Updated: Easy Creamy Truffle Pasta

I last updated this recipe eight years ago, and it really is great as it is, but I recently adapted it into this creamier, more decadent version, and it’s too good not to share with you.

When you crave restaurant truffle pasta (like my favourite at Sorella) but don’t want to go out, this really hits the spot. Using truffle oil is of course miles away from fresh truffle, but as it’s much easier to get hold of it makes sense to keep a good bottle in your pantry for when the cravings hit.

Easy creamy truffle pasta, serves 2

3oo g good tagliatelle

50 g salted butter

50 ml double cream

about 1 tsp good quality truffle oil

plenty of grated parmesan

1/4 lemon

sea salt and black pepper

Cook the pasta al dente in salted water. Remove half a mug of pasta water and drain the rest away in a colander. Put the hot pan back onto high heat and add the butter. Let it foam and wait for brown flecks to appear. Remove from heat and pour in the cream while whisking. Let it thicken a little then add in a little of the pasta water and add the pasta. Add the parmesan little by little while stirring until you have a silky sauce. If too thick, add more pasta water. If too runny, put it back on medium heat and keep stirring. When the consistency is right, remove from heat and add the truffle oil. Add a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper. Divide between bowls. Add more parmesan, a little more black pepper and maybe a few more drops of truffle oil.

Recipe: Smash Burgers at Home

One of the foods I really missed in lockdown was a good burger. As we were in the countryside we couldn’t even get a takeaway, although I believe most burger restaurants were closed anyway.

§So there wasn’t much to do but make my own. And since I had a hot Aga to cook on, I thought it was the perfect time to finally try the smash burger. It sounds complicated, but it’s in fact a super simple burger, made from only minced beef, salt and papper, that you sort of smash down on a hot surface to cook, creating lovely crispy bits as it’s not round and uniform. My favourite burger chain Shake Shack does this and their patties are lovely!

I made smash burgers a few times and even though they all turned out quite well, I did learn a few things through trial and error that I thought would be helpful to share:

  1. The cooking surface (be it an Aga – if so use the hottest plate, a frying pan, or a sheet pan on the barbecue – yes, I’ve tried that too!) needs to be HOT. Very hot! Sizzling hot. Especially as I like my burger a bit pink in the middle.
  2. Divide the mince into smaller burgers creating thin crispy patties that you can layer, rather than one fat patty. This was you get more crispy bits, a juicier centre and all around a nicer burger.
  3. The coarseness of the mince matters. I’ve found that finely ground mince works the best here as it holds together better and makes it easier to make flat patties.
  4. The fat content matters a lot. The best would of course be to buy beef and fat and mince it yourself at home, but if you buy minced beef in the shop make sure you get as much fat as you can. Minimum 12% but 20% is the dream. Lean beef is not for burgers as the flavour is in the fat.

Smash burgers, serves 2

This is based on two double burgers, if you prefer a single burger just add more buns and toppings.

400 g finely ground good quality 20 % fat beef mince

neutral oil

salt and pepper

4 plastic cheese slices

2 good quality (the softer the better!) brioche burger buns

2 lettuce leaves

2 tomato slices

1 batch Fake Shack sauce

other toppings of choice

Remove the meat from the fridge an hour before cooking. Once at room temperature, divide the meat into 4 sections that hold together. Unwrap the cheese and get the lettuce, sauce and tomatoes ready. Cut the buns in half.

Pre-heat the oven to 175C. Add a little bit of oil to coat your cooking surface (frying pan, Aga sheet or oven tray on the barbecue) and heat on really high heat.

Add the meat, leaving lots of space around. Do batches rather than crowding the pan if not much room and flatten the meat down hard with a spatula. Hold down to get crispy bits. Turn the burger around and cook the other side. Season well on both sides and add cheese. Let it melt properly then remove from pan to a plate and let rest for a minute.

