Zest for life – my latest seasonal lemon recipes for Waitrose Weekend

fullsizeoutput_3935In case you missed the January issue of Waitrise Weekend with my lovely lemon recipes, here they are online.

I love lemons for their ability to be both exotic and so familiar at the same time. We’ve been cooking with them for a very long time. Originally from southern Asia, they arrived in North Africa and southern Europe with the Moors a thousand years ago. By the 15th century lemons had become popular in northern Europe, and records show the cultivated fruit arriving in England by the end of the century, shipped from the Azores. Lemons were valued not only for their astringent flavour with a place in so many dishes and drinks but also for its therapeutic properties. In the 17th century lemons were first recognised for their ability to prevent scurvy amongst seamen. The fruit has so many uses, both culinary and non-culinary, I couldn’t begin to list them here.

Lemon trees bloom throughout the year and the fruit is picked from six to ten times, which is why they are such a useful winter ingredient. At this time of year, our lemons come from the flowering the previous spring – ‘primafiore’ lemons – and with their glorious bright skin colour and scented skin and flesh, after the heavy foods of the festive season, cooking with lemon adds a ray of sunshine and a boost of zingy flavour to everyday dishes. I’ve chosen to use them here in three favourite savoury dishes that are lifted to another plane by the presence of our favourite citrus.


Pork and pine nut meatballs with lemon and rosemary

I love the way the lemon cuts through the rich pork, making this dish taste so fresh tasting. I either serve them as shown with a salad or toss with spaghetti…


Serves 4/Prepare 20 minutes/Cook 20 minutes

1 unwaxed lemon

500g pork mince

2 – 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 large egg, beaten

2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted and chopped

2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned

4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

400g can plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped

watercress and spinach salad and extra virgin olive oil to serve

1 Grate the lemon rind and squeeze the juice. Mix the mince, half the garlic, egg, rosemary, pine nuts, lemon rind, half the lemon juice and seasoning together in a mixing bowl until thoroughly combined. The easiest way to do this is with your hands. Roll into 20 – 24 walnut-sized balls. Cover and chill while you make the sauce.

2 Heat a tablespoon of oil in a medium pan, add the anchovies, chilli and remaining garlic. Stir over a high heat for 30 seconds then add the tomatoes and seasoning and simmer for 10 minutes until you have a thick sauce.

3 Roll the meatballs in the flour. Heat the remaining oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the meatballs in batches for 5 – 6 minutes until browned on all sides and nearly cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper and add to the tomato sauce. Simmer gently for 5 minutes. Serve with watercress and spinach salad dressed with the remaining lemon juice and a splash of extra virgin olive oil.

Busy mum’s tip:  If short on time use one of the ready-made chilled tomato sauces for pasta such as Waitrose cherry tomato and basil sauce


Sticky lemon, soy and honey roast guinea fowl 

I’m cooking guinea fowl more often these days as one bird is just the right size for two of us. This marinade is a variation on an old family favourite with cumin and honey from my first Busy Mum’s Cookbook and works just as well. It’s a great all in one dish that only needs a salad or green veg to make a complete meal

IMG_4792Serves 4/Prepare 10 minutes plus marinating/Cook 1 ¼ hour

2 tbsp cold pressed rapeseed oil

2 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp ground ginger

2 lemons

1 small piece of root ginger, sliced

1 large guinea fowl or free range chicken

1 Mix together the oil, honey, soy sauce, ground ginger with seasoning. Squeeze the juice of half the lemon and cut the squeezed half into slices. Add to the marinade then our over the guinea fowl and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 15 minutes (ideally for an hour or more if you have time).

2 Heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Remove the bird from the marinade. Place the other lemon half and the root ginger inside the guinea fowl and put in a deep roasting tin that is a neat fit.

3 Pour over 150ml boiling water and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C Gas mark 4 for a further 45 – 60 minutes, basting regularly until the guinea fowl is cooked through, the skin is golden and the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a skewer. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Carve and serve with the juices spooned over the meat.

Busy mum’s tip: Cook wedges of sweet potato around the chicken for an all-in-one easy roast.


Roast cauliflower with lemon caper salsa verde

I have become a cauliflower addict over the last few years. No longer the boring veg with cheese, I now roast it, curry it or add it to soup and stews. This method of cooking is so simple and easy and retains lots of nutrients and flavour.

