Recipe: Cheat’s carbonara

You know how it’s a complete no-no to have cream in your pasta carbonara?! Well, during lockdown I had to forgo my principles a little when I was short on eggs. The honesty box for eggs at the village farm was under high demand and sometimes you were unlucky and went without.

So I ended up adding a little cream to my egg yolks and parmesan and it was actually so much easier to make a carbonara that way. No holding of breath and giving a silent prayer that it would turn out ok. It just worked, so for us non-Italians I actually think this is the best way to learn how to make this dish. And then when you’re confident and can make it in your sleep, make it without the cream and experience the authentic version, because it’s pretty great. Yes, better than this version with cream. But when you’re low on eggs or tired one night after work, then this is my go-to!

Cheat’s carbonara, serves 2

Very similar to proper carbonara, but much easier to make!

1 large free-range egg yolks

40g Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

2-3 tbsp cream

150g good quality pancetta, diced

200g dried good quality spaghetti

1 clove of garlic

extra virgin olive oil

black pepper

a pinch of salt

Put the egg yolk into a bowl, finely grate in the Parmesan, season with pepper, then mix well with a fork and put to one side. Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente.

Fry the pancetta in a little oil over medium-high heat. Peel the garlic and crush it and add it to the pan for flavour – remove if it browns or when finished cooking. Reserve some cooking water and drain the pasta and add it to the pancetta pan. Toss well over the heat so it really soaks up all the flavour, then remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the pasta back to the spaghetti pan, season and add a splash of the cooking water, then pour in the egg mixture and the cream. Mix well (I like to use tongs to move the pasta around in the pan), adding more cooking water (if needed) until lovely and glossy. Serve with a grating of parmesan and extra pepper. 

Recipe: my home-made granola with almonds and raisins

Although I have mentioned it on the blog before, I don’t tend to talk about the fact that I have some stomach problems, all the time. But what I can (and can’t) eat of course really effects what recipes I post here on the blog.

If you like me, can’t eat very much dietary fibre, then I hope you can find some good recipes on here. But I do sometimes struggle to eat healthily because most healthy foods are off limits for me. And buying granola is a mine field. There is at least one thing (sometimes several) that I need to pick out before I pour it onto my yoghurt, so it is a lot easier making my own.

Oats, although high in fibre, consists mainly of soluble fibre, which even I can handle some of, so they’re a great base. And so good for you! I toast them until I have crunchy golden delicious-smelling clusters, then add the almond slivers to be gently toasted and then the raisins afterwards.

In general I can’t eat very many nuts, but peeled and sliced almond slivers (or ground almonds) work in moderation, so that’s why I added those. Same with dried fruits; in general I can’t handle it, but a few raisins work. Prunes or apricots on the other hand are a no-no. (Yes, my condition is A LOT about trial and error).

I will say though, that this granola is for everyone! I have given it to neighbours and friends and they all love it. What I really like about it (apart from the fact that I don’t have to pick anything out!) is that it’s not overly sweet, but still delicious. (Just imagine how much sugar that they use in store-bought granolas that taste really sweet! Scary!) But my favourite part – apart from the taste – is the way your whole house smells heavenly as you make it. It would be perfect in a scented candle!

Hanna’s granola with almonds and raisins, 1 large batch

500 g rolled oats

100 g almond slivers

150 g raisins

125 ml caster sugar

125 ml water

50 ml vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp honey

a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 150C. Cover a baking tray with raised edges with parchment paper. Mix water, sugar, oil, honey, vanilla and salt in a small bowl until the sugar has melted. Pour the oats onto the baking tray and pour in the sugar mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon until all the oats are a little damp from the syrup. Spread out evenly and toast until golden, for approx 20-30 minutes.

Stir and toast for another 10-15 minutes. Add the almond slivers and toast for another 5 minutes. Take the tray out of the oven and leave to cool. Add the raisins and leave to cool completely before transferring the granola to an airtight container. Keeps for a month (but might not last as long).

Recipe: The Easiest Scones!

When I saw Rosie make these on her Instagram in the middle of lockdown, I decided to try them straight away. I already have a great scone recipe on the blog, courtesy of Paul Hollywood, but these seemed a lot easier and quicker to make.

I even managed to get hold of clotted cream, so two days in a row we had freshly baked scones with jam and clotted cream with our tea. So yummy!

These are definitely your everyday type of scones. The ones you whip up just before eating them, and I think they are intended that way. If you’re putting on a whole afternoon tea spread I would make the Paul Hollywood ones though, as they are more like the ones you get in a nice restaurant. Less rustic.

I can’t stress enough how easy these are to make! If you haven’t made scones before or are a bit scared of baking, this is the recipe to try. Line up the ingredients and have the tea, clotted cream and jam ready!

The easiest scones, makes about 16

Adapted from Rosie The Londoner’s recipe.

