This easy recipe is perfect for warming you up on a cold Autumnal day. They’re great with sausages and meats, or scattered over a salad or into soup to make it more substantial. I’ve even been known to add them to a bolognaise to increase the veg quota without the children being any the wiser. They also freeze really well – the lentils, not the children.
425g lentils (brown, green or Puy) 1 tbsp olive oil 2 cloves garlic or 1 tsp garlic granules 1 onion, diced 2 sticks celery, diced 2 carrots, peeled and diced A few thyme sprigs (I keep mine in the freezer then add them straight from frozen) 3 bay leaves (as above – keep them in the freezer) 800ml vegetable stock, hot 6 cavolo nero leaves, stalks removed, finely shredded
Rinse the lentils under cold running water in a sieve then drain well.
Warm the oil in a wide ovenproof cast iron pan then add the garlic or garlic granules, and the onion, celery and carrot. Cover and cook gently for 10-15 minutes, until softened.
Add the lentils and mix well to coat in the oil. Add the herbs, followed by the stock. Cover and simmer for 40-50 minutes or until the lentils are as tender as you like them, and have absorbed almost all the liquid. Alternatively, you can do this in a preheated oven at 170C, gas mark 3.
Mix the cavolo nero into the lentils and leave to wilt. Season and serve, or set aside to cool.
Tip: these lentils will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days and can be eaten cold or hot – just make sure you reheat them really thoroughly before eating. The same applies if you are freezing them – add a little extra stock or water too during reheating if they look a little dry.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s Chinese New Year – the year of the Rooster. If you don’t think it’s inappropriate to celebrate by eating chicken (!) then try this delicious, family-friendly (not too spicy) and very easy roast recipe. The slow cooker version can be found in my book – Slow Cooking.
1.5kg whole chicken
1 tbsp five spice powder
1 tbsp sesame oil
600g plums, halved and stoned
100ml dry fino sherry
200ml chicken stock
1 tbsp clear honey
Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5. Place the chicken in a roasting tin and pat the skin dry with kitchen paper. Mix the five spice powder and the oil together. Rub the mixture over the chicken as evenly as possible. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
Place half of the plums around the chicken, and pour the sherry and stock over them. Return to the oven and cook for another 45 minutes.
Add the remaining plums and continue to cook for another 25 minutes or until the chicken is golden (cover the chicken with foil if it is browning too fast) and the juices run clear when tested with a skewer inserted into the thickest part between the leg and the breast.
Place the chicken on a platter and allow to rest in a warm place. Warm the plum mixture in the roasting tin over a high heat. Stir in the honey to taste and season well. Carve the chicken and serve with the plum sauce, steamed oriental greens and rice or noodles.
This is such an easy recipe and a brilliant option when cooking for the family, or for friends. If you like it, then why not try a variation with different fillings such as harissa and cumin seeds, or sundreid tomato paste, olives and pine nuts?
1-1.5kg rolled shoulder of lamb, bone removed
2 tbsp baby capers in brine, rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves, peeled
50g tin anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
2 fresh lemon thyme sprigs, leaves only
2 tbsp cold water
Remove any strings from the lamb and un-roll. Place it fat side down on a board.
Place the capers, garlic, anchovies and the thyme leaves into a mini processor or use a pestle and mortar and blitz or pound to make a coarse paste. Spread the paste over the meat-side of the lamb. Re-roll the lamb to form its original shape and tie with kitchen string at 2cm intervals.
Place the meat in the slow cooker dish and drizzle over the water. Cover with the lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until tender.
Remove the lamb from the slow cooker, place on a board and leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving into thick slices, discarding the string. Serve with roasted new potatoes and dollops of Greek yogurt.
Fab for the freezer, make in advance and freeze either raw or cooked for up to three months. Either way, defrost thoroughly before use.
When the weather outside is frightful….there are few things better than battening down the hatches, retreating indoors and slamming the door behind you, then getting snug and warm preparing a deliciously nourishing, steamy bowl of something. This recipe does just that. I wrote it many years ago for Delicious Magazine and you can find the recipe here.