IMG_4807 Serves 2 as a supper or 4 as a starter or vegetable accompaniment/Prepare 15 minutes/Cook 40 minutes

1 large cauliflower or 2 small ones

2 unwaxed lemons

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1 tbsp capers

20g walnut pieces

½ 25g pack flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 Preheat the oven to 200C gas mark 6. Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower and cut vertically into slices about 1.5cm thick. Arrange in a single layer in a roasting tin. Cut one of the lemons in half and cut into thin slices. Tuck these amongst the cauliflower then drizzle with half the olive oil, juice from the other half of the lemon and seasoning. Cook in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes, turning once, until tender and golden brown.

2 While the cauliflower is cooking, finely chop the garlic, capers and walnuts either by hand or in a processor – just take care not to over-process. Place in a bowl and stir in the parsley, grated rind of the other lemon with its juice, remaining oil and plenty of seasoning.

3 Remove the cauliflower from the oven and arrange on a warm serving plate then drizzle over the salsa verde and serve.

Busy mum’s tip: This is also good served at room temperature as a salad. Try the recipe with broccoli or cavolo nero as an alternative


Three quick ideas with lemons


Tuna and lemon spaghetti

My favourite quick supper for two – flake the meat from a 70g can Charles Bassett white tuna in extra virgin olive oil. Mix with the oil from the can, the grated rind and juice of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp finely chopped capers, a seeded and chopped red chilli and a handful of chopped flat leafed parsley (in summer I sometimes use fresh basil). Toss with freshly cooked spaghetti, season and serve.

Ginger lemon pudding

Whisk double cream until just thick then whisk in grated lemon rind and juice and sugar to taste. Dunk gingernut biscuits in a little amontillado or cream sherry then layer up in glass dishes with the lemon mixture. Chill overnight to let the flavours meld and enjoy one of my favourite tastes of the 70s.

Baked fish with lemon roast potatoes

This is one of my favourite ways to cook fish. Mix thinly sliced charlotte potatoes with a third of their weight of thinly sliced lemon. Toss in olive oil and seasoning adding a clove or two of chopped garlic if you want to and spread over the base of a shallow roasting tin, tucking several fresh bay leaves among the potatoes. Cook in a really hot oven until almost tender and golden at the edges then arrange any kind of fish fillets or whole cleaned fish on top (skin side up if skin on), drizzle with a little olive oil and bake until cooked through.


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Three must-have mushroom recipes…


In case you missed my latest set of seasonal recipes in Waitrose Weekend two weeks ago, here they are….

These days we are all used to thinking of colourful vegetables such as peppers and aubergines as containing lots of useful nutrients and minerals but the less showy mushroom is just as useful nutritionally. These members of the fungi family are not only full of flavour but are also a great source of valuable vitamins, including vitamins D and B, iron, and selenium, all vital to good health as we head into the winter months with little sunshine. As a cook, I welcome their rich meaty flavours and texture. They add depth and interest to many dishes at this time of year. The secret is to give them careful cooking as they are full of water (most mushrooms are 90% water!) and can go slimy if treated in the wrong way. Short, fast cooking is the trick, which also helps to retain the valuable nutrients.

There are plenty of different varieties of cultivated mushrooms now available in store from the more familiar button and chestnut to exotic mixes. Picking the right one for the recipe is the secret to success – at one end of the scale button mushrooms retain their texture and colour so are good in chicken or lighter dishes whilst dark rich field mushrooms can be stuffed and baked or sliced and used in pies and braises.

Mushroom and coconut curry with coriander chutney

Mushrooms haven’t been traditionally used in Indian cookery apart from in the south of the country but make a very tasty speedy supper dish when cooked with curry spices and coconut milk. Use fat Portobello mushrooms thickly sliced or halved and top with a simple fresh coriander chutney

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAServes 2/Prep 15 mins/Cook 10 minutes

1 tbsp cold pressed rapeseed oil
1 echalion shallot, finely chopped
1.5 cm piece ginger, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 – 2 red chillies, seeded and chopped
1 – 2 tsp Cooks Ingredients Keralan curry paste (you can use curry powder)
250g Portobello mushrooms, thickly sliced or halved
200g coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
50g LoveLife cashew nuts (or almonds)
1/2 pack fresh coriander, finely chopped
natural yogurt to serve (optional)

1 Heat the oil in a medium pan and add the shallot, ginger, garlic and half the chilli. Cook for several minutes until soft then add the curry paste and cook for a minute. Put the heat up and add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat for a couple of minutes until lightly browned.

