Courgette, lemon & lime traybake with cream cheese frosting

This traybake is incredibly easy to make and tastes delicious. Better still my children love it and have zero idea that they’re actually eating vegetables!! It’s based on the recipe from page 18 of Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a domestic goddess’, with a few tweaks here and there which I think make life easier.

Prepare: 15 minutes
Cook: 25-30 minutes
Serves: 12-18

1 large courgette (300-350g), washed and dried
2 large eggs
125ml vegetable oil
150g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
Finely grated zest 1/2 lime
225g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder

For the cream cheese frosting:
100g icing sugar
200g cream cheese
Juice of 1/2 lime, plus some zest to serve (optional)
Juice of 1/2 small lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4 and line a 20x30cm rectangular tin. Coarsely grate the courgette and put in a sieve over the sink to drain a little.

2. Put the eggs, oil and sugar in a bowl and beat well until all the sugar has dissolved and you have a creamy batter. Add the lemon and lime zests.

3. Sieve the flour, bicarb and baking powder into the bowl and mix well to combine, then stir in the courgette. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and springy to the touch. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.

4. To make the frosting, sieve the icing sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the cream cheese and citrus juices. Whisk thoroughly until smooth and thickened. Spread onto the cake. I like to put the cake into the fridge for at least 1-2 hours at this point but you can eat it immediately.

Cook’s tip: the cake keeps really well in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. I actually think it’s better about 24-48 hours it’s baked.

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Sesame & banana traybake

There’s no added sugar in this easy cake recipe – just honey – and no eggs either. It’s quick to make and if you don’t like sesame seeds, just leave them out.

Prepare: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Makes: 16 squares

30g unsalted butter
3 tbsp clear honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
150g plain flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp mixed spice
Large pinch sea salt flakes
2 large, very ripe bananas
Sesame seeds, to sprinkle

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C, gas mark 5 and line a 20x20cm square tin with baking parchment.
  2. Warm the butter, honey and vanilla extract in a small pan over a low heat until melted. Then set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, put the flour, baking powder, bicarb, mixed spice and salt into a large bowl. Mash the bananas and mix with the butter mixture. Don’t over mix – it should be lumpy, but all the flour should be incorporated.
  4. Pour into the prepared tin, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake for 20 minutes until springy to touch. Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Top tip: you could also spoon the mixture into 12 muffin cases – they might take 20-25 minutes to cook though. Try swapping the sesame seeds for roughly chopped walnuts, or a blend of pumpkin, sunflower and linseeds.

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Spicy peanut slaw

Spicy peanut slaw

My version of a brilliant recipe from Elly Pear’s wonderful meat-free book ‘Green’.

Prepare: 10-15 minutes
Serves: 4-6

For the slaw:
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp unroasted, unsalted peanuts
1/2 small red cabbage, finely shredded
1 carrot, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
A handful of mange tout or sugarsnap peas, cut into 1-2cm pieces

For the dressing:
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp sriracha chilli sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil

  1. Toast the seeds and nuts for the slaw in a dry frying pan over a medium heat, tossing often, until golden.
  2. Mix the dressing ingredients together in a large bowl. Add all the vegetables for the slaw and toss well.
  3. Sprinkle over the seeds and nuts just before serving.
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Roast chicken with orzo

A variation on one of my most-cooked recipe’s from the amazing Diana Henry. In her version, Diana stuff’s the chicken with a feta and tomato mixture – it’s delicious, but I didn’t have time or the ingredients to do that this time.

Prepare: 5 minutes
Cook: 80 minutes
Serves: 6

1.8kg whole chicken
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp za’atar (optional)
225g orzo pasta
500ml hot chicken stock
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or oregano


1 Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5. Put the chicken into a 30cm cast iron ovenproof dish or roasting tin.

2 Drizzle the chicken with the olive oil and season well with salt, pepper and za’atar, if you have it.

3 Roast in the oven for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven. Sprinkle the orzo around the chicken and pour the stock over the orzo. Put the tray back into the oven to cook for 20 minutes more. Check during this time to make sure the orzo isn’t drying – there should be enough stock, but top it up with a little boiling water if needed.

