Thursday, July 28, 2011


Not too heavy nor too rich, this is a lasagne for the 'come rain or shine' evenings of late. The fennel comes through subtle and sweet, the aniseed and juicy cherry tomatoes seasoning the lean veal and lifting the light ricotta as it cooks the pasta. It's still filling for us hungered gluts but fragrant enough to suit the season (however unpredictable).




2 tbsps olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, grated, stalks and stem removed
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
200g veal mince
1/2 glass sherry

200g cherry tomatoes
2tsp tomato puree
2 cloves garlic, peeled

250g ricotta cheese
6-8 large lasagne sheets
handful parmesan

sea salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped shallots, grated fennel and fennel seeds. Fry until soft.

Meanwhile, roast the cherry tomatoes with the garlic cloves for 10 minutes until swollen and soft. Transfer to a bowl and whizz with a hand-held food processor. Keep the oven at the same heat.

Add the veal mince to the fennel and break up with a wooden spoon. When the meat is brown, turn up the heat and add the sherry. Let the pan simmer until the alcohol burns off and you are left with just a little bit of liquid.

Sieve the whizzed cherry tomatoes and discard the leftover seeds. Add the cherry tomato jus and tomato puree to the pan and stir through. Taste and season.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the lasagne sheets for 2 minutes so that they mould to the dish and cook well under the ricotta. Line the bottom of the dish with one sheet and spread over a layer of ricotta. Next, add a layer of mince and cover with another pasta sheet. Repeat the layering; the more sheets the better. Finish with a final layer of ricotta, a sprinkling of Parmesan and crushed black pepper.

Put the lasagne in the hot oven for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

Serve alongside lightly dressed fresh green leaves or, for real summer, a cucumber, orange and watercress salad.

Monday, July 18, 2011

TOP PRIZE FOR GARDENING GOES TO... sister and her loved-up carrots.
That's one way to get the nippers eating their greens and oranges!

How does your garden grow?


If you're ever looking for a recipe that takes no time to cook and fills you up in an instant, this is it.

I have to say that this is one of the most rudely delicious pasta dishes there is; a bitter, sweet, creamy bowl of Yes Please. It follows some of the rules of carbonara, but switches the egg yolk for red chicory (quite some switch), though egg yolk wouldn't go amiss.

One essential rule: Use the best dry-cure pancetta you can find. You'll be crying with joy with every forky twizzle.


Serves 2-4


200-300g thin spaghetti
large knob of butter
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 heads red chicory (radicchio works well too), thinly shredded
200g best dry-cure pancetta, roughly chopped, fat on
good splash white wine
250ml double cream

50g grated Parmesan to serve

Bring a deep pan of salted water to the boil.

Meanwhile, melt the knob of butter in a frying pan and add the onions. Soften a little before adding the chicory. fry down until both the onion and chicory have lightly caramelised and are extremely soft. Taste for seasoning.

In another pan heat up the pancetta. The pork should be fatty enough to create it's own lubrication so no need to add butter or oil here. Fry until crispy, then add the wine. The wine should boil as it hits the pan. Let the alcohol burn off and set aside.

Add the spaghetti to the pan and simmer, following packet instructions. There should still be a little bite to the pasta when it is cooked. Drain.

Add the pancetta to the chicory and stir in the cream. Add the spaghetti, tossing through the sauce and serve with a little Parmesan and parsley (optional).

It's a rich one, this, so a crisp salad of gem lettuce would be a perfect cleanser post woof.

Recipe created, cooked and greedily eaten with Clara Grace Paul.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Artichokes may be the most striking features of summer - a powerful dome of a vegetable, a spiky crown with layer after layer of thick green armour - but most of us are too readily turned away by the thought that they are a hassle to cook.

The trimming, the scooping and de-choking; there's always one hairy fibre lurking in amongst those protective leaves. The boiling for a good half-an-hour. The pulling it apart. And then when you get to eating the rascal there's not even much flesh.

Ah - I see I've turned you off artichokes again.

But wait! There can be such joy in slovenly preparing a globe artichoke, much like scratching away for the meat in a crab claw or getting the goods from a pumpkin. Once you've done it, however much you've f'd and blinded, you know the result will be delicious.

Eating it, sucking at the green spades, reaches the meaning of less-is-more. The juicy muscle you pull from the stem with the back of your front teeth is like sipping the nectar from honeysuckle. A sweet surprise, not much of it, but you instantly pick up another. And that's when you find yourself thanking goodness artichokes have so many leaves.