Toast the burger buns in the oven for approx 30 seconds. Then build your burger. Shack sauce on both bun halves. Lettuce on the bottom half, followed by the burger, tomato slice and top bun.

Recipe: Cheat’s wild garlic mayo

I’m one of those cooks that prefer to make everything from scratch. For the simple reason that I think it’s worth the effort as the end result is usually so much better than something ready-made.

This includes most things, even mayonnaise, although I do like Hellmann’s too. If I’m making a prawn sandwich I’ll happily use Hellmann’s but for Toast Skagen I would make my own. Small distinctions, but they make sense to me.

So in a way I think lockdown was good for me. As I had to take shortcuts and think differently. Some things were hard to come by at times, like vegetable oil, eggs and even mayonnaise. So when I managed to get some wild garlic but didn’t have any oil to make my own mayonnaise but luckily had a jar of Hellmann’s to hand I decided to try a new version of my wild garlic mayo. One that doesn’t involve a stick blender or very much work.

And do you know what?! It turned out really well. Different to my homemade version but almost as good, so if you’re lacking time or energy, this is the one to make!

Cheat’s wild garlic mayo, serves 4

I made this wild fresh wild garlic, but blanched and frozen will work too.

200 ml Hellmann’s mayonnaise

a handful fresh wild garlic leaves, rinsed and roughly chopped

1/4 lemon

salt and pepper

Mix the mayonnaise and wild garlic. Add lemon juice and plenty of salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Recipe: Rhubarb Pavlova

When I put this on the table at a dinner party before lockdown (the last dinner with friends in fact) I got so much praise. To me, a pavlova is easy to make, and even more importantly, to make ahead! But I agree it looks impressive and inviting with it’s fluffy white meringue and pillowy whipped cream topped with gleaming pink pieces of just-soft-enough-rhubarb.

That dinner in March seems forever ago now, but thanks to the forced Yorkshire rhubarb, it was rhubarb season both then and now, giving us a link back to that more carefree time.

But as we are now allowed to see friends again, let’s celebrate it with a really good pudding!

Rhubarb Pavlova, serves 6-8

140 g egg whites (4)

220 g caster sugar

8 g / 1 tbsp corn flour

4 g  / 1 tsp white wine vinegar

3 dl whipping or double cream

400 g rhubarb

400 g rhubarb, ends trimmed

200 ml water

200 ml caster sugar

Beat the egg whites until foamy and add the sugar bit by bit while beating until stiff peaks. Add corn flour and vinegar and fold it in with a spatula. 

Divide the meringue in two, shaping two circles on two parchment clad baking trays. 

Bake in the middle of the oven, for 60 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the cooling oven with the door open until the oven has cooled down. 

Cut the rhubarb into 4 cm long pieces and place in an ovenproof sig with sides. Bring sugar and water to the boil in a saucepan. Pour the syrup over the rhubarb and place in a 100C oven for 30 minutes. Leave to cool completely. 

Lightly whip the cream. Place one meringue round on a cake plate. Spread with whipped cream and drizzle with rhubarb syrup. Place the other meringue round on top. Spread with whipped cream and top with rhubarb pieces and syrup. Decorate with a sprig of mint.

Recipe: asparagus risotto with wild garlic butter and lemon

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This wonderful recipe is actually from last year, but as usual time got away from me and suddenly the asparagus season was well and truly over and it felt too late to post.

This year I think I made it in the knick of time, as the season is drawing to an end, but if you’re lucky to find some nice asparagus, this is the perfect dish to end the season with. It’s both light and warming, fresh and a bit decadent thanks to the browned butter and wild garlic butter. Butter makes everything better doesn’t it?!