2 Turn down the heat and add the coconut milk, juice of ½ lime and cashews. Season and simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce is thickened and the mushrooms are tender but not collapsed.

3 Chop the coriander and mix with the remaining lime juice and remaining chopped chilli. Serve the mushrooms with the coriander chutney, lime wedges and a dollop of yogurt if you feel like it. I served mine with the lovely LoveLife red Camargue and wild rice mix but you can serve it with warm Indian bread.

Flaky mushroom, celeriac and thyme pie

There is nothing more comforting now as the days get shorter than a well-baked pie. This one marries the earthy flavours of mushrooms with mellow rich celeriac – a marriage made in heaven to be sure. If you have the time, try the quick flaky pastry for its lovely texture and flavour but if not you can substitute ready-made shortcrust pastry with butter


Serves 6/Prep 40 minutes plus chilling/Cook 1 hour

For the quick flaky pastry:
175g butter, stored in the freezer
225g plain flour
beaten egg to glaze
For the filling:
1 large celeriac, about 800g
vegetable stock
3 tbsp double cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
15g butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 x 200g packs mixed exotic mushrooms
2 tbsp each chopped fresh thyme and parsley 

1 To make the pastry, put the butter in the freezer for half an hour. Sift the flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Wrap one end of the butter in foil and coarsely grate into the flour. Mix to coat the butter in the flour then add 85 – 100ml chilled water and mix to a soft dough with a knife. Bring together with your hands into a dough, wrap in film and chill for 30 minutes.

2 Preheat the oven to 200C gas mark 6. Peel the celeriac and cut into thick matchsticks. Cook in the boiling stock for 15 – 20 minutes until tender. Toss with seasoning, cream and mustard and leave to cool. Meanwhile cook the onion and garlic in the hot oil and butter in a large frying pan for a few minutes until softened then add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat for 5 minutes until lightly browned. Stir in the herbs and seasoning and tip the pan ingredients onto a plate to cool.

3 Roll out two thirds of the pastry and use to line a 20cm spring-release cake tin. Spoon the mushroom mixture over the pastry and spread level. Arrange the celeriac over the top. Roll out the remaining pastry and use to cover the pie, pinching to seal the edges. Brush the pastry with beaten egg, cut a steam hole in the centre and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden. Serve hot in wedges with salad or cold for packed lunches.

Baked chicken with mushrooms and Gorgonzola

This dish reminds me of my mother’s cooking – easy to prepare and a classic combination of flavours that everyone loves. Button mushrooms work best here as they stay firm and don’t leach colour into the sauce. You can swap the chicken thighs for breast fillets but I prefer their texture and taste, and cooking chicken on the bone adds enormously to the flavour of the finished dish


Serves 4/Prep 15 minutes/Cook 25 minutes

4 large chicken thighs
1 tbsp seasoned flour
1 tsp olive oil
15g butter
400g button mushrooms, halved
2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
50ml white wine
150 ml chicken stock
50g Gorgonzola, cubed
50ml crème fraiche
chopped fresh flat leafed parsley to serve

1 Preheat the oven to 180C gas mark 4. Toss the chicken thighs in the seasoned flour to coat. Heat half the oil and half the butter together in a flameproof casserole and cook the chicken thighs until golden brown, turning once. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

2 Add the rest of the oil and butter to the pan and add the mushrooms. Cook over a high heat for 3 -4 minutes until lightly browned, then return the chicken thighs to the pan, add the tarragon, wine, stock and seasoning and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and place in the oven for 25 minutes.

3 Scatter over the Gorgonzola and pour over the cream, return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce just thickened. Scatter with parsley and serve with egg tagliatelle to soak up the delicious sauce.

Cook’s tip: you can use skinless thighs or breasts here for a lighter dish but for the classic full flavoured finish as a special treat I like to leave the skin on but make sure it is well browned


Three quick ideas with mushrooms

Baking large field mushrooms with a stuffing makes an easy lunch or simple supper. Try this pesto and olive crust – remove the stalks from large flat mushrooms and chop. Stuff the shells with a mixture of basil pesto, dried breadcrumbs and chopped Kalamata olives with the chopped mushroom stalks. You can bind with an egg yolk if it needs it. Scatter with pine nuts and grated pecorino or Parmesan and a little olive oil and bake in a hot oven until golden and tender.

