tart


Melty Nutella Ice-lollies


It’s all Kavey’s fault. Yes it is.

She runs a lovely blog, and has a Bloggers Scream For Ice-cream monthly challenge. This month it was ice lollies.

My first effort was nice, but way, way too sweet, and failed totally at coming out of my make-shift moulds. (Condensed milk mixed with rhubarb and custard jam topped with peanut butter.)

So I tried again. I wanted rich, but not heavy. Summer to me always means Italy, and Italy means hazelnuts and hazelnuts mean…


These are easy, though I admit they would be much easier with silicone lolly moulds! I only made enough for 2, as that was all the room I had in the freezer.

Melty Nutella Lollies

100g Nutella

100ml hazelnut milk

1 tsp hazelnut flavour syrup (the kind to flavour coffee)

Whisk all the ingredients together.

Pop a dollop of Nutella in the bottom of 2 plastic cups.

Pour the mixture into the cups up to about halfway.

Put them in the freezer.

When frozen enough to insert a stick, er, insert a stick. I didn’t have a stick. I used what I had.

When frozen solid, cut the cup open and release the goodies!

These really are very melty, though it being 25C in Romford today probably didn’t help.



My next idea involves filling the cup with Nutella, making a well in the centre, and filling it with the hazelnut milk/Nutella mixture. Because it would be FUN. (The Nutella freezes more solidly than the milk mixture.

(And also buying proper lolly moulds…)


Jet2holidays Country Cuisine Challenge

I was asked if I wanted to take part in the Jet2Holidays Country Cuisine Challenge, and when I saw that Larnaca was one of the regions on the list that we could choose from, I jumped at the chance.
My father was born in Larnaca and even though, sadly, I’ve never been to visit, just passed through the airport, I still find I have a small link to it though the stories that Dad used to tell me from when he was a young boy there. My mum now lives on the Turkish side, so I don’t come via Larnaca any more. The food is very similar though because, let’s face it, we’re all from roughly the same part of the world, and we all eat bread and houmous, just via different recipes.

Cyprus is beautiful, and is said to be the birthplace of the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite. I would very much recommend a visit, and once you've been, you will find yourself wanting to go back again and again. Jet2Holiday's Larnaca page is here, so go and have a good rummage and  choose where you want to go! http://www.jet2holidays.com/cyprus/larnaca-area 

Cypriot cuisine has Middle Eastern overtones. There’s a very good Wikipedia article here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cypriot_cuisine 

We’ve been invaded by just about everyone, and kept a lot of the culinary influences. We might not have wanted you as our overlords, but we’ll take your spices thank you very much!
Cumin is one of those spices. Mix it with cinnamon and you have a heady, rich blend that, to me, just says Cyprus. They are the spices in Hirino Spithkasimo (Homestyle Pork) which is a great favourite of mine. Good and hearty, and another one of those dishes that just gets better over time. It was a bit too warm today to have the oven on for any length of time, so I thought I’d use the same spices, but on lamb chops. You know how Greek people love their lamb, right?

Given the lovely weather, chargrilled meat and salads just seemed the right thing to do so I went to my local Turkish shop, who stocks lots of things from Cyprus, to see what I could find. I never really plan ahead, I just go and see what looks good.

There was gorgeous broadleaf spinach, sweeter and less iron heavy in flavour than the small leafed variety. Potatoes still red with the earth they were grown in, small cucumbers, more crisp than the English ones. Greek yoghurt too, and lovely Cypriot anari cheese, made in Larnaca.



There is something about those potatoes. Not just their flavour, which is creamy and rich, but the fact that they are covered in the earth of Cyprus. They are usually sold with a heavier covering of earth, and that keeps them fresh. It makes me smile to have that dirt on my hands.

So. Lamb was my choice of meat, and anyone who has been to Greece over Easter will be well aware of how the smell of lamb cooking over the coals permeates the country. Lamb cooked on the barbecue it had to be. Coals, not gas.

The butcher had gorgeous chump chops in stock, so four of them found their way into my shopping basket.

Cumin and Cinnamon Crusted Lamb chops

4 chump chops, fat ON (never de-fat meat that’s going to be barbecued. That’s pure flavour and juiciness.)
3/4 tbs cinnamon
1 tbs ground cumin
1 tbs dried mint
1/2 tsp sea salt

Put the chops into a bowl, douse with olive oil and lemon juice, then sprinkle in the herbs and spices. 

Make sure every surface of the meat is covered with the spice mix. Don’t be scared to add more if there are gaps in the coverage.

Leave them to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours, or overnight if you can.

Take them out of the fridge half an hour before you want to start cooking.

