Recipe: Chicken Naan Wraps with Raita

I have lost count how many times I’ve eaten these naan wraps by now, so it is about time I write about them too!

They are really simple to make, and because of that I think they’re perfect for a Friday night supper. That’s when I usually want something really moreish, not too fancy (only on occasion) but something really satisfying and even a little messy. And this dish ticks all those boxes.

The inspiration comes from The Kitchn but rather than using lamb, I used chicken thighs even the first time I made it. It’s just what I prefer, but I’m sure it’s lovely with lamb mince too. This was also the first time I made raita, which was a revelation. I had no idea it was THAT easy. Easier than tzatziki, even. And so very yummy!

Chicken naan wraps with raita, serves 4

Adapted from The Kitchn’s recipe.

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 shallot, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

500 g boneless chicken thighs, diced

4 naan breads

2 little gems, washed andthinly sliced

Raita:

120 ml Greek yoghurt

approx 10 cm cucumber, diced small

1 tbsp mint (or coriander), coarsely chopped

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground coriander

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 150C. Heat up the oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Add the shallots, a little salt and a sprinkling of cumin. Fry until lightly browned and remove from pan. Add a bit more oil to the pan and add the chicken. Add more salt, some black pepper and the cumin. Stir occasionally and cook until the meat is cooked through, approximately 8 minutes.

Meanwhile make the raita and heat the naan breads. Stack the naans and wrap in tin foil and place on a rack in the oven for a few minutes.

Mix yoghurt with the spices, cucumber and mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Once the chicken is cooked, add the shallots back into the pan and stir to combine. Layer lettuce, raita and chicken on the warm naans. Serve warm.

Recipe: The Easiest Nibbles

If you’ve followed me for a while you probably already know that a) I love nibbles, and b) I don’t like to waste food.

So when I emptied my London cupboards before going to the countryside in lockdown, I encountered a packet of breadsticks (probably from a Christmas party more than a year earlier, but if sealed these things don’t really go off) that I thought would be good for a little nibble.

About six week later I still hadn’t figured out what to do with it. Usually I have it with taramasalata but I didn’t think the others would be too happy with this suggestion, so I consulted the internet. (Honestly, a lockdown without the internet would have been so scary!). And I found a recipe so easy and yummy I made it twice in two weeks.

It’s just an assembly job really, but it looks impressive and is utterly delicious with a pre-dinner glass of white wine.

Prosciuttowrapped grissini with pesto cream cheese dip, serves 8

Adapted from BBC Good Food’s recipe.

1 large tub of Philadelphia (full fat)

2-3 tbsp basil or wild garlic pesto (if using store-bought I recommend a fresh one from the deli section)

1 pack grissini

1 packet prosciutto (you want the soft kind)

If the grissini are really long then break them in half. Cut each prosciutto slice into four stripes (cut in half lengthways and then halve them) and wrap each around the end of a grissini.

Spoon out the cream cheese into a bowl. Add the pesto and stir it into a swirl (i.e. don’t mix it all that well). Place everything on a platter and serve.

Recipe: Crispy Sweet Potato Oven Fries

During lockdown when I was cooking so many burgers, I also became adamant to learn how to make crispy sweet potato fries. And with some help from the internet I did!

I love when somebody else have already done all the hard work for you (thank you Gimme Some Oven!) and you can just tweak it to suit you. Because, as we all know, if we put sweet potato in the oven it becomes soft, not crispy. But there are ways to get this delicious (and healthy!) vegetable to crisp up! So let’s jump straight to the recipe.

Crispy sweet potato oven fries, serves 4

Adapted from Gimme Some Oven’s recipe.

500 g sweet potatoes, peeled

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp cornstarch

black pepper

sea salt

Preheat the oven to 215 C and line a large baking tray with parchment paper.

Slice the sweet potatoes into long, thin strips, about 50 mm wide. It’s important that the fries are uniformly sized for even cooking. 

Add the fries to a large clean bowl, drizzle with olive oil and mix until the fries are evenly coated with oil.

Mix the cornstarch with black pepper in a small bowl. Pour it into the bowl with the fries and mix until all the fries have a light coating of cornstarch on them.

Spread the fries out in a single layer on the parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip all the fries over with a spatula. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the fries are crispy and a little brown around the edges.

Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack, sprinkle with your desired amount of salt, then let the fries rest for another few minutes. Serve warm.

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).