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Asparagus risotto with wild garlic butter and lemon, serves 3

2 banana shallots, finely chopped 

1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp vegetable oil

180 g carnaroli rice

100 ml dry white wine

1 litre vegetable stock

grated parmesan

250 g asparagus

1 tbsp wild garlic butter

1/2 tsp lemon zest 

To serve:

asparagus tips 

two rounds wild garlic butter

1 tbsp browned butter

1/2 tsp lemon zest 

sea salt and black pepper

grated parmesan

Melt butter and oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add the shallots and fry for a few minutes without browning. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon so it can soak up all the oil and butter.  Add the wine and let it cook for a minute or so. Lower the heat to medium-low and add a ladle of stock. Stir and add more when most of the stock has evaporated, continue until the rice is cooked. I prefer a loose risotto so I don’t let the last ladle fully absorb. Remove from heat and add plenty of grated parmesan and a knob of butter to the rice and stir it in. 

While the risotto is cooking, trim the wooden ends off the asparagus. Save two asparagus tips per portion as garnish and cut the rest into smaller pieces on the diagonal. Boil the asparagus pieces until almost soft in salted water. Drain and add to the risotto just after the parmesan. Cook the asparagus tips al dente in salted water and set aside. Add wild garlic butter and lemon zest to the risotto. Season to taste. 

Divide the risotto between bowls. Arrange the asparagus tips in the middle of the bowl. Drizzle with browned butter. Place the wild garlic butter on top of the aspragus. Scatter with lemon zest and grated parmesan and serve.

Recipe: Asparagus with Burrata, Wild Garlic Oil and Lemon

I was so pleased to get hold of some of my favourite foods during lockdown; British asparagus and burrata. So grateful Natoora opened up their restaurant delivery slots to the public. Because during this period I have lived for food. I took it upon myself to cook every night, make cakes and make sure we could enjoy nice food even though we couldn’t go out to restaurant. So yes, I’ve eaten very well during lockdown, but I have also been mindful, stretching food to go longer, and have mixed expensive foods with very economical dishes.

The best quality asparagus and burrata wouldn’t feel so special if we ate it every day, but you also want to make sure you make the most out of the short asparagus season.

I’m very pleased with this simple dish – which is more an assembly job than proper cooking. And that’s how to best enjoy the freshest of produce, in the simplest of ways. Asparagus with hollandaise or wild garlic mayo are two of my favourite ways to eat it, and now I have a third way: this!

Asparagus with burrata, wild garlic oil and lemon, serves 3

9 asparagus stems (preferably nice and thick)

125 g burrata, at room temperature

1 large handful wild garlic leaves, washed

100 ml vegetable oil

1/2 lemon, the zest

sea salt flakes and black pepper

Trim the wooden ends off the asparagus. Blanch them quickly in boiling water. Drain and fry with a tiny amount of oil in the pan until they’ve browned a little. Mix the wild garlic leaves with oil using a stick blender.

Divide the asparagus among the plates. Divide the burrata. Drizzle with wild garlic oil (approx 1 tbsp per plate). Add lemon zest and plenty of salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Recipe: A Classic Croque Monsieur

Inspired by the best Croque Monsieur I’ve ever had, I wanted to try to make this wonderful dish at home. I miss restaurants a lot right now but the best we can do is to try and recreate our favourites at home or support our local restaurant businesses that offer takeaway. Here in the country there aren’t many restaurants nearby so I donned the apron and set to work.

Most important when making a dish like this is to use the very best ingredients. Crusty sourdough bread, good quality cooked (or lightly smoked) ham and gruyere cheese. And to not skimp on the béchamel sauce. It’s really what makes the sandwich.

This is not a difficult dish to make, but it has a lot of steps, so it’s best to prepare as much as you can in advance: grate the cheese, have the butter ready, make the béchamel sauce. Make sure the oven is hot. A little mise en place goes a long way.

I must confess it didn’t rival The Wolseley’s version, but it came pretty close and that’s good enough for me.

Please note I made this for 3 people but have reworked the recipe to serve 2 to make it easier to scale up and down.