I lit the  bag of charcoal, and after about 20-30 minutes it had a fine covering of white ash.

Got the chops from their marinade, placed them in the middle of the grill of the barbecue and cooked them for around 10 minutes on each side, then moved them to the edges to cook a little more but at a lower heat. (I put the flatbreads on once I’d moved the lamb.)

They ended up sizzling, juicy and slightly pink inside.


Lemon Potato Salad

Cyprus is covered in lemon trees. Everybody seems to have one, and there is so much fruit everywhere. I imagine that people must get fed up with them, there are so many.

Every gathering I went to as a child seemed to have potato salad on the table. Usually dressed with a lot of lemon and olive oil, and with chopped parsley. I wanted something like that, but lighter, so I added a few more vegetables for crunch.

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I had a lot of garlic and lemon oil left over from cooking garlic courgettes on Friday night, so used that, but any good full flavoured olive oil will be fine.

2 large Cyprus potatoes, peeled and boiled til soft, drain and keep warm

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 small cucumber, chopped

1 stalk celery, very finely chopped (optional)

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put the warm potatoes in a bowl, pour over the olive oil and lemon.

Add a shake of salt, the rest of the vegetables, then mix well.

Keep this one at room temperature.


I had to do something with that lovely spinach. I knew that I had half a jar of roasted aubergines to use, so a spinach aubergine salad came to mind.


These jars are well worth looking out for. Most Turkish shops will stock them. The aubergines are roasted, smoked and peeled, and chopped. I had a beautiful soup made from them when I was in Cyprus, and still have the recipe that the café owner gave me, written in a scrap of paper, tucked into my spice box.

This is not a pretty salad by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a very tasty one.

Spinach and Smoked Aubergine Salad

1 large bunch of broadleaf spinach, roots chopped off and VERY well washed

1/2 a jar of roasted aubergines

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a wide pan, and gently cook the garlic until translucent.

While that’s cooking, chop the spinach finely and give it a second rinse. They do seem to hold sand.

Put the chopped spinach into the oil, and cook it down. Lots of water will come out, so tip most of it out, then add in the aubergine and keep cooking.

More moisture will happen, but keep cooking and eventually it will evaporate.

A little liquid is fine, as that keeps it light.

Taste it and season to taste with salt and lemon. This is very nice when it’s warm, as the smoke seems to come through more.


A Cypriot meal wouldn’t be a meal without bread. I didn’t have time to make a whole knead, rise, knead, rise loaf so flat bread was an option, plus I wanted something that I could cook on the barbecue. I HATE wasting the heat left in a barbecue once the main cooking’s been done.

I did a search for ‘quick flatbread’ and found a Jamie Oliver recipe for Navajo Flat Breads. Easily adaptable, so some of my immense supply of Cyprus mint went into them.


I certainly didn’t want 10 of them, as there was only me, so I halved the recipe.

Navajo Flatbreads

300g strong white flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp dried mint

1/2 tsp ground cumin

3 tbs olive oil

75ml warm water (or more if needed)

Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and herbs or spices in a large bowl. I use a dinner knife for that bit.
Make a bit of a dip in the centre, then pour in the olive oil and the warm water. (I found that I needed more than the 75ml)

Use the knife to gradually bring in the flour from the edge of the bowl, and add another splash of water if you think it's too dry.

Once it starts to combine, wet your hands and use them to really bring it all together until you have a cohesive ball of dough.

Dust your hands and a clean work surface with flour and knead the dough with your hands until it is smooth and elastic. This will take about 5 to 10 minutes. (I oiled my hands, that helped a lot.)

Pop the dough back into the bowl, dust it with a bit more flour, then cover and leave to relax.

After about 10 minutes, divide your dough into 5 equal-sized balls, then lightly oil your hands and press each ball between your palms to flatten them slightly.

Dust with a little flour as you go, and pat and slap the dough from the palm of one hand to the top of the other. Turn and twist the dough about in a circular movement as you go and keep slapping from hand to hand – each flatbread should be about 1cm thick. (I admit that I didn’t do this. I just flattened them and then rolled them out.)

Then I popped them onto the barbecue until they were cooked through. They puff up a little bit.


I’d made the dessert earlier in the day, to give the flavours a chance to get to know each other.

Anari, Rose, Pistachio and Honey Dessert

1 package of fresh anari cheese (you can use well drained ricotta)

5-6 tbs Greek yoghurt

2 tsp rose water (add 1 first and see how you like the taste. If you don’t like rose water, use orange flower water.)

5 tbs honey

Mash the anari, and mix in the yoghurt. It won’t go completely smooth but it will even out.