Papardelle with mushroom, pancetta and rosemary – mushrooms make a wonderfully meaty quick sauce for pasta. Fry pancetta cubes in a little oil then add sliced portabellini mushrooms, fresh rosemary, chopped garlic and cook over a high heat. Add a dash of white wine then toss with cooked pasta and grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Mushrooms on toast – one of my favourite ways to enjoy mushrooms at their simplest and best. Chestnut mushrooms work well here and I slice them then fry them quickly in a little butter, add a chopped clove of garlic, cook for a minute, then scatter over plenty of chopped flat leaf parsley and pile onto toasted sourdough. You can add a dash of cream or sherry to finish but the dish works well without

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A quick fridge supper – roasted spiced chickpeas and tomatoes

IMG_4767Last night in the fridge I found leftover canned chickpeas, squashy vine tomotoes on their last legs, fresh coriander and lime and the mixed Greek yogurt and mango chutney I served with my pheasant tikka recipe on Saturday. They became a really tasty easy supper like this:

Roasted spiced chickpeas and tomatoes with lime


For two, I mixed 250 – 300g (a drained 400g can) of cooked chickpeas with 2 banana shallots cut into wedges and added 1 tbsp Pure Kent rapeseed oil, two teaspoons each of ground cumin and ground coriander and salt and pepper. I spread this over the base of a shallow roasting tin and cooked for 15 minutes in the oven at 220C fan oven 190C gas mark 7, stirring once or twice until golden. I cut 4 large vine tomatoes into wedges and mixed them with a seeded and chopped red chilli and 2 chopped cloves garlic and added them to the roasting tin for a further 20 – 25 minutes until they were softened and the whole thing smelt wonderful. To serve, I squeezed over the juice of a lime, spooned over 3 or 4 tablespoons of mixed Greek yogurt and mango chutney and scattered with chopped fresh coriander. We mopped it up with warmed naan bread and it was heavenly!

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Modern game: 3 simple recipes for pheasant, venison and wild boar


Here are the three game recipes I cooked at Penshurst Farmers Market today with the superb meat from regular stallholder at the market, Kieron’s Game. Sadly the weather wasn’t on our side so rain stopped play a little early but these three raised sprits amongst market visitors despite the deluge and are favourites that I will be cooking again and again for family and friends this winter

Pheasant tikka

Pheasant breast fillets are one of the most useful cuts – lean, flavoursome and so simple to cook. This is one of my favourite ways to cook them, as the slightly gamey flavour of the meat is perfectly complemented by the addition of spices. It’s quick, easy and healthy too so what’s not to like! This version isn’t overly hot so is suitable for the whole family – use more chilli for a more fiery finish. I also like to marinate 4 breasts in one go when cooking for two then freeze two of them in the marinade for an easy meal later in the month


Serves 4/Prep 10 minutes plus marinating time overnight /Cook 10 minutes

4 boned pheasant breasts, skinned
2 tbsp each natural yogurt and mango chutney
flat bread, fresh coriander and lime wedges to serve
For the tikka marinade
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 small piece fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 red chilli, seeded and chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp smoked paprika
juice of 1 small lemon
1 tbsp natural yogurt
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper

 1 Blitz together the marinade ingredients in a blender or processor and pour into a large resealable plastic bag. Add the pheasant and massage with the marinade to coat each piece thoroughly. Ideally leave overnight in the fridge or for at least a couple of hours. for the spices to really settle into the meat.

2 The next day preheat the oven to 200ºC gas mark 6. Transfer the pheasant to a shallow roasting tin with the marinade, cover with buttered foil and cook for 15 minutes then remove the foil and cook for a further 5 minutes until golden and cooked through. You can also cook the pheasant breasts on a lightly oiled griddle for 5 – 8 minutes turning once until browned and cooked through. Pheasant can be served slightly pink at the centre to avoid it drying out too much.

3 Cut the pheasant into thick strips and serve in warmed flat bread, sprinkled with lime juice and fresh coriander and a dollop of the thick yogurt mixed with the mango chutney.