Croque Monsieur, serves 2

4 slices good quality crusty white sourdough bread

2 slices cooked ham

100 g Gruyere cheese, grated

25 g salted butter, at room temperature

For the béchamel:

1 1/2 tbsp butter

1 1/2 tbsp flour

500 ml whole milk

a few drops lemon juice

salt and peppar

Start by making the béchamel sauce. Heat up the milk in a non-stick saucepan on medium heat. In another non-stick saucepan melt the butter on medium heat. Stir in the flour and let it cook, while whisking for a minute or so. Add the warmed milk bit by bit and whisk as the sauce thickens. Season to taste and add a few drops lemon juice. Set aside.

Butter each bread slice on one side and place it face up on a parchment paper lined baking tray. Bake in a 200C oven for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and turn the bread slices around so you have the toasted side face down. Spread on a layer of béchamel sauce on each bread slice. Add grated gruyere on two of the slices, followed by the ham. Add more gruyere and sandwich together béchamel side face down. Add a thicker layer of béchamel on the top of the sandwiches and top with grated gruyere. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve with a tangy green salad (little gem with olive oil, red wine vinegar or plenty of lemon juice and a little salt is all you need).

Recipe: Orrechiette with Wild Garlic Pesto and Charred Broccoli

I made this dish just before lockdown, and then again in lockdown (but the pictures are from the first time I made it). It’s a perfect example of the kind of homemade food I want to highlight right now; inexpensive, nutritious and it allows for substitutions.

I was lucky to get hold of wild garlic even in lockdown (from Natoora and Natoora via Ocado) and it made me incredibly happy. If you live in an area where it grows you might still be able to forage for it, but you can of course use regular pesto (any green pesto in fact) in its place.

I use almonds in my pesto which makes it a little sweeter so charred flavours pair really well. (That’s how I got the idea for this dish in the first place). And the reason I used orecchiette was because I had some in the cupboard, but I also find it’s a good pasta shape to use with pesto. But you can use any similar pasta shape, I think the key here is that it’s not too big or too long.

Orrechiette with wild garlic pesto and charred broccoli, serves 2

250 g orrechiette

3 tbsp wild garlic pesto

mild olive oil

50 g grated parmesan

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

200 g tenderstem broccoli

salt and pepper

Boil the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Trim the broccoli. Keep 2 stems whole and chop the others into 2 cm long pieces. Blanch all the broccoli quickly. Drain and transfer to a hot and dry frying pan and cook for a few minutes on each side until slightly charred. Set aside.

Drain the pasta and reserve half a mug of pasta water. Transfer the pasta back to the saucepan but take it off the heat. Add pesto, a little olive oil and pasta water if needed. Mix until every piece of pasta is coated. Add more water if not loose enough and place on heat while stirring for a minute or so if too watery. Add half the parmesan and half the lemon zest. Add the small pieces of broccoli and mix well. Season and place in bowls. Add a long broccoli stem to each bowl. Scatter with parmesan and lemon zest.

Recipe: The Perfect Lemon Drizzle Cake

In these strange times I have baked more than ever. Partly because tea and cake in the late afternoon every day has been a lovely ritual in an otherwise chaotic and strange time.

I’ve made some old favourites (my favourite chocolate cake, the yummiest carrot cake, tosca cake and of course a classic Victoria sponge) but I’ve also tried some new recipes. And this lemon drizzle cake recipe, courtesy of baking queen Mary Berry, was of course perfect in every way.

It’s incredibly easy to make (place all ingredients in a bowl and mix) and utterly delicious. I love the crunchy top (finally that substituted bag of granulated sugar was put to good use!) and the perfectly balanced lemon flavour.

My only problem was that I was out of self-raising flour, but it was easily substituted by plain flour and baking powder (2 teaspoons of baking powder for each 150g plain flour) and worked perfectly.

Mary Berry’s lemon drizzle cake, serves 8

Adapted from Mary Berry’s recipe.