Add in the rosewater and the honey. Taste it, and see if you need a bit more honey.

Leave it to sit in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Pile into a dish, and top with toasted pistachio nuts and a bit more honey.


All in all, it was a very successful dinner. I felt that I had done my Dad proud, and managed to get the flavours that he would have recognised into my cooking.

Miss you, Dad.

The flying ants descended just as I finished dishing up, so I decamped inside. I appear to have a very well behaved cat, as she totally ignored the food, and went back to sleep again.


This lot also did me for a breakfast, a lunch, and a dinner! Anari dessert with tinned peaches is rather lovely for breakfast.

Thank you to Jet2Holidays for providing the budget for my shopping.


The Greek Larder

Greek Larder

There are days when I just want Greek food. Not food that I have cooked, but food where I do not have to do the clearing up afterwards.

One evening earlier this year, the sun had been shining all day, and I just craved lemons and olive oil and fish. Then The Greek Larder Tweeted a photo of their fish platter, and that was that.

Called Dining Partner, and we decided to go.

It’s only a bus ride from my work to King’s Cross, and then a short walk over the canal. This time we nearly got blown over trying to get into the restaurant. It’s on the corner and, believe me, the wind fair gusts in through their front door, so do ask for a table away from it. We suffered that night from a raft of people either unable to close the door, or who wanted to stand and hold it open whilst they chatted, and it got very cold after a while as we were sat behind some open shelves that provided no shelter.


That was the only thing that I would have a moan about, because everything else was perfect.

I’m just going to link to the menu, because there were so many things that I wanted to try, that choosing was almost unbearable, but we managed. Eventually. http://www.thegreeklarder.co.uk/menu/all-day-menu/

We didn’t have bread, because we knew what would happen. Eat all the bread, fail to fit anything else in. I didn’t want to miss anything!

It made sense to order the Aegean shrimp & squid fritto, slow cooked button onions, tomato & Santorinian capers , seeing as that was what had started me off on this route in the first place.


I am not a fan of prawns cooked with their shells on. Ok, cooked, maybe, but served with them on, not so much, unless they are really big and I can shell them easily. These ones did have their shells on, but they were so fine, and delicate that I could eat the whole thing.  So I did. It made my life much easier.

The squid was perfect. Tender, and clean tasting. I’m not sure the onions were needed, but I ate them anyway, as they were so juicy.

The next plate was the home cured salt cold starter, and it was utterly beautiful. Crunchy batter, with salty steamed fish inside, but with a good bite to it. Yes, salty, but in a good way. How your lips taste after a dip in the sea, and redolent of sunny days on the beach.


The skordalia underneath it was the best that I have eaten, and I could have eaten a bowl of that on its own with a spoon and some bread. Not too garlicky, but smooth and rich. I just didn’t want it to end.

Now, I will admit that I hated salt cod as a child, but I expect that came from having to spend two days in a house smelling of fish while Dad soaked the plank of cod and then cooked, skinned and deboned it.

I was happily converted by salt cod croquettes in Italy, back in the late 70s, and this dish surpassed that memory.

Simon had the Kefalotiri saganaki, with smoked red onions, and candied chanterelles.


I have never eaten a candied mushroom before, and this was a revelation. Very sweet, but with a musky back tone to it. Plus what’s not to like about smooth and tangy fried cheese?

Next – the mains. I tend to choose by way of what I wouldn’t cook at home. Cuttlefish is not something that I could attempt, mainly because I have a contact allergy to fish and seafood.

The Casserole of cuttlefish and artichokes was destined to be mine. Sounds very simple, and it was but the amount of flavour they got into that stock was unbelievable. Deeply savoury, but light, fresh and lemony with a good hit of herbs. This came under the heading of a ‘loathe to share’ dish.

The cuttlefish was meaty, with a good bite to it but it was not in any way tough.  


Simon ordered Seasonal filo pie, fennel salad & tzatziki. The filling was spinach and feta, so he was a happy boy. There was a lot of pastry crust, but it was very good pastry, so all was well.


We really did not need the side salad, but it had dakos in it, so…there you go. Plus I adore griddle lettuce, so a salad of Griddled little gem lettuce, fennel, pistachio and Cretan rusks was going to be a winner for me.


Dessert? Not a chance. It was time to roll home.

All in all, a lovely evening. I even had a foray into the deli counter and bought some lovely smoked metsovone cheese to take home. I’m not allowed to buy olives at the moment, I have enough from my own tree to get through.

Go, and go soon. This place is so good, and I will no doubt be back a few times to see how the menu changes with the seasons. If it’s winter though, just don’t sit by the door!