Venison steaks with quick béarnaise sauce

Great quality produce such as the wonderful venison steak I buy from local game dealer Kieron at Penshurst Farmers Market every month needs only the simplest cooking. This recipe couldnt be easier to prepare as you can make the béarnaise sauce ahead and chill it till you need it. I make it using  my trusty stick blender

Serve 2 Preparation 10 minutes Cook 10–12 minutes

1 tsp black peppercorns, coarsely ground (optional)
1 tbsp Pure Kent cold pressed rapeseed oil
2 venison fillet steaks, about 150g each
a  bunch of watercress to serve
For the béarnaise sauce:
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
6 black peppercorns
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 large free-range egg yolk
50g unsalted butter
grated rind and juice of ½ small lemon

1 Press the crushed pepper onto both sides of the steaks. Heat the oil in a ridged griddle pan or non-stick frying pan and cook the steaks on both sides, turning once, for 4–6 minutes for rare, 8–10 minutes for medium and 10–12 minutes for well done.  Remove from the pan and leave to stand in a warm place for at least 5 minutes for the juices to settle.

2 Prepare the béarnaise sauce. Place the vinegar in a small pan with the peppercorns, shallot and 2 tablespoons water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the vinegar is reduced to 1 tablespoon.

3 Strain the reduced vinegar onto the egg yolk and blend briefly to mix. Heat the butter in a small pan until bubbling but not browned. With the blender running, pour the hot butter on the egg yolks in a steady stream. The sauce should be thick and creamy. Stir in the lemon rind and the juice, season to taste and serve with the steak. All I need with this is thin cut chips and a watercress salad.

This is an edited version of the recipe I created for The WI Cookbook:The First 100 Years

Easy wild boar and pheasant pie with quail’s eggs

This simple pie couldn’t be easier to put together using sausages and pheasant breasts fillets and quail’s eggs from Jennie at Far Acre Farm (I also buy my eggs from her every market as a mixed tray lasts me the full month until the next one). It makes a great family supper dish  served with baked potatoes and baked beans or veg, or take wedges on a winter picnic or packed lunch. It is also useful to have in the freezer over Christmas. I like to use the same apricot and wild boar sausagemeat filling for sausage rolls, using ready-made sheets of all-butter puff pastry for speed to go with Christmas drinks


Serves 6 -8 /Preparation 20 minutes /Cook 50 – 60 minutes

12 quail’s eggs
2 sheets all butter shortcrust pastry, thawed
500g Kieron’s Game wild boar and apple or venison sausages
50g soft apricots, snipped into pieces
2/3 boned pheasant breasts, skinned (about 300g)
3 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
beaten egg to glaze.

1 Preheat the oven to 200ºC gas mark 6. Put the quail’s eggs in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes. Drain, run under cold water to cool then peel. Take the skins from the sausages and mix the sausage meat with the snipped apricots.

2 Use one sheet of the pastry to line an oblong 27 x 17cm baking tin or dish. Spread the sausagemeat over the base. Arrange the quail’s eggs on top. Cut the pheasant breasts into thin strips and toss with seasoning and the chopped tarragon. Arrange over the eggs. Brush the pastry edges with water. Use the other sheet of pastry to cover the top, tucking the ends in to completely contain the filling. Pinch the edges together to seal.

3 Brush the pie with a little egg and make two steam holes with a knife. Place the pie on a preheated baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to 180C gas mark 4 for a further 30 – 40 minutes until the filling is cooked through. Serve warm or leave to cool then chill until ready to serve. Serve cut into wedges with Sugar and Spice’s Chilli Jelly or a locally-made chutney and a watercress and radish salad.


My wild boar and apple sausage rolls went down well at the market today


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Three of the best: easy pumpkin and squash recipes for the whole family


Last weekend saw the first of my new seasonal eating columns appear in Waitrose Weekend newspaper. Designed to highlight different ways to prepare a seasonal ingredient, either vegetable or fruit, the column will appear once a month with three of my favourite recipes plus some simple preperation ideas.

If you’re at all like me, it’s so easy to buy a large bag of something like kale, a gorgeous crispy Savoy cabbage or squash, use half for a recipe and then wonder what to do with the rest. This feature is designed to help solve that challenge and I intend that the recipes I show are the ones that really highlight the best ways to get the most out of the ingredient. These are my hero recipes for that particular month.

If you didn’t pick up last week’s issue (Oct 12 – 15) and so missed out on the recipes, I’m posting them here.