8 heaped tbsp self-raising flour

quarter pack of butter (about 62 g), cubed

150 ml milk

pinch of salt

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Add the flour and salt to a large mixing bowl and add in the cubed butter. Use finger tips to break up the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs in texture. Make a well in the middle and pour in the milk. Use a knife to bring it together into a sticky dough. Dust a surface with flour and place the dough on it. Sprinkle some flour on top and pat the dough until approx 1.5 inches thick, taking care not to knock the air out of it or work the dough too much. Cut out scones with a cookie cutter or a glass. Keep going until all the dough has been used. Place the scones on a parchment lined baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes and let cool on a wire rack. Split the scones open to serve.

Recipe: The Most Versatile Sauce!

This cold faux bearnaise sauce has been my go-to this summer! It works so well with any barbecued meats (pork fillet, glazed ribs you name it!) and roast chicken if you can’t be bothered to make gravy and it’s just the best!

But let me explain the faux bearnaise element. It’s the flavouring with shallots, tarragon and vinegar. The texture is a lot lighter than a bearnaise sauce and it’s not as decadent as it has no butter. So please don’t expect a bearnaise sauce substitute (although it is in my opinion so much nicer than any readymade bearnaise sauc

Faux bearnaise sauce, serves 6

Translated from and adapted after Zeina’s Kitchen’s recipe.

200 ml creme fraiche

50 ml mayonnaise

1 shallots, finely chopped

1-2 tsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp dried tarragon

small bunch parsley, finely chopped

2 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 tbsp caster sugar

salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and keep refrigerated for an hour or so before serving.

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.

Pancake Day and Norfolk!

Looking back on the last week of February, one of my least favourite months usually, I realise what a lovely week and month it was. How lucky we were going about our ordinary lives, not thinking about illness and death (as much at least), not worrying about when we could see our loved ones. Oh, how I miss it. Will we get back there, has the world changed now, with no going back to the “before”? Or maybe, it will be better going forwards, because we will be so much more grateful for the things we used to take for granted? Only time will tell…

But back to the last week in February, when the Coronavirus still seemed far away. On the Monday I watched the film Judy about Judy Garland and loved Renée Zellweger in it.

Tuesday lunch looked a little like this! Love a fried egg on toast with ketchup. Yes, the ketchup is a must! In the afternoon I got lots of errands done, which is always such a nice feeling.

In the evening I got spoiled with pancakes, both savoury and sweet, for Pancake Day.

I don’t know how I did it, but I managed four (!) pancakes; two savoury (with ham, cheese and mushrooms) and two sweet ones.

One with just sugar and lemon.

And one with Nutella, whipped cream and berries. So yummy!

The following day was a regular work from home day, and in the evening I watched Boy Erased. Such a gripping story!

The following day I worked down in The New Forest and had a bagel I bought at the train station for lunch. So good!

Back in London that evening I met up with my friend Gaby for supper in Brixton. We had lovely food at the Tiger and Pig and afterwards we went to a bar nearby for a spritz each (mine had elderflower and lemon in it!) and doughnuts for pudding.

Such a lovely evening!

On Friday we drove north to stay with my boyfriend’s mother and arrived in time for supper.

We got lots of dog cuddles and went for a lovely walk the next day.

We stayed for a lovely supper and then drove to Norfolk in the night.

It was absolutely freezing when we got there so we made tea and drank it in bed under the covers.

The next day I made eggs and pancetta for breakfast.

And for lunch we had scampi and chips at the golf club.

It was cold but we managed a little walk on the near deserted beach. It’s so beautiful, especially at twilight.

Back home we had tea and biscuits in front of Pointless to warm up.

And for dinner I made us a roast chicken with lots of roasted vegetables (carrots, courgettes, tomatoes, broccoli), crumbled feta and tzatziki. So yummy!

Then we drove back to London later that evening. Love driving across Tower Bridge at night when it’s all lit up and beautiful.

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.

Jolly July!

I can’t believe I forgot the beginning of July! Not only is July my own birthday month but also one of my favourite months of the year.Why? Because I luuurve summer!

Somehow it just passed me by…but I still want to highlight a few things that I especially like with July. That peaches and nectarines are in season, that melon and raspberries are in their prime and maybe even, the beginning of girolle season, if we’re lucky!

So, here are a few recipes perfect for this time of year! I hope you try some of them, and if you do, please let me know how you got on. And, if you have any other July recipes to hand, please share in the comments section.

A perfect start to any July gathering in the garden would be these crostini with ricotta, peaches and prosciutto. Don’t skimp on the salt as you want that salty contrast to the sweet fruit.

Continuing with the Italian theme, this girolle carbonara is just a dream and something I can’t wait to make when I get my hands on the first Girolles of the season.

The second thing I’ll make with girolles is this delicious pizza! You can find Västerbotten cheese at Ocado, or substitute it with a mature cheddar or a Comte.

While on the topic of girolles, I also want to highlight this potato salad that you can eat on it’s own (heaven!) or pair with barbecued meats.

With the lavender fields in full bloom, I can’t think of a better dish to celebrate it other than Rachel Khoo’s wonderful lavender chicken. It’s a breeze to make, and SO delicious!

And for pudding, let’s make all things raspberry!

How about a raspberry and passion fruit Eton mess?!

Or a creamy vanilla pannacotta with raspberry syrup?!

Or why not a white chocolate crème with raspberries and biscuit crumbs?! A bit unusual but SO delicious!