175 g caster sugar

175 g self-raising flour

175 g softened butter

3 eggs

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

¾ level tsp baking powder

For the lemon drizzle topping:

100 g granulated sugar

juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Beat together the eggs, flour, caster sugar, butter, baking powder and lemon zest until smooth in a large mixing bowl and pour into a buttered loaf tin.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 40 mins, or until golden brown, shrinking away from the sides of the tin and springy to the touch.

While the cake is still warm, make the lemon drizzle topping. Mix together the sugar and lemon juice, and pour over the warm cake. Leave to cool a little and loosen the sides of the cake, then lift the cake out of the tin.

Recipe: Lockdown Courgette Quesadillas Two Ways

I cooked with courgette a lot during lockdown, as it’s such an inexpensive versatile vegetable. And it turns out, it really works in bulking out your quesadillas.

I made the first version, with fried courgette and coriander, served with soured cream and guacamole, when I was alone in London and liked them so much I made a similar version for lunch a few weeks later.

But this time I also added some ham, spring onions and fresh coriander, simply because I had it to hand, and served the quesadillas with a yummy sauce with creme fraiche and basil I made up on the spot, and lime wedges on the side.

Both versions are equally delicious so why not try both and see which you like better?!

Also, a note on frying quesadillas. For an every day lunch I prefer to fry them in a dry pan, as I think the addition of butter is then too much. But if you make quesadillas as nibbles for a party, when you eat much less of them, they’re wonderful fried in butter (and drained on kitchen towel to stay crispy!).

Courgette and coriander quesadillas with guacamole, serves 1

2 tortilla breads, either corn or flour

1 small courgette, cut in half lengthways and sliced

1-2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tbsp olive oil for frying

salt and pepper

75 ml grated cheddar

To serve:

guacamole (scale down to 1 avocado)

a large dollop soured cream

a few drops hot sauce

Fry the courgette until soft and golden in the oil on medium heat for approximately 5-10 minutes. Add the coriander and chilli flakes towards the end of cooking. Season well and set aside.

Place one tortilla bread on a flat surface and scatter half of the grated cheese on top. Add the fried courgettes and top with remaining cheese. Place the other tortilla bread on top and press down to flatten with your hands.

Heat up a clean frying pan on medium heat and add the quesadilla. Fry until side until golden brown while pressing down with a spatula. It only takes a few minutes! Flip the quesadilla over and fry the other side golden brown. Make sure the cheese inside has melted otherwise lower the heat and fry for a bit longer, making sure it doesn’t burn. Remove to a chopping board and cut into six triangles. Serve immediately with guacamole, soured cream and a little hot sauce.

Courgette, coriander and ham quesadillas, serves 3

6 tortilla breads, either corn or flour

1 1/2 medium courgettes, cut in half lengthways and sliced

1-2 tbsp olive oil for frying

salt and pepper

1/2 bunch fresh coriander

3 spring onions, chopped

2 slices cooked ham, chopped

200 g grated cheddar

To serve:

3 lime wedges

creamy basil sauce (recipe below)

Fry the courgette until soft and golden in the oil on medium heat for approximately 5-10 minutes. Season well and set aside.

Place three tortilla breads on a flat surface and divide half of the grated cheese between them. Add the fried courgettes, coriander, spring onions and ham and top with the remaining cheese. Place the other tortilla breads on top and press down to flatten with your hands.

Heat up a clean frying pan on medium heat and add a quesadilla. Fry until side until golden brown while pressing down with a spatula. It only takes a few minutes! Flip the quesadilla over and fry the other side golden brown. Make sure the cheese inside has melted otherwise lower the heat and fry for a bit longer, making sure it doesn’t burn. Repeat with the other two quesadillas. Remove to a chopping board and cut into six triangles. Serve immediately with lime wedges and the basil sauce (recipe below).

Creamy basil and lime sauce, serve 4

200 ml soured cream

finely grated zest from 1/2 lime

2 tbsp roughly chopped basil

salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together with a bowl. Season to taste.