1 globe artichoke (leaves tight to body indicate freshness)
1/2 lemon
100g/ dusting of plain flour
sunflower oil

for the aioli
4 small garlic cloves, crushed
juice of 1/4 lemon
pinch salt
2 free range egg yolks
approx. 350ml extra virgin olive oil

3 small anchovy fillets, roughly broken with fingers or fork

Slowly bring a deep pan of water to the boil.

Start trimming the outer leaves of the artichoke with scissors, cutting it at its roundest part. Do this 3/4 of the way up the artichoke, discarding the leaf tops.

With a sharp knife, cut the top from the artichoke. Pull away all the purple leaves inside until you reach fine, white hairs. Scoop the hairs out with a teaspoon. Stop when you reach flesh.

Trim the stem, leaving about 5 cm, and pull off the outer fibres. They should come away easily. If you are preparing more than one artichoke, have a bowl of water with a slice of lemon ready so you can keep the globe/s fresh. They will begin to brown otherwise.

Place 1/2 a lemon in the pan of boiling water with a touch of salt and lower in the whole artichoke. Boil for approx. 30 minutes or until it appears soft. Remove out of the water onto kitchen towel to lose excess moisture.

Meanwhile, prepare the aioli. In a small bowl add the crushed garlic, salt, lemon and egg yolks. Whisk gently, slowly adding the olive oil. Keep whisking until it thickens and and when ir resembles a good consistency for you, you can stop with the olive oil. I like my aioli quite loose - globulous mayo gives me the shivers. Taste it and see if it needs more salt, lemon juice, or garlic. This recipe is punchy.

Spoon the broken anchovy on top of the aioli. You can scoop it up with the artichoke leaves. (The best bit).

Pull apart the artichoke. This is easiest if you half or quarter it with a knife. Pull away the leaves and cut chunks from the heart (the most fleshy part of the globe). Dust the artichoke with flour - just a little it so it will crunch up slightly when you fry it.

Heat up a shallow frying pan with enough sunflower oil so that fills 1-2cm from the bottom of the pan. Set on a medium heat and WATCH! Oil can heat up very very quickly. As soon as you see a ripple in the oil or a few bubble forming on the bottom of the pan it will be extremely hot and ready to go. Gently lower in the dusted artichoke. It will bubble. Fry for approx. 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. When ready, lift with a slotted spoon onto kitchen towel and drain off the excess oil.

Arrange the deep fried artichoke pieces on a plate around the bowl of aioli. Dip. Dip dip dip.

Note: There will be bits you put in your mouth which won't chew up. Spit'em out and move onto the next bit.

I can promise you, this recipe makes the process very worthwhile. It's also amazing with ready prepared artichoke hearts, for a less-hassle recipe.

There's leftover aioli here, so I think I'll do the same for supper tomorrow...

Friday, July 1, 2011


This is such a delicious dish to eat in the heat. Two simple core ingredients that don't necessarily scream sunshine and picnics but, unusually, I find them beautifully refreshing.

Put earthy lentils with fresh ginger, curry leaves, cumin, mustard seeds, turmeric and tomatoes, together with delicate spinach and cardamom, and you're diverted to instant summer comfort; as the spices give off warmth, they relax and cool you down. The punch of the sweet and smokey spices grabs tongue and nostrils with one powerful spoonful: fragrant, light, and freakishly moreish.

Serve with natural yoghurt and freshly chopped chilli, a sprinkle of fresh coriander and - for a real dip in the pool - a slice of lime.



200-300g red lentils, previously soaked (though just a good rinse is OK if time is short)
500g water
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 large tomato, deseeded and peeled and chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 shallot, finely chopped
20 fresh curry leaves
thumb-size knob fresh ginger, finely grated
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1kg spinach leaves, rinsed, dried and roughly torn
2 cardamom pods, crushed and ground

to serve:
handful fresh coriander, chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
4 tbsps natural yoghurt
1 lime, cut into four

Heat a large pan with the water and add the lentils. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Be sure to stir the lentils as they cook, to avoid sticking to the pan. Stir in the turmeric, cayenne pepper, chopped tomato, puree and set aside.

Heat up a saucepan and add the crushed cardamom. The light aroma of the seeds will release with heat. Add the spinach and cover. Spinach contains enough water within its leaves, so no needs to add water. Add a touch of olive oil, season, and stir. Keep in the pan, off the heat, until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, heat up a frying pan with the mustard and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add a little oil and the chopped shallot, and fresh curry leaves. When the onions have softened, add the garlic and ginger. Fry for another minute, making sure the garlic does not burn.

Stir the shallot mix into the lentils and gently heat through.

Serve the lentils on a bed of the wilted cardamom spinach. Garnish with the coriander, fresh chilli and yoghurt and wedge of lime.

Best eaten in the garden at sunset after a hot day with a cool beer. (Well, any excuse, really).