Waitrose Weekend – 12th October 2017


I love this time of year when the rich colours of the season are nowhere more exemplified than in the wonderful variety of winter squashes with all their glorious golds, reds and oranges. When I started out as a food writer nearly forty years ago they were nowhere to be seen.  Now I wouldn’t be without them for their versatility and ability to add colour and comfort to my favourite dishes. Each one has its own characteristics and flavour but are easily interchangeable in most recipes. I’ve picked three of my favourite ways of cooking them (plus some standby easy suggestions) – each of these recipes will be appearing again at my kitchen table over the next few months if I have anything to do with it.


Spiced butternut squash with chickpeas and coconut

A versatile dish that is better made a day or two ahead, I like to make it with chickpeas soaked and cooked from scratch for the texture they bring. I soak and cook a whole pack and freeze any I don’t use for other dishes such as hummus.


This dish improves with keeping so I try to make it at least a day ahead

Serves 6/Prepare 20 minutes plus overnight soaking time/Cook 2 hours

200g LoveLife dried chickpeas
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves garlic
1 large butternut squash about 500g, peeled, deseeded and cubed
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
I large red onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp rose harissa
2 preserved lemons, chopped
400ml can coconut milk
Greek yogurt and chopped fresh coriander to serve

1 Cover the chickpeas with cold water and leave to soak overnight. The next day drain and place in a pan with enough cold water to cover generously. Add a cinnamon stick and 2 whole garlic cloves, bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes until tender.

2 Preheat the oven to 220C gas mark 7. Toss the cubed squash with the oil, cumin, coriander, cardamom, sugar and seasoning. Arrange in a single layer in a roasting tin, and roast for 30 – 40 minutes turning occasionally until the squash is golden brown.

3 While the squash is roasting, drain the chickpeas. Heat remaining oil and cook the onion and remaining chopped garlic until soft then return chickpeas to the pan with 600ml of their cooking liquid. Add the harissa, preserved lemons and coconut milk and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes then stir in the roasted squash and all the juices from the roasting tin. Simmer together for a further 10 minutes then serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt scattered with chopped fresh coriander, accompanied by warm flat bread or pitta.

Mary’s tip: I love this dish so much I make this full recipe amount even if only cooking for a couple of us and then whizz up any leftovers with chicken or vegetable stock for a warming soup the next day


Pumpkin and chorizo risotto with pine nut crisp

In the darker months, this risotto is one of my favourites and a good way to use up all the pumpkin you don’t need after making Halloween lanterns with the kids. The cheese crisp isn’t essential but I like the texture it adds to the finished dish

One of my favourite autumn suppers

Serves 3 – 4/Prepare 15 minutes/Cook 40 minutes

60g Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
60g Cooks’ Ingredients diced chorizo
500g Coquina squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
250g risotto rice
75ml dry white wine
1 litre simmering chicken stock
15g butter

1 Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with a sheet of baking parchment. Scatter half the grated cheese to a thickness of about 1cm and add a few pine nuts to each – don’t press down. Bake for 7 – 8 minutes until melted and golden. Leave to cool on the sheet for a few minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

2 While the crisp is cooking put the oil, onion and chorizo in a medium non-stick pan. Cook over a medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes until softened. Add the cubed squash and cook over a medium heat for 12 – 15 minutes until the squash is tender and golden brown. Stir in the sage and rice and cook for a minute to coat in the pan juices, then stir in the white wine.

3 Gradually add the hot stock a ladleful at a time and keep stirring with the mixture bubbling gently until the rice absorbs each amount then add more stock and continue to stir until that is absorbed. This will take 15 – 20 minutes by which time you should have a creamy risotto with the rice just tender but not mushy.

4 Off the heat stir in the Parmesan and butter and season to taste. Leave the pan to stand with the lid on for 5 minutes. Serve in warmed serving plates with the cheese crisp broken into pieces.

Mary’s tip: Chill any leftover risotto then roll into balls and coat in egg and breadcrumbs. Fry in oil for a snack or tapa.