4 Once the 20 minutes are up the chicken should be cooked – check that the juices run clear, with no trace of pink meat – and the orzo should be tender. The stock should also have been absorbed. Stir the fresh herbs into the orzo. Serve the chicken straight from the pan. A dressed green salad is all you need on the side.

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Mixed bean & chipotle chilli

Mixed bean & chipotle chilli


This chilli is so delicious and easy to make – it might be meat-free, but I don’t think you’ll feel like you’re missing out.  It’s hearty, comforting and packed with flavour. It’s also perfect for batch cooking and putting in the freezer.

500g pack dried mixed beans (I like these from Waitrose)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 large red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled & coarsely grated
3 tbsp Italian Seasoning
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 tbsp tomato puree
3 tsp chipotle paste
2 tsp table salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. Soak the beans in plenty of cold water overnight.  Drain and rinse well in lots of cold running water.  Drain again. 
  2. Warm the oil over a high heat then add the onion, pepper and carrot, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened. 
  3. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning and mix well, then stir in the tomato puree and cook for 1 minute until starting to caramelise. 
  4. Mix in the chipotle paste and the beans, then add 1 ½ litres boiling water.  Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer very gently for 2 hours, until thickened.  Add the salt and pepper. 
  5. Serve scattered with fresh coriander if you like and with boiled long grain rice, soured cream and guacamole.  Lime wedges on the side to squeeze over are also good.
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Tahini, banana & honey flapjack

Tahini, banana and honey flapjack - a fruity flapjack, delicious with a cup of coffee or tea

If you’re trying to sneak some extra fruit in to your diet (or that of your children) without feeling too hard done by, then this recipe is for you.

An extremely easy and quick bake that will satisfy sweet cravings, without any added sugar – just honey. They’re flour-free too!

Meanwhile, banana and apple increase your fruit quota whilst helping to bring the mixture together, so you don’t need so much butter or sugar.

It’s a great recipe for using up ingredients too. I used over-ripe bananas and apples that were on their way out. I can’t bear to let anything go to waste, so this couldn’t be better.

You can also mix things up a bit depending on the dried fruit and seeds you have in the cupboard. Dried apricots, cherries, cranberries, raisins or mixed dried fruit would all work well.

As for the seeds, I used a blend of pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and linseed, but use whatever you have. Poppy seeds are always a good addition to bakes and some chia would taste good too.

You could also try adding a little finely grated orange or lemon zest to the mixture before baking.

Or for something a little more indulgent, try drizzling the cooled flapjack with some melted chocolate – white, dark or milk are all really tasty additions (but might blow all those low sugar and fat intentions out of the water!).

Prepare: 10 minutes
Cook: 60 minutes
Makes: 16

50g butter, plus extra for greasing
2 tbsp tahini
3 tbsp honey
2 bananas
2 small eating apples
250g porridge oats
100g prunes
75g currants
75g mixed seeds (eg. pumpkin, sunflower, sesame & linseeds)

  1. Preheat the oven to 160˚C, gas mark 3 and grease a 20cm square tin. Melt the butter, tahini and honey in a small pan over a low heat. Stir to combine.
  2. Meanwhile mash the banana and coarsely grate the unpeeled apple into a bowl (no need to remove the core before-hand, just grate around it, then throw it away). Mix these into the melted butter mixture together with 100ml hot water.
  3. Put the oats into a large bowl. Snip in the prunes using some scissors, to make pieces about the size of a plump raisin. Add the currants and seeds. Mix in the banana mixture until everything is well coated.
  4. Tip into the prepared tin and spread out to level the surface. Bake for 55 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool in the tin for at least 2 hours, before turning out and cutting into squares.

Tip: I found using a serrated bread knife the neatest way to cut this flapjack.

Tahini, banana & honey flapjack - delicious with coffee or a cup of tea
Tahini, banana & honey flapjack – delicious with coffee or a cup of tea
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Pan-fried plaice with capers, mint & lemon

Plaice with capers, lemon & mint

Plaice is a delicious fish.  It’s often over-looked on menus and fish slabs for some reason, but I love it!  It’s extremely quick and easy to cook, versatile (grill, fry, bake or poach) and is fabulous to eat – its fine, moist texture and delicate flavour making it ideal for family meals and entertaining alike.  Better still it is high in protein, low in fat and calories.