Squash and shallot tarte Tatin

Oh, the joy of ready-made all butter puff pastry for a dish like this! It’s so quick to prepare and cook, making this tarte a favourite for Saturday lunch or when cold, cut into pieces for tapas


Wonderful hot or cold

Serves 2 – 3/Prepare 20 minutes/Cook 50 minutes

2 tbsp olive oil
400g onion squash, deseeded and cut into wedges (you can peel it or not depending on what kind of finish you want)
6 echalion shallots, skinned, trimmed and cut in half
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
320g ready rolled sheet all butter puff pastry

1 Preheat the oven to 220C gas mark 7. Heat the oil in a deep 23cm heavy duty omelette pan with an oven-proof handle over a medium heat (you could use a heavy-duty cake tin instead). Arrange the squash and shallots, cut side down, in a single layer over the surface of the pan so there are no gaps. Pour over the honey, vinegar and thyme and season well. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes on a gentle heat without turning or stirring until the vegetables are golden brown underneath and almost tender. Cover the pan with foil or a lid for the last 5 minutes to cook the top of the vegetables. Remove from the heat.

2 Cut a circle the same diameter as the pan from the pastry (use the trimmings for cheese straws). Lift carefully to cover the vegetables, pressing firmly into place and tucking in the edges neatly. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.

3 Remove the pan from the oven and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a warm serving plate and allow the tarte to drop onto the plate. If any vegetables have become detached simply place back in position. Serve warm or cold with a salad or green vegetable.

Mary’s tip: Roll out the pastry trimmings to a rectangle, brush with a little English mustard and scatter with grated cheese (a good way to use up dog-ends!) Fold over, cut into strips and bake until crisp.


Three quick ideas with squashes

Roast squash wedges – toss a pack of Butternut squash wedges (or any cubed left over pumpkin from the other recipes) in a mix of ground cumin, smoked paprika, a little chilli and dark brown sugar and some olive oil. Roast in a hot oven for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice until golden.

Squash, ginger and lentil soup –Sweat unpeeled wedges of Coquina or Onion squash  with crushed garlic and chopped root ginger in a little oil until golden and tender, add to red lentils and vegetable stock and cook until soft then puree. Serve with a dollop of yogurt.

Braised pumpkin, apple and onion – cook chunks of pumpkin with sliced cooking chorizo or pancetta cubes until browned. Add cored wedges of Cox apples, chunks of red onion and season. Tip into in a baking dish, add the grated rind and juice of 1/2 lemon and pour over a glassful of white wine. Bake in a medium hot oven until tender. Add cooked puy lentils and a scattering of chopped flatleaf parsley to make a hearty supper dish or pour over half a small carton of double cream and scatter with grated Parmesan and grill until golden and bubbling and serve as a veg accompaniment..

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Courgette, lime and choc chip loaf cake

IMG_4061This recipe appears in Waitrose Weekend newspaper this week (7- 9th July), part of a great set of four alongside a lovely Hot smoked salmon and asparagus plait, Flat iron chicken with watercress and pea salad and an asparagus and chorizo pasta dish. I’m posting the cake here too as I am so pleased with it. Since coming up with it a few months ago I have cooked it again and again and made a few tweaks in the process so this version is slightly different to the one in print in store. Both are good but I think this is better!

The loaf is light-textured but not dry with a lovely pale green colour from the lime and courgette, which complement each other taste wise. If you haven’t made a courgette cake before, it works rather like grated carrot adding texture and delicate flavour. It keeps well for up to a week and freezes too so I’ve been making two and with my courgettes just starting to produce regularly I’ll be making this cake again and again through the summer

Courgette, lime and choc chip loaf cake

Makes 1 loaf/Prepare 15 minutes/Cook 50 – 60 minutes

250g courgettes, trimmed and coarsely grated
250g plain flour ( I use Pure Kent’s Wheat and Barley flour for its nutty flavour)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g light muscovado sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
grated rind and juice of 1 1/2 large limes
100g Cooks Ingredients dark chocolate chips 

1 Preheat the oven to 180C gas mark 4. Wrap the grated courgettes in a clean tea towel and squeeze to remove all the liquid.

2 Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until really pale and creamy. Beat in the eggs a tablespoon at a time followed by the lime rind. Fold in the sifted flour and grated courgettes, mixing to a soft consistency with the lime juice. Fold in the chocolate chips.

3 Spoon the mixture into a greased and base lined 900g loaf tin and level the surface. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes until well risen and golden and a skewer emerges clean and dry from the centre of the loaf. Turn out onto a wire cooling rack and leave to cool. Serve in slices.

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Broad beans, peas, mackerel and strawberries – simple summer eating this June at the farmers’ market

The glorious weather we’ve been enjoying this May seems to be continuing into June and although the lack of rain is not so good for farmers and my garden with its newly planted hedges, it means dining al fresco is a pleasure. With so much wonderful choice at the market, preparing a meal couldn’t be easier as at this time of year produce needs little enhancement to be enjoyed at its best.


Mackerel is the perfect fish for the barbecue this summer

Tomorrow, June 3rd, I’ll be cooking mackerel with Paul from Arcade Fisheries for our annual Fish Day at Penshurst Farmers Market. This silvery summer fish is perfect for outdoor eating. Cheap, tasty and best served as simply as possible, its natural oils keep the fish from drying out on the barbecue or griddle pan. It can be baked whole in the oven or served raw as sashimi or ‘cooked’ in lime juice for a ceviche.

Serve with something acidic to counteract the richness of the flesh – a simple squeeze of lemon juice, traditionally with a seasonal rhubarb or gooseberry sauce,  or with a salad of wafer-thin fennel tossed with chopped fresh dill and a dressing of cider vinegar and rapeseed oil.

We are all being encouraged to eat oily fish at least once a week for its many health benefits. Mackerel is rich in healthy omega 3 fatty acids that lower the risk of heart disease, contains high levels of potassium which is beneficial to maintain healthy blood pressure levels, and is an excellent natural source of vitamin D. Studies have found it could help reduce the risk of dementia and prostate cancer. So make mackerel your fish of choice this summer. Buy at the market where your fishmonger can prepare it for you (ask him to butterfly or fillet for easy cooking and no bones) to ensure it’s at its freshest and best, .

What else to look out for this June

IMG_1707By the summer solstice on June  21st  the sun will be rising by 4am and setting at 10pm as we mark the middle of the summer. Longer days mean growers and producers are at full stretch, and the fruits of their labours should now be in glorious evidence at your local market. Spring lamb, mackerel, asparagus, broad beans, new potatoes, strawberries and cherries – all the ingredients of a perfect midsummer celebration and at their very best this month so head off into the countryside on a quest for the best.

There are also early cucumbers, peas, French beans, spinach and courgettes, alongside all kinds of salad leaves now in season. It’s also the ideal time to plant out ‘ready to plant’ herbs and summer bedding plants. And don’t miss the last of the asparagus as the short season comes to a close this month.

The long days and the warmth also herald the start of the great English soft fruit season with strawberries in abundance – one of the great advantages of local markets is the chance to try some of the finer flavoured varieties rather than the more robust berries grown to withstand the rigours of the supermarket supply chain that may not have the same flavour. Gooseberries (wonderful paired with elderflower) are a seasonal pleasure in fools, crumbles and for jam, and it’s also the month to get summer puddings in the freezer, making the most of raspberries and currants for a traditional treat.

Local eggs are also full of flavour now as chickens enjoy the lush summer grass. A short supply chain means market eggs are really fresh. I buy a tray from Jennie’s Eggs at Penshurst every month, laid the day before the market, so they are good to eat boiled or to cook with until the next market. A frittata is a summer favourite – try this broad bean and pea version below.

Spring lamb is now at its finest, local crabs and lobster are meaty and full of flavour, and if you can find wild salmon or sea trout, simply bake them whole smeared with butter and serve with samphire, asparagus and new potatoes for the finest of English eating.


Broad bean and pea frittata

pea & broadbean frittata

Perfect for a simple lunch or picnic, this Italian egg cake makes the most of summer flavours

Serves 4/Prepare 15 minutes/Cook 25 minutes

3 tbsp olive oil

3 – 4 spring onions, thinly sliced

6 – 8 cooked new potatoes, sliced

100g each podded fresh peas and broad beans

6 free-range eggs

50g hard local goat’s cheese, cubed

3 tbsp chopped fresh chives or mint

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Preheat the grill. Heat half the oil in a large frying pan and add the onions, potatoes and seasoning. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes, turning, until golden brown. Blanch the peas and broad beans in boiling water for 2 minutes then drain Add to the onions and potatoes and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the goat’s cheese and chopped herbs.

2 Beat the eggs with the seasoning and add what is in the pan. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan until smoking and pour in the egg mixture. Cook over a medium heat for 4 – 5 minutes until the egg is set and the base is golden. Put the pan under the grill to cook the top. Turn onto a plate and serve warm or at room temperature.




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