It’s in season for most of the year from May – December, but at its best in the summer.  When buying plaice I look for nice bright orange spots on it’s pretty skin and perky, clear eyes.

Try it in this light, quick and easy recipe.

Prepare 10 minutes
Cook 10 minutes
Serves 2

2 plaice fillets
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
8 cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp nonpareille (baby) capers, drained
Finely grated zest 1 unwaxed lemon
4 sprigs mint

  1. Warm a large frying pan over a high heat.  Rub a little olive oil over the fish and season.  Cook in the hot pan for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden and thoroughly cooked.  Remove to warm plates.
  2. Add the tomatoes to the pan with one tablespoon of oil and cook for 1 minute until just starting to soften.
  3. Add the remaining oil, capers, zest and mint and cook for a further minute, stirring often, until fragrant.  Season.
  4. Spoon over the fish.  Serve with seasonal veg or salad and lemon wedges to squeeze over.
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Sticky fig, red onion & pine nut focaccia

Sticky fig and red onion focaccia

This delicious and easy bread recipe makes a perfect accompaniment to scores of dishes and is also amazing on its own spread with lashings of Taleggio or goat’s cheese.

Preparation: 20 minutes, plus proving time
Cooking: 20 minutes
Serves: 8

250g strong white bread flour
1 tsp (5g) salt
7g sachet easy blend yeast
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 figs, cut into thin wedges
1 small red onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 large sprig rosemary
1 tbsp pine nuts
Maldon sea salt, for serving

  1. Place the flour, salt, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 200ml warm water (1 part boiling:1 part cold water) into the bowl of a stand mixer. Knead with a dough hook on a low setting for 15 minutes until soft.  Alternatively knead in a mixing bowl by hand.
  2. Cover the bowl with a lightly oiled piece of kitchen film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Turn the dough into a square tin 20 x 20 cm in size and press it into the corners.  Cover with the film again and leave for a further 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 220C, gas mark 7. Meanwhile toss the fig and onion wedges with the molasses.  Press them randomly into the top of the dough, together with little sprigs of rosemary and the pine nuts.  Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
  4. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and drizzle with more oil and sea salt flakes, before cutting into squares to serve.  Great spread with soft taleggio or goat’s cheese.
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Gone fishing

 

watching the boats come inWhilst UK fish stocks aren’t what they used to be there is still an awful lot of fantastic fish out there.  Supporting your local fish monger or getting down to the coast and chatting to fishermen directly is such a joy and helps keep the industry going.

Recently on a trip to Hythe, on the Kent coast, we visited Griggs of Hythe for brunch.  It was a beautiful, crisp spring morning and the hour was most definitely civilised (previous forays to fishing harbours and markets around the world have usually required a 4 or 5am wake up call!).
Whilst walking on the beach a fishing boat came into view and I watched with anticipation as the crew winched the vessel onto the pebble-ridden beach.   Their cargo was soon revealed, in laden baskets and crates thrown down onto the beach, each one causing increasing excitement from an ever-growing crowd.

The morning's catch
The morning’s catch

Whelks came first, quickly followed by a crate of beautiful looking cod and bass.  Then the stars of the show were revealed – local lobster and scallops sitting pretty in a melange of other briny finds.  The lobster weren’t as excited to be there as we were.  They were clearly up for a fight and in feisty spirits as they grabbed onto everything they could find, including each other.

lovely lobster

 

 

 

Not being able to resist the thought of cooking and eating something so fresh and so special, I was quick to secure a price for both lobster and slipped them, pincers down, into my bag. We made a quick but excited exit and returned with great anticipation to our kitchen.

The lobster were dispatched as humanely as possible (placed into the freezer for 15 minutes to become drowsy) and cooked simply in boiling water, before being served with a delicious and easy beurre blanc.

Click here for a list of sustainable